Disinvesting from Doubt

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Last year, as we often do, we were going through a tough time financially. As church planters, it often feels like we have a lot of balls in the air at any given moment. The finance ball always seems to be a little flat and hard to keep hold of. During this specific season, as I often do, I was struggling with depression and discouragement. It seems to be part of the journey. Or, at least a part of my journey. It’s something I hate. In every season like this, I always feel a sense of guilt at my lack of trust in God’s provision. I feel guilt in my discouragement. I feel guilt in my depression. A whispered voice tells me, “Real christians don’t feel this way.” I know in my head this is a lie. My heart isn’t so sure.

There in the middle of this swirling chaos of emotion, self-doubt, and binge coffee drinking, I decided I didn’t want to be a part of this economy. The economy where my needs were were the sole focus. I decided to disinvest myself from the economy of doubt and uncertainty. As almost an act of defiance and rebellion I decided to impulsively give. Is that smart? Probably not. Did I do it to “get blessed”? No. Was I blessed anyway? Yes, as soon as I filled out the faith promise card and set up recurring giving, the voice of doubt went silent.

I chose to give in response to my doubt. To give in response to my own uncertainty. The first time I did this I decided to support a missionary that was working really hard to finish itineration. I also chose to support a missionary who had never contacted me for support. I didn’t tell them I was going to support them before I submitted the faith promise form. I just did it. Since then, every time I go through a season like that I do it again. Choose another missionary to support. The voice whispers about how stupid all this is, about how unwise this thinking is. But, as soon as I click submit, its voice is again silenced. Is any of this rational? No. No it is not.

In the last year, I have learned that the world doesn’t revolve around me. I have experienced two things as a result of disinvesting from the economy of “ME” and reinvesting in God’s economy, the economy of others. First, I struggle with doubt and discouragement less frequently. Second, I am able to see God meeting my needs even before I know it’s happening.

 

Are We There Yet?

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I have a confession to make. I HATE waiting. I hate not being THERE yet. It’s not so much that I don’t enjoy the journey. I just don’t like not being there yet. Abraham was 75 years old when God promised him a son. This ridiculous promise he was given was not realized for 25 years! I am personally beginning to understand in my own small way what it feels like to trust God for a promise that feels long overdue.

Four years ago this month I sat in my Superintendent’s office in Colorado Springs. I shared with him a vision to plant a church in Boulder County Colorado. My wife and I were still living in Springfield, Missouri. I was on an exploratory mission back to my home state; it was just the day before my meeting that I visited Boulder County for the very first time. It was during that week that I fell in love with the area that would become my home, my calling, my passion and my testing.

From everything I had learned up to that point about planting a church, it was going to be incredibly difficult. In retrospect that may have been a gross understatement… The other thing I had learned about church planting was about it’s pace. From what I had observed, I should have been prepared for a buckle up, breakneck, hold on to your knickers, and a dozen other speed related clichés sort of pace. However difficult and/or painful the experience was to be, I would know pretty quickly if I sucked at it. How wrong I was.

Little did I know that four years into the journey, I would still be laying the foundation. Or that after four years I would just NOW be planning for our public “launch”. Just as with Abraham, God’s plans for our process required a patient trust in God’s timing.

Four years is way less than twenty-five, but in our breakneck paced ministry paradigm It sure seems like a long time. And yet, in the last few months we have begun to see some of the promises God made to us four years ago become a reality, many in ways we would have never anticipated. I am so glad we have waited and continue to wait on God’s timing.

Let me give you just one example of how God’s promise has been fulfilled. One of the very first components of the vision God gave us was to create an organic local gathering place Also known as a Third Place. As huge coffee nerds, we wanted to start a first class coffee shop. We were dissuaded from pursuing that for ourselves because of the startup costs. I decided I would get a job at a local coffee shop. Not long after that I was made manager. When the Café moved locations a month ago, I was given the opportunity to design and build the space around our needs as a church plant. Last week I sat across the espresso bar that I built and shared pieces of my own testimony with one of my friends and a regular at the café. At least two or three times I caught my friend wiping tears from his eyes. The Holy Spirit was so evident in that conversation. As my friend left the café I stood in shock at what had just happened.

