“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ,” the apostle Paul writing to the church in Corinth.
Ambassadors are chosen and sent to places with different languages and cultures. They are not residents, but are visitors in a foreign land. Some serve in places that are hard and the people hate the ambassador’s home country.
There are differences between terrestrial ambassadors and Christ’s ambassadors. Both are chosen, but as Christ’s ambassadors we cannot turn down an appointment. We are called to places regardless of whether our country has an embassy there. But even in our own country we are called to hard areas to be ambassadors. It might be the inner city, the suburbs, apartment complexes or even the country-side.
I came across a post by Lane Corley (@LaneCorley), a college friend who is a church planter in the Northshore area of New Orleans. Their local church will take a Sunday every quarter and go serve in their community in lieu of their typical worship gatherings. But that is not the only time they serve their community. They are corporately serving their community throughout the week in a wide variety of ways. Mauricio Hance is partnering with Lane and their church. He moved his family into one of the biggest trailer parks in the Northshore area. He did this to “get in the way.” In his context, he describes “getting in the way” as:
He has called me to get in the way of young boys becoming drug addicts and womanizers. He has called me to get in the way of people feeling like they are worthless and unable to achieve beyond what they have. I am called to get in the way of young girls becoming mothers too early, or prostitutes to support a drug habit. He has put me here to get in the way of young girls feeling low and inconfident, making them prime candidates for sexual abuse. He has put me here to get in the way of young men ending up in prison or becoming thugs. He has put me here to get in the way of spousal abuse and oppression. He has called me to get in the way of women becoming objects of lust and men becoming oppressors of women. What has He called me here for? To get in the way of those walking the path to death and darkness, and guide them out of the darkness and into the light.
Both of these men are involved in what they call incarnational ministry. The best way I can define it would be to point to the life of Christ. He came to earth wrapped in flesh and sought out those who were lost. He got in the way. He did not pop in for a photo opp and then return to his house in the suburbs where it was safe and comfortable. He was there for the messy stuff: consoling grieving family members, healing the sick, comforting the oppressed, wrestling with the mentally and spiritually disturbed.
Reading their stories has led me to a line of thinking that comes up in my mind over and over. It then quickly gets shouted down by the voices that say it would require too much sacrifice and I don’t know where to start. The question of sacrifice is something each of us will have to wrestle through and surrender to. On the topic of where to start, that’s just an empty excuse.
The first place any of us can get in the way is where we work. I have wrestled with this for a while now. My job requires me to sit in our attic, at my computer and code. So how do I get in the way of my coworkers when I’m isolated? Living an incarnational life requires time and proximity. I’m fully aware that this may sound like whining or excuse-making, and I’m probably guilty on both parts.
The other place I can get in the way is where I live. I have been working with a refugee family off and on for the last year and a half. What if I moved into their apartment complex? This complex is home to refugees from around the world. What if some fellow believers came along side me and we got in the way? What if we ministered to them by teaching English, helping them adjust to a new country and culture, and inviting them into our homes?
Those voices that shout down the moving of the Spirit throw out a multitude of reasons. One hesitation is I don’t want to be the “crazy, white guy.” Yes, if God calls me to go, I need to go. Yes, I could get in the way as one person. However, with a small community of believers living life together, the message of the gospel is amplified. Not only through proclaiming the gospel, but through serving and the testimony of how we love each other. To quote the authors of Jesus Manifesto, “The authentic Christian life, therefore, is not an individual pursuit. It’s a corporate journey” (p 142).
We shouldn’t see Lane or Mauricio as men whose lives are outside the norm. What they do, should be the norm. We should look at how they are living out their faith and ask the same question I’ve been asking myself.
Why aren’t I getting in the way?