Sunday, February 12, 2006
Committed to Transformation
There are days when I think that it would be so much easier to quit this whole church planting thing and just move somewhere where there are a lot of people who already think like I do, who get angry about the same things I get angry about, who value the same things I value. Rather than trying to create a new community from scratch, some days I think it would be a lot easier to find a community that already embodies the things that I think are important, and just go there.

But that's not what God has called me to. God hasn't called me to find the place where everything is already the way I think things should be. He's called me to love these people and this place and help them become more what he wants them to be. And so I've chosen the harder path of transformation. I've chosen to live in a place where the majority of people are living immersed in a culture of self-focused, materialistic, consumerism; where they are plagued by relational isolation and spiritual disconnection. And I'm committed to helping them connect with God, helping them develop a compassion for the poor and overcome their own enslavement to consumption, helping them discover true community, helping them begin to think deeply about their lives.

I read books like Shane Claiborne's Irresistible Revolution which tells about his experiences of living among the poor, the lepers, and the outcast, and while I know that his path is full of challenges, there are times when I really envy him. In some ways it would be so much easier just to start a community like the Simple Way where everyone there is already committed to the same ideals of sacrificial compassion, alternative economy, and an active pursuit of peace and justice - and where they are surrounded by easy and obvious ways to put those ideals into practice on a daily basis, living as they do among the urban poor. By comparison my task seems quite a bit harder. I live surrounded by suburban comfort, and somehow I have to teach and train these people to value things that are completely alien to their culture; and figure out together with them how to put these values into practice when we are all immersed in a way of life that demands just the opposite.

But then, if we don't do it, who will? Should we just abandon our fellow suburbanites to a culture of self-focused materialism and only work with and among fellow radicals? But if we do that, how will things ever change? We certainly need people like Shane to give up everything and serve the poor; but don't we also need people who will stay among the rich and not just preach at them about how they should do the same, but also commit to figuring out together with them how we can actually do it?

So here I am, committed to a seemingly impossible task: to try and serve the needs of people who don't think they need anything. To try and transform people who don't see any reason to change. Good thing that nothing is impossible with God. :)


posted by Mike Clawson at 2:45 PM | Permalink |


At 2/13/2006 06:04:00 AM, Blogger Jackie

Blessings on your work, Mike.

Just a thought, take it or leave it: Maybe a good way to connect with folks who 'have it all' is to consciously open yourself up to receiving from them; to acknowledge their talents, to offer opportunities for them to make use of their gifts for the good of the community. I believe that miracles happen when we truly see each person's giftedness. In your post, I read a lot about the 'poverty'/needs of the rich among whom you live; I fear that if you focus on the shortcomings of your community, your ministry will subtly reflect that attitude. Those around you could perceive your ministry as yet another religious group that sees them as deficient... which could feel patronizing.

The gifts-based approach to ministry I'm going on about here is embodied in Asset-Based Community Development (google it if you want to know more), which has revolutionized the way I think about mission/outreach.

Please take this all with a grain of salt if I am speaking out of turn; I don't know you well and thus cannot put this post into the context of your daily life. But I wanted to share my honest reaction in the hope that it might be of help. If it's not helpful, feel free to delete and ignore.



At 2/14/2006 09:48:00 AM, Blogger A

"to try and serve the needs of people who don't think they need anything. To try and transform people who don't see any reason to change."

I tend to think that while your statements above are a correct description of most Americans, that it is only the surface reality of their life.

The "stuff" they (we) have chosen to fill our lives with is simply evidence of the fact that we are still searching for something to fill the real need of our lives. When people get very honest, they usually voice that they have attempted to fill their void with "stuff" but, "still haven't found what they're looking for."

I also tend to think that they don't see any reason to change because they have not seen an alternative that is worth going through the process of change for. As we jump on the trampoline of Rob Bell's metaphor and invite them to jump with us, I believe they will begin to experience something worth making some changes. Hopefully that then gives them reason and motivation to change.

By no means am I trying to disagree with your statements, just add my perspective. I think there is great opportunity today to engage with people about what it really means to be a Christ follower. I can identify with your situation as I am about to launch a church as well. And you are certainly correct that nothing is impossible with our God.


At 2/17/2006 10:55:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Thank you for your insights guys. I've definitely taken your thoughts to heart, as I hope you can tell by my clarification post.



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