Almost against my will I was driving down the road today toward a motel along the outskirts of Doylestown, Pa. I had a bag of groceries in my back seat that I intended to drop off to a guy who called the church office in need of food and shelter. It’s always a sticky situation when I get these calls, but I find them to be far worse when I get myself into the middle of them. I typically would say that I care about reaching people for Christ, but for some reason when I reach out to the margins of society, my passion and effectiveness seem to be squelched. What’s my problem?
While at seminary I read a book called the Missional Church by Darrell Guder (check it out here) . His thesis is that Christians are not the end users of the Gospel. Having a church service that we hope will attract the lost is not the goal of Christians. His counterpoint is that the church should serve more as an outpost for the kingdom of God, sending people into the world so that the blessed (Christians) may be a blessing to all.
I like this philosophy. I want to bless people and I have even harped about how Christians today care so little for the poor. I want to be a missional Christian. But when it comes time to jump out of the plane, I freeze in the door. I feel like a paratrooper who has gone through all of the training, but fails jump school because I balked at the one moment that should make him a paratrooper.
So as I am driving to deliver the food, my mind is racing with thoughts of this guy beating me up or flipping out. I wonder what to do if he’s on drugs or has some really serious problems that he wants to talk about. I fear that he will try to take advantage of me financially. I fear that his problems are far beyond my means. I fear that he will get mad if I don’t help him as much as he thinks I should. I wonder to myself, “What can I possibly do to help him?”
Beating off the temptation to just go home, I went to the Motel. As his story was a little fishy to begin with, I was not surprised when he called down to the lobby and had the receptionist tell me to leave the food down there for him to pick up later. I didn’t push the matter and left with a feeling of relief. My last ditch attempt to salvage the situation was a note that I left in the bag with the church’s number and an invitation to call us or stop by.
Fortunately the story does not end here. I found out from the pastor that he has already left a message at church. It seems that I may have another chance to “reach out” to this guy. I can only pray that God will use me to reveal Himself in my continuing interaction. While I still believe in missional Christianity, I have realized in this episode that I’m just barely missional and will probably have to improvise a lot more than I would like.