Every now and then, we all have a chance to come across something that has the power to change everything about the way we think and act. A couple of years ago I met this guy in London, Sam Wells. Sam is the senior pastor [vicar] of the famous church, St Martin-in-the-Fields. St Martin’s has a famous music program; but in London the church is even more famous for its work with the homeless, the addicted and some of the most troubled in the city. When I got home I was talking with a friend and said, “I met this great guy, Sam Wells.” My friend said, “I know Sam! He wrote a great book. You should read it.” I finally got around to reading that book, A Nazareth Manifesto: Being with God [Wiley, 2015] this year. It is not an exaggeration to say that this book has reshaped how I think about the church and being a Christian.
Here’s the essence of what Sam has to say. We spend too much time and effort trying to “fix” things. At the heart of things, when Christians spend too much time trying to fix things we don’t have enough time [or energy] to discover the power of God already and always present in the world. Even Jesus, Sam argues, spent most of his life and ministry being with people. It’s only after being with people did he begin to act. When we spend time with people we can help them discover their God-given strength and learn more about our strength [and weakness]. When we start with the attitude of “fix it,” it reveals a certain arrogance and more than a bit of lack of trust in the power of God. The attitude of “fix it” leads to ultimate exhaustion.
We’ve tried to turn some of our ministry toward being with people [and with God]. The essence of “Open Doors” is simply allowing our great building, our holy space, to be with people – to pray, to meditate, to enjoy the beauty of the space. The first step in our assistance ministry on Tuesdays and Thursdays is to listen and pray. Our volunteers have spent hours listening to people, praying with people, being with people.
Being with people can be exhausting – to put it bluntly – particularly when you do it alone. But trying only to fix things is even more exhausting and frustrating. It only, fully and completely, reveals our deepest inadequacies.
If I could ask for one thing from you it would be this: come and be with us. Come and be with us and help us be with our city this year.