I am sure as Abraham held Isaac in his arms for the very first time waves of realization washed over him. All the moments of doubt and insecurity, came back and faded in his heart; replaced by an overwhelming sense of God’s purpose and faithfulness. Last Friday as I stood across the espresso bar from this friend God brought into my life I had that exact experience. Ideas God had put in my heart were being made real right before my eyes. It is still very hard for me to believe.

Four years after sitting in my District Superintendant’s office sharing a vision for all I believed God was leading us to, we stand at the entrance of the tent laughing and weeping, because while we trusted God all along, we were never as trusting as He was faithful.

Our team is on track to begin having small public gatherings in the café this coming Easter.

This blog post was originally posted on: http://under40.us

 

Things That Make Church Planting Hard

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Things that make church planting hard: The every day realization that it’s not really about you. The mail comes around 11:30 in the morning. If you go to the mailbox and there aren’t any support checks, it’s easy to begin to feel like people have forgotten you. When a pastor doesn’t return your phone call it can ruin your week. God doesn’t answer your prayers right now. Let’s be honest, each of us has allowed these preoccupations to rule our thoughts and ruin our week.

Things that make church planting hard: Realizing that all of the people you knew were going to support you never actually willWhen we set out to plant a church, we each have a top-ten list of people we just know will join our team or support us financially. They almost never do. I don’t know why that is. The good news is, God brings amazing people into your life; new people that become an intricate part of your personal life and ministry. People that give generously and work hard.

Things that make church planting hard: There is never enough money. This could go without saying. Everything costs money…P.O. boxes, website hosting, office space, business cards, cookies for team meetings, sound equipment, incorporation documents. I don’t think there’s a way around it; planting a church is expensive. Say goodbye to your dream of wearing a brand new pair of socks everyday. By the time you’re ready to launch, you may not remember the last time you got new socks. Oh yeah, it was last Christmas. Your mom saw the holes in your socks and felt sorry for you.

Things that make church planting hard: In the middle of hard decisions, God’s timing always seems off. Way off. Let’s be honest…we know what’s best for the church we are planting! We know exactly when everything should happen. The only real question is, how can we get God on the same page? Right? I cannot tell you how many times I have prayed, “God, ok, GO! We need things to move right now!” However, I look back at all the times I thought God should move right then and realize that when He didn’t, He was protecting me or preparing me or putting pieces together that I couldn’t see.

Things that make church planting hard: You cannot make anyone join your team. There are people that you are absolutely sure would be a great addition to your team. Amazing people. Gifted and talented people. People with whom you connect well. People that aren’t currently committed elsewhere. None of that matters. You cannot force them to join you. If you try, you will destroy your friendship. If you do succeed in twisting someone’s arm to join your team, you will almost certainly regret it.

Things that make church planting hard: There is never enough money. This is still true. Even when you are fully supported, money will, at some point, create a roadblock.

Things that make church planting hard: The people most eager to join don’t really understand what you’re doing. The people that do understand are already busy doing it. Occasionally, you run across someone that is excited to be part of your team. It won’t be long until you realize they really don’t know what’s going on. They often try to steer you in another direction. When you talk, they nod as though they understand, but then do the exact opposite. Yet, there are times you encounter someone who really gets it. They understand the nuances of the culture to which God has called you. If they were to join your team, you know you could more effectively win your city for Jesus. The only problem? They are planting a church somewhere else!

Things that make church planting hard: Everyone wants to help you build something. With wood and sheet metal siding and nail guns. It never fails…when you share your vision at a church, someone will offer their construction skills to help you build it. In their mind, the first step for starting a church is digging the foundation. There is a commonly held misconception of what church really is: church as a building versus church as a community of believers.

