"Be the prepared to be the answer to someone's prayer." - Ramin Razavi
I heard this quote from one of my coworkers a little while back, and it sent off a flood of thoughts about neighboring centric ministry vs programming centric ministry... People > Programs.
The reality is people seek connections and relationships not programs. Programs are tools that help facilitate these connections, and programs can be an answer to someone's prayers, but the purpose is to connect people to people who are made in the image of God. People are the purpose (and in someways the mission = Church) and people make the mission happen. Programs can connect people and programs can meet tangible needs, but programs don't love, programs don't cry, laugh, or show compassion. Ramin mentioned that we must follow Jesus' example and words of "Seeing the people around us..." Really seeing them not just noticing them, but look deeply into the people around us and compassionately move beyond our programs and be able to adapt what we are doing to adequately meet people where they are at. Many times we move people to our programs when we need to relocate ourselves to where the people are - we need to be in their dirt and messiness not the other way around... People > Programs.
Jesus was so good at this. He took every moment to look and see the people around him. In Matthew 9:35-38 we get a glimpse of this when he saw the people around him and he had compassion on them... He stopped and in the moment he saw the people deeply and had an emotional and intellectual reaction to them. He was moved to do something about the people around him and he lead his followers to do the same. In order to do what Jesus demonstrated and instructed us to do, to love God, love our neighbors, and to love one another, we must be in the moment and embrace the relationships around us. Once we do this hen move to bless them in the ways the Holy Spirit instructs us to do.
As leaders, we see our programs connect people, but so often because of this *success* our programs become our mission, NOT the people we are trying to reach and connect to Jesus. In order to prevent our programs from becoming our mission we need to become more people centric and less program centric. In a sense, our programs can become a burden to people, because inadvertnetly there are times we make people feel guilty for choosing our programs over being in their neighborhood and hangingout with their neighbors. This is unfortunate. It can cause people to operate freely uder the influence and guidance of the Holy Spirit, and miss the ministry that God has for them. We take them out of their neighborhoods and distract them with participating in our events and programming…
I must state here, that I am not against programming, because programming helps us meet the felt needs of people (See Acts chapter 6). What I am saying is that our programming needs to be more than just purposeful, it needs to be focused and strategic - moving people to love God, love their neighbor, and love one another. It must free God’s people to be in their neighborhoods to connect and minister the gospel to those that live around them. Can the Church stop trying to be a buffet restaurant and distract God’s people from getting a clear picture of the mission He has purposed us to do? We must free God's people and give them the ability to love the people around them... People > Programs.
*Post adapted from a March 2011 blog post I wrote about neighboring*