I was having a conversation this morning with a friend who’s lecturing tomorrow at a local university. The topic he’s tackling is “Pressing Issues in Global Mission Contexts.” As we were texting back and forth he asked what I would teach on. It was hard for me not to over-share because this is a topic I think about on a daily basis. It’s also very nuanced and contextual, but I believe this conversation (or at least my response) lies at the heart of Intrepid.
I would say I was “classically trained” for ministry (if that’s a term). Meaning, I learned how to preach, study Scripture in English and the original biblical languages, and then a whole slew of “pastoral duties” from hospital visits, counseling, evangelism, discipleship, preaching funerals, and so on. For a while that shaped how I viewed the communities I was serving in. My whole focus was about sharing the gospel and getting people to church. That was my default answer to anything that ailed a community … it was the answer to broken families, a downturned economy, drug addiction, pollution, racial issues, and the like. And then I woke up.
It’s not that my ministry training was wrong or bad … it’s just it wasn’t enough. While I was adept at “churchy” things I was not prepared for life outside the walls of the church building. Fast forward the storyline now 20+ years later and I’ve grown a lot. It’s not that I don’t value any of those ministry skills or training .. but I’ve added to them. Through studying community and economic development, urban and transportation planning, economics, sociology, and the like I’ve learned to see that answers to what ails a community is multi-faceted and layered.
In addition to all of things mentioned above we’re also to do more. That more could be working to help develop solutions to revitalize your community’s economy post-mine closure. That more could be putting on job training classes for new kinds of jobs for all of the loggers who were laid off when the mill closed down. Unemployment and domestic violence are intrinsically linked. That more could be co-leading a community garden for people in the neighborhood to have access to free and healthy foods.
The point? There is not an either/or dichotomy … instead, it is both/and. We find this tension in Scripture, particularly from James about his emphasis on how our works demonstrate our faith and understanding of the gospel (which is why Luther wanted it thrown out of the canon). But isn’t that the nature of life? Then tension is found in the middle and not at one of two poles. So yes, let’s do more as we live out the transformative nature of the gospel and at the same time look for opportunities to naturally share this good news.