Things that make church planting hard: The constant battle between pride and self-doubt. I don’t know about you, but I go back and forth between overconfidence in my own abilities and crippling self-doubt. One moment I am sure I can make this happen and the next moment, I really don’t know why God chose me for this task. My most productive days are the ones when I recognize that it is Jesus who builds His church and that my job is to be faithful in the task He has given me.

Things that make church planting hard: It’s way easier to do anything else today. There are days when all I can think about is rebuilding the carburetor on my snow blower. No, it doesn’t matter that it’s July; I plan to use this snow blower to serve my neighbors when winter comes. I can’t do that if it won’t start. Of course, there are a million things on my real to do list. But, today, fixing the snow blower is far more important.

Things that make church planting hard: The city zoning board would rather put a women’s consignment shop there. You found the perfect place to meet. Only one problem: your perfect space is zoned as commercial retail space. This means your county zoning commission would rather see a store there where no one will ever shop than to see a church in that space.

Things that make church planting hard: Other church planters have messed things up before youLet’s face it, one reason church planting is hard is often due to the past failures of others. Everyone remembers a time when it didn’t work. Everyone remembers mistakes made by others who have gone before you. Congratulations! You get to prove that isn’t you. Yes, it’s unfortunate and unfair, but such is the life of a church planter.

Things that make church planting hard: Everyone knows Paul was a tent maker. You have shared your vision with another pastor or a member of your home church or your best friend from Bible College. They get excited about the vision. They seem to be on board.  You ask if they would consider supporting you on a monthly basis. They reach out to place their hand on your shoulder, they look you in the eye, and then they utter those dreaded words…”Paul was a tent maker. You should consider looking for a part time job.”

This blog post originally appeared on http://under40.us

Jesus In Third Place

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Let me first give a small disclaimer: I don’t claim to be an expert in the fields of sociology or missiology or even human relationships. What follows isn’t rooted in years of research or even academic study. Rather, it’s a rambling personal reflection on the experience of living out the Gospel in a culture that seems to be opposed to American Christianity.

It’s a 2005 Rancilio Epoca S. It’s a little worn around the edges, but all in all it’s still in decent condition. This machine is a workhorse. In the eight years this piece of Italian craftsmanship has been in service, the only maintenance it has required is a group head gasket and new dispersion screen every six months or so. It’s an espresso machine. It’s my platform. It’s my counselor’s couch. And for the moment, it’s my pulpit. Ministry happens here every week. Just this last week I was a listening ear to a man who just lost his brother. The week before, I was able to share with one of my regular customers about the struggles he is facing in his marriage. I regularly pray with and for the people with whom I come in contact. Every week I encounter new opportunities to live out my faith. Is it a church? No. It’s a coffee shop. It’s an informal social gathering place. It’s a third place. This little coffee shop is a place where Jesus visits.

In his book “The Great Good Place,” Ray Oldenburg describes the importance of informal social gathering places, or “Third Places,” for thriving communities. A community that thrives is a community full of coffee shops, museums, barber shops/salons, bookstores, and places of gathering. The idea of place is a sociological principle. Each of us does life in a number of different settings, but we all participate in at least three places. The first of these is our home…the place where our families live and grow. Second is our workplace…this is the place we go to earn our living. Most all of us operate in some variation of these first and second places throughout our lives. However, there is also some sort of third place that we visit on a regular basis. Third places are the informal social gathering places in our communities. These, when organic, are the cultural hearts of our communities.

Two and a half years ago, in my attempts to visionize and strategize and synergize the perfect plan for planting a church in Boulder County, Colorado, I stumbled across a little coffee shop. When I walked into this place I wasn’t overly impressed with the quality of the coffee, but they had free Wi-Fi and these amazing little shortbread cookies I loved dipping into a hot cup of coffee. Once or twice a week I would sit in this little shop and work on master plans and vision statements for a new church. And as I spent time there in my third place, something else began to happen…I fell in love with this place and with these people. I became friends with the owner. I listened to the struggles of running a small business and making ends meet. I began to realize I wanted to make this place better. I have always loved making coffee…the art and craft of it, the backstory that comes along with every bag of beans.  And it became evident that there was a backstory here in little this coffee shop in Boulder County. And I realized that I wanted to be part of that story. So about five months ago when I found out the shop was hiring, I jumped at the opportunity. The owner hired me on the spot.

