Normally he was the happiest of men. He asked so little of life that its frugal bounty amazed and delighted him….He believed in miracles and frequently observed them, and nothing astonished him. His imagination was as wild as a small boy’s and his faith ultimate. In ordinary life he was, quite frankly, hardly safe out. — Margery Allingham, The Tiger in the Smoke
I must admit that I haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading Margery Allingham’s book, The Tiger in the Smoke. It is, however, on my short list.
Who the “he” is in the short passage above I do not know, but I cannot wait to meet him. We are going to great friends, and I am looking forward to spending many enjoyable hours with him.
We have so much in common that I already feel like I have known him forever. Allingham’s beautifully concise description of him makes me want to invite him over for a beer. Just this brief sketch lets me know the two of us share a worldview that would make for evening of fascinating conversation.
But more than that, this character is someone who could teach me, and teach me a lot. I am intrigued by his joyous amazement of the simple things. I love his openness and am delighted at his belief in miracles and his ultimate faith. And it sounds like his imagination might even be as big as mine.
This guy knows the secret. And I can already see that the he’s willing to share it.
It’s a good thing I have the bookstore on speed dial.
“Feeding the hungry is a greater work than raising the dead.” – Saint John Chrysostom
John Chrysostom (c. 349 – 407) was an important Early Church Father and the Archbishop of Constantinople. He is best known for his preaching and public speaking as well as his denunciation of abuse of authority by both ecclesiastical and political leaders.
His concern for the poor can be seen in many of his homilies as well as other writings. This is the first of several quotes I will be sharing over the next few days and weeks.
What I like about this audacious statement by the Archbishop is that he unabashedly puts feeding the hungry above one of the greatest miracles of Jesus. Our ministry with the poor is not something to be tacked on to our faith as a “nice religious activity.”
Chrysostom declares that feeding the hungry is greater and more powerful than working miracles. Walking along side the poor and hungry has must be an integral part of authentic spirituality.
I am in Blackstone, Virginia with the clergy of the Lynchburg District and the clergy of the James River District at a training event that began yesterday morning and will conclude later this morning. The focus of this training is on making mission happen.
The keynote leader for the training is Ray Buchanan, author of “Getting Off Our Buts: Making Mission Happen.” Ray knows well how to make mission happen; he is the co-founder of Stop Hunger Now (1998) and founder of the Society of St. Andrew (1980). He has inspired us and entertained us with many personal stories of the miracles he has witnessed in mission.
He shared with us a blueprint that he has followed for decades to help congregations engage in mission, and this blueprint comes straight from Scripture! The blueprint has seven steps.
- Identify the Need – Mark 6:35-36
- Locate the Resources – Mark 6:37-38
- Get Organized – Mark 6:39-40
- Give Thanks – Mark 6:41a
- Just Do It! – Mark 6:41b-42
- Clean Up Your Mess – Mark 6:43
- Repeat Steps 1-6
What do you think of this Biblical blueprint for mission? For the readers from Monroe UMC, do you think this blueprint would work for us at Monroe UMC to engage in new mission opportunities? Please post your comments to this blog site.
Grace Upon Grace,
GETTING OFF OUR BUTS: Making Mission Happen is scheduled to be published the first week of July. It begins with a look at our understanding of miracles, and the alarming lack of them in today’s churches. Here is a brief snippet.
There are many who believe the church is no longer relevant for today’s society. Theologians, biblical scholars and church leaders bemoan the fact that the world at large doesn’t seem interested in what the church has to offer. One campaign after another is introduced to fill nearly empty sanctuaries and help dwindling congregations grow.
None of them appear to have offered a lasting solution. Why? Again, the answer is disturbingly simple.
None of the ubiquitous church growth campaigns really work because none of them truly focus on the real problem. Today’s church has yet to adequately demonstrate to the world that we have anything worth their attention.
The church needs to understand that the world is not obligated to pay attention to us. It is just that simple. Thinking we have what the world needs and demonstrating it are two completely different things.
If the world can see nothing in the church that cannot be explained in terms of management, program and organization, how is that any different than what takes place outside the church every single day?
For most people church still implies God. And for most of the world God still means miracle. A church without miracles is no different than any other small business, corporation or well-meaning civic club. The world knows what to expect from them. Yet, the world doesn’t know what to expect from the church.
Once the church merits the world listening to us we will get the audience we crave and deserve. Until that time comes, however, the struggle to fill empty pews will continue unabated.