Coming up in the next couple of months our college ministry at our church will start to focus on a single local missional living emphasis – the poor. We plan on calling this shift “The Eleos Movement”, ‘eleos’ is the Greek work for mercy. Part of the reason behind this shift is that we have found that its easy to do a lot of “one off” kind of service events and never really make an enduring impact on an issue locally. We will continue doing other service oriented events in other areas (joining in our adult ministries at our church) but we want to go do and make a significant impact on poverty locally by joining in what God is already at work doing in other local ministries. Our hope is that someday we may be apart of creating a tent city community (like this one in St. Petersburg, Fl that I had the pleasure of serving with) in the greater Roseville area where the poor can in community with others have a sustainable opportunity for not just economic restoration, but social, cultural, emotional, and spiritual restoration.
Each month we will be intentionally going out as a community of young adults into the greater Roseville area to participate in what God is already doing to restore the poor. The challenges before us as we step out in this are many: we may find ourselves beginning to act paternalistically by having the posture of handing down to the poor instead of understanding that every person is impoverished and needs the ‘other’. Or we may find ourselves as a community transformed into yet another institutional instrument of enablement for the longevity of poverty rather than a movement aimed at the restoration of the poor. Or perhaps worst yet we may find ourselves losing the reason why we are stepping out in the first place: ie God has mercy and justice for the poor of Roseville that is not being yet realized the way it will be realized when He makes all things new at the return of His Son.
We hope to begin “The Eleos Movement” by first going through a season of theological education for our community of college students where over a series of weeks we will wrestle with mercy in Scripture, the nature of poverty as it currently exists in American suburban communities, and the myriad of ways others both locally and nationally are attempting to create sustainable restoration efforts to engage poverty. This may be bit of generalization but churches in urban centers tend to have a very non-generic form of mercy. They know what the injustice issues are and how they are occurring locally. Their community service is very local in focus. Suburban ministries on the other hand tend to take on generic focus’s and get behind more global social concerns, spending huge amounts of resources on communities far away while spending a small portion of resources on the needs of the local community. The missional church discussion has been a healthy corrective to this trend, alerting the local church to its local missionary commission. “The Eleos Movement” will be our college ministry’s way of exploring what it means to live sent locally.
I’d love to hear what you are doing to live sent locally, and what you’re doing in particular to minister “to, with, and as the poor”.