From the time I started, I have worked hard to make the shop a better place.  Just two weeks ago I was promoted to manager, and I have been working diligently to improve our customers’ experiences and to help make the shop profitable for the first time in nearly six years. I have implemented a new point of sale system, saving the shop a hefty monthly credit card processing fee. I built a new overhead menu system, which has helped smooth the customer’s interaction. Many of these improvements have been made at my own personal expense. Why would I do that? More importantly, why would I do that for a job that pays minimum wage? Because I believe this coffee shop and the other “third places” like it provide one of the most important atmospheres for the influence of culture and the advancement of the kingdom.

In the past, the church has pulled Christians out of these informal social gathering places, believing them to be too worldly. We have instead created special Christian venues for Christian people to mingle with other Christians, so as to not be influenced by the world. Christian bookstores, Christian coffee shops (most with horribly puntastic names), even Christian gyms. While I think it’s important for us to keep our hearts and lives pure before God, we have separated ourselves from the places where ideas are born and ripened. And as a result, we have lost our influence in culture.

This blog post originally appeared on: http://under40.us

Bolder Boulder and Cupcakes

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As I looked around at people EVERYWHERE, I wondered what I had gotten myself into.  You had to fight a crowd to get anywhere.  People would stop abuptly in front of you to begin stretching or gawking.  Many were dressed insanely to be running: colorful wigs, gorilla costumes, tutus, and even a solo cup costume.  On top of all that, I was getting ready to run my first 10K after being sick the previous week.  I almost wanted to turn around and go home.  But I didn’t. And I am glad I ran the nation’s largest (nearly 55,000 people!) 10K: the BolderBoulder.

Of course the accomplishment of running a 10K was exciting, but that is not why I will make the BolderBoulder my new Memorial Day tradition.  Before race day, a friend who had run the BolderBoulder before told me to enjoy the experience.  I thought that he was just talking about the experience of running.  Little did I know that he truly meant “experience.”  I’ve only run a couple other races before, but I feel confident in saying that there is no other race like it. As you run, not only through downtown Boulder, but through many neighborhoods, the residents are lined outside of houses and storefronts to cheer you on, entertain you, and offer you goodies.  Feel bored?  Watch Elvis or some belly dancers.  Hit a wall?  Here’s a cupcake or some Doritos.  Hot?  How about a slip ‘n slide.  Feel like you might not be able to make it?  Here’s an encouraging sign: “Chuck Norris never ran a 10K.”

I’ve always been fond of Boulder: people watching on Pearl Street, going into the unique shops, listening to people’s stories as they ask you to sign some petition.  But this, the BolderBoulder, made me love the people of Boulder County even more.  Fathers encouraging daughters to run to the next mile marker.  Frail-looking elderly couples having a blast, jogging down the street.  Young guys who had already run their wave, running in other waves to encourage us slower people (although I didn’t believe that their claim that a free hug would make me run faster, I did give them high-fives).

Some may see the variety of types of people challenging when trying to minister to them all, but I see it as exciting!  Falling in love with the crazy, spontaneous, and diverse people of Boulder County is thrilling to my soul, spirit, and mind!  Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:22, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” While trying to be all things to all these people would surly make me crazy, I believe enjoying being around and loving each one for who he/she is brings the spirit of this verse to life.  And I have found, even more than ever, that I truly love these people of Boulder County!

 

Grace Upon Grace

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The beginning of the Gospel of John is a beautiful, poetic summery of Jesus’ life. Anyone who has ever been to a Sunday School class or heard a televangelist while flipping channels has probably heard at least part of these verses quoted (“In the beginning was the Word… The Word became flesh…”). It makes a person feel as if a grand story is getting ready to be told. And so it is.

