Signals are important! They save lives and they indicate new life. In a hospital, signals engage healthcare workers to respond to emergencies. In child birth, signals, like water breaking and contractions, indicate new life about to be born. On the road driving, they indicate a turn, or change of course. Signals need visual alerts and sounds of articulation to fall on eyes and ears in order to work. Whether beeps, or blog posts, signals need a voice…. And ears to hear and eyes to see.
There is something happing at City Center Church. I’ve been convinced of this since our arrival last fall. This little church in the most rugged of Surrey neighbourhoods is a most unlikely agent of transformation. This community is in need of care. One would think that a full on crew, resourced to the hilt with cash and expertise, peppered with important people and skills, would be a more likely force for change….
But there are signals and they are telling us something else…
You see, I bear witness to signals…. Another way to say this is that I tell stories about how God is reconciling the world to himself… putting to rights all that went wrong with the fall and transforming community structures so that God’s will can be done on earth as it is in heaven. It’s about that great Patmos picture in Revelation 21 of a new heaven and new earth. The beautiful part about this is that God invites his Church through signals from the Spirit to participate:
18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling[b] the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.(2 Corinthians 18-20)
And trust me, there are signals that this is happening…
What are the signals? Let me share some with you…
Signal #1 – A breath of fresh pastoral air
I believe there is a fresh perspective for community transformation from our new pastor. You know, in the bible, it talks about welcoming angels at your door… I’ve come to know Gabriel (interesting name, huh?) quite well since he knocked on our door as our new pastor. The Holy Spirit has breathed new adventure through him into our hearts… his openness to change and following Jesus into the Kingdom is encouraging. The church prayed for someone in a pastor that could support the doing of a new work among us. Perhaps the best signal in this is that it’s not about a pastor doing the work. It’s about cultivating an environment where the community of saints can realize their own ordination by baptizm into ministry via participation in the Kingdom… we are one body with many parts and the head is Jesus. (1 Corinthians 12:12-14) This is crystal clear in his approach and the Spirit has inspired us through him.
Signal #2 – A supply chain under our noses
There are people dreaming about moving from charity to community. But there is a crisis exasperated by Covid-19 that needs a charitable response each day. People are hungry and homeless and on the brink of utter desolation. The church must help. Since Covid, we’ve partnered with donors and shelters to distribute 10,000 plus bagged lunches. This is an effort that this needs to continue and a signal that God is doing something new. The food keeps coming and the need is still there and the need is being met. We didn’t start this fire of relief for the pain in our community, God did. The irony is that it took the church to close its doors for this to happen. Interesting! This dovetails into dreams that the other signals are alerting us to…
Signal #3 – The gift of a garden
People have been talking. Neighbours have shared rumours of glory and the desire for community among the people… this is beyond charity and I’m convinced if we can figure out how to create a sense of belonging with our community, we can take a big stick and jam it in the spokes of the wheel of oppression in our neighbourhood. Things like food inequality, homelessness, poverty, etc. These things can be addressed and something as simple as a Garden can help. We’ve received an approval for a community garden from the City without formally asking. We’ve received grant information and donation offers for all the supplies. We’ve received offers of help from the community to be a part of this. My friends, you can’t make this stuff up. It has wheels that we can’t physically see moving this along.
Signal #4- God fearing gentiles among us.
There are people, like my friend Shirwan from Iraq who can’t put an English sentence together, but desires to be part of whatever we do, especially if it’s outside in the streets. I’ve seen this man hand out hotdogs to our friends who live in the street like he’s serving a king! He is a cook. He wants to help. And the Spirit makes possible our connection. Last Sunday I organized a tail gate BBQ after our gathering. It was risky due to Covid-19, but our church family was gracious enough to support it. God bless them! On the Thursday before Sunday, Shirwan sent me a random message. I haven’t heard from him for a while. Out of the blue. I invited him. He came. He connected. He had dinner with congregants – one who could speak Arabic – he was enveloped into our community. This is one story. There are many others who are not part of us, but are connected to a work of God’s Spirit in our neighbourhood. And the Spirit of God is signalling to us through God-fearing Gentiles to come deeper into our neighbourhood.
All these signals – and trust me there are many more – have a common thread woven between them. The Holy Spirit. These things are all being orchestrated by God and serve as an invitation into something new outside of our church walls and in our community. So, here is the kicker…there’s a call to action….yup! This blog has a call to action.
You are here for a reason. You’ve been chosen by God as a minister of reconciliation in our community. God is moving people into the ground, to till the earth, to get dirty with the work of LOVE in tangible and incarnational ways. It all starts with a question. Ask yourself this. “Am I being called into this neighbourhood?” Chances are, if you are part of our church, you are here for this reason. So go ahead and do the following as a little call to action:
1. Grab your ear lobes and rub them warm.. say the following prayer “Lord Jesus send the signals of your good work in the City Center neighbourhood to my ears and tell us what we must do.”
2. Rub your eyes and say the following: “Holy Spirit Give me eyes to see your work in our community.”
3. Hold your heart and say “Father, change my heart so that I can feel how you feel about our neighbourhood.”
There, that was simple, wasn’t it? Or… was it possibly the most dangerous thing you’ve done?
Your brother, John