We hear the story of Jesus, the Word. He comes into the world as flesh; he teaches, sets an example, and performs miracles; then he dies. After reading the Gospels, we know the climax of the story is Easter Sunday, when an empty tomb is discovered, when the Word of Light prevails over darkness! “He has risen!”

But now what? All our pretty dresses are stowed in the back of the closet again, the yellow-sugar covered marshmallows are on clearance, and only the black jelly beans are left in the candy dish. The hype is over. It’s as if Jesus came and went as quickly as the people in the pews who only came last Sunday out of a sense of tradition. What does “He has risen indeed” have to do with now?

Grace. John’s summary beautifully describes what the Resurrection means for our lives every day: “Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given” (John 1:16 NIV).

“Grace in place of grace already given.”

“Grace upon grace.”

More grace than we could ever need. More grace than any created being could give. More grace than even the best of us could ever hope to deserve.

So, how do we live in this overabundance of grace? Take advantage of it? Try to somehow prove we deserve it?  Do good works to repay our debt?  No!  We live a life of thanksgiving.  Doing everything to the best of our abilities in obedience and joy with the name of Christ on our lips is a great display of our inward thankfulness.  And, as we strive to be in God’s image, may we be generous in our giving of grace toward others.

Ugly Boots

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As I stood on the tile beside the door, getting my mind ready for the blast of cold and snow that I was about to encounter, I looked down at my boots.  My ugly boots.  My old, dirty, ugly boots.  I’d had them since high school – about ten years now.  Ten years is a long time to have a pair of shoes when you’re only 26 and female.  They were a sort-of faded black – I couldn’t remember if they had always been that color or if they had faded over time – with dirt on the top of one of them that I couldn’t seem to get off.  They were size almost-too-big.  Clunky was a good description for them; I sounded like a 300 pound drunk man when I walked across the floor.  And they were plain.  Completely plain, except for the drawstring around the top to keep the snow from getting inside.  They were my old, dirty, ugly boots.

Trekking across the yet-to-be-plowed parking lot toward my bus stop, through snow drifts up to my ankles, I was almost thankful for those ugly boots.  But just almost.  When I sat down on the bus, my feet were dry and warm, which is important to a cold-natured person such as myself.  But they were still my ugly boots.  I couldn’t help but frown down at them, no matter how subconsciously thankful I was for unfrozen toes.

With my feet under my desk at work, I didn’t have to think about my unsightly boots too much.  I went to work, getting done what I had planned to finish that day in no time.  This made it so I could help out in the drop-in center for most of the day, hanging out with the street youth that come into Sox Place.  Between getting warm socks for the kids and cleaning up coffee spills – cold, numb hands don’t attach well to warm cups of coffee – it was easy to ignore the sound of big-foot coming from my own boots.

Not long after we opened, a girl came in almost unnoticed among the extra-large crowd that Sox Place attracts on snowy days.  But she stood out a little more than the others – at least to me.  The coat she had on looked warm enough, but it was obviously too small.  Small tufts of blonde hair poked out of her too-tight hood just enough to see that neither a comb nor shampoo had touched it in weeks.  Her nose was running and her face was red.  Her lips looked as if she were to try to smile, they would start bleeding in about ten places.  She had her sleeping bag draped over most of her body so as to keep the flying snow away as she walked.  The legs of her jeans were wet half-way up to her knees from being dragged through slush.  And her non-waterproof boots looked as if someone had soaked them in a bathtub of ice water overnight before giving them to her to wear.

She came up to me and asked, barely audible, “Can I go downstairs to get shoes and some dry clothes?”

“Absolutely,” I responded, as I led her to the donation room.  I pointed to the piles of shoes and coats while she removed the load from her back.

“Thank you,” she said, her voice a little stronger.  “I got here as fast as I could.  My feet are so cold.  I tried to run, but I couldn’t feel my feet.  I almost fell.”  She looked down at her sloshy boots and took a step.  “Oh!  They hurt so bad!”  She walked closer to the shoes.  “Oh, they hurt!”

I didn’t know what to tell her.  Frostbite was the first thing that came to my mind, but I didn’t want to tell her that.  Surly she didn’t have frostbite.  “Maybe you should take off your wet socks and shoes, and I’ll go get you some dry socks.”

She began to take off her shoes, and I went upstairs to grab some thick socks.  When I came back, she had picked out some boots in her size (good thing she had small feet – they were the last pair of boots we had) and was headed toward the pile of coats, cursing her feet as she went.

I handed her the socks, and she sat down with a curse, “They hurt so bad!  Why would they hurt so much?”

I looked at her bare feet as she rubbed them between her hands before putting on the socks.  They were wrinkled, as if she had been in the shower too long.  And red.  So red it looked like she was overheated, but I knew it was just the opposite.  “I don’t know,” I answered.  “Maybe it’s like after you’ve been playing in the snow, then you come inside and wash your hands in warm water, and it hurts a lot because your fingers got so cold.”

She didn’t respond to my answer.  I’m not sure if she thought it was as dumb as I thought it had sounded or if she was thinking about it.  Either way, she finished her business and put on her new-found, fitting coat and warm, waterproof boots.

As I watched her toss her old, soaked boots to the side, I couldn’t help but look down at my own feet.  Maybe it was the lighting in that basement or the fact that I was standing on a crumbling concrete floor, but for some reason, my boots didn’t look quite so ugly anymore.

What Are You Going to Do? (Part II)

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In Part I, I pleaded with you to do more than be angry about human trafficking, give your spare change to an organization, then forget about it until you hear another statistic.

Did you forget already?

If you haven’t read Part I, please do.  Following is a list of ideas that you can do to get involved.  Some of them take time and effort.  But what could be more important than valuing human life?

1. Keep your eyes open – Do you see the people on the side of the highway, holding signs that ask for change?  What else do they do to get money?  Do you see that advertisement for erotic massage?  Are those people forced to do what they do?  Do you see that drug addict in the street?  How did he/she get the money to get those drugs?  Do you see that girl with dirty hair in your youth group who is having family problems?  Who will she run to when she feels she has nowhere else to turn?  Open your eyes!  Take note of what is going on around you!  Call the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Trafficking Information and Referral Hotline at 1(888)3737-888, or the U.S. Department of Justice Trafficking in Persons Complaint Line at 1(888)428-7581, if you suspect someone is in a trafficking situation.

2. Give when and where you can – There are plenty of organizations out there.  Choose one or two, invest in those, and keep up with what they are doing.  You may not be able to give much.  You may not even think you can give right now, but try to give something.  Give up going out to eat once a week or your daily latte or a weekend movie, and give what you save to your favorite organization. Give intentionally!  Here are some organizations to get you started:

Prax(us) – Primarily focuses on domestic human trafficking cases in the Denver area.

Project Rescue – Focuses on international human trafficking.

Girls Educational & Mentoring Services (GEMS) – Focuses on rehabilitating girls in domestic human trafficking situations.

Stop Child Trafficking Now – Addresses the demand side of child trafficking worldwide.

iEmpathize – Focuses on unique advocacy techniques and events; located in Boulder, CO.

3. Pray – Take the time once a week to focus your prayers on human trafficking.  Pray not only for the victims but also for organizations, exploiters/traffickers (pray for your enemies), the culture and society that promotes the sex industry, etc.  You can find prayer guides on various websites.  The Salvation Army has a good one.

4. Educate – Educate yourself on the issue of human trafficking.  Watch videos, read books and articles, and research on your own.  Keep up to date with the most current news and laws.  Most of the websites listed under the “give” section have a page on educating yourself, but perhaps the most comprehensive is Project Rescue’s.

5. Advocate – By now, you know the issue and you are moved to doing something.  Passionately sharing your knowledge and what to do about it is one of the most important things.  Have your church or business host a human trafficking seminar.  If you live in the Denver area, Prax(us) has an amazing seminar that will be designed specifically for your organization.  If you are not able to have your business/ church host a seminar, you can find where one will be and invite as many people as possible.  Or you can host an advocacy night in your home.  This could include a video (GEMS has a documentary “Very Young Girls” with questions for a group setting); a book study or article reading; or you can get others involved and have a theme, such as art or prayer.

6. Volunteer – you may not have a center for trafficking victims near you, or, if you do, they may be extremely sensitive to who helps out there, but what about places who address problems behind human trafficking?  Commit to one day a week or month to volunteer at a youth drop-in center like Sox Place, a homeless shelter, an advocacy group, or a women’s shelter.

Now that you know the issue and know what you can do, what are you going to do?

When?

Stay tuned for Part III: What are we going to do?

Real Community

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“The exclusion of the weak and insignificant, the seemingly useless people, from a Christian community may actually mean the exclusion of Christ.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I have been praying and thinking a lot about the people that will make up this community called Boulder County Community Church. It is so easy to visualize a community full of beautiful, smart, wealthy, generous and likeable people. You know, people with awesome beards. I think I am very often guilty of holding up this idealized idea of a person as who we want/are willing to associate with. This idealized idea of a a person ends up being a caricature. I forget that people are, well, people. More often than not broken, fragile, vulnerable, insecure and hurt. I need to be the kind of person that lets them come that way. I should never force them to pretend to be that idealized caricature because by doing so I am very likely placing a barrier between them and Jesus. Jesus wants to heal and restore them but they don’t need help because they are busy pretending to be perfect. The best way for me to create this kind of atmosphere is for me to stop pretending like I am somehow perfect. I need to be honest, so they can be honest.

I will come out and say it. I am human. I am broken. I am often insecure. I don’t have all the answers. I am weak. I struggle. I falter. I doubt. I fear. I am prideful. I am selfish. I need forgiveness. I need grace. I need Jesus. I need people. I need friendship. I am not nearly as important as I think I am.

This is my prayer. “Lord help me see people as you see them. Help me love like You. Help me offer grace like you offer grace. Most of all help me not pretend to be better than I am.”

What Are You Going to Do? (Part I)

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Exclamations of “How horrible!”  Tears in the eyes of emotional women.  Heads shaking.  Questions, “How could someone do that to the innocent?”  Mouths gaping in shock.  Angry sighs.  These are often our reactions to videos, statistics, and presentations on human trafficking… and should be.  We should want to cry out for the innocent.  We should be angry at those who exploit others – those who allow human trafficking to happen.

We should want to do something.

But how many times have we seen a presentation or heard a statistic about trafficking victims just to throw a few dollars – whatever minimal cash we happen to have on us – in the offering plate, discuss the horrors of the situation on the way home, and wake up the next morning feeling fine?

When is it time to do something? If there were ever an issue in which the church should be involved – crazy, loud, tantrum-throwing involved – it should be human trafficking.

“But human trafficking is a problem in faraway lands… it’s a job for social workers and missionaries.  There’s nothing I can do besides give a couple of bucks when I hear a presentation.”

Wrong.  Traffickers bring women and children to the U.S. from other countries right under our noses – Denver is one of the top ten U.S. cities for child sex trafficking (www.projectrescue.com/resources).  But what about the blonde haired, blue eyed girl who looks like she’s been used up, standing on the street corner?  What about the U.S. citizen who needs quick money to feed his drug addiction?

What are we, as the church, doing that makes it so people can’t meet their basic needs without selling their own or someone else’s body?  What did we do for that girl when she was 14 and kicked out of her house?  A pimp was there, ready to “love” her – where were we, the ones who represent Christ?  What did we do for the drug addict so that he could get help for his addiction and find a good paying, legitimate job?  Where were we, the ones who represent Christ, when he turned to drugs to ease the pain of abuse or neglect?

I could give quotes and statistic and Bible verse a million times over as to why we need to get involved, but I don’t think I need to repeat the multiple presentations you have undoubtedly heard.  The issue is less about statistics or categories (who deserves to be categorized as a victim) and more about every person deserving to live life to the fullest.  My only plea is: If not you, then who is going to do something?

What are you going to do?

Read Part II, coming soon, for ideas.