When I moved to Woodstock I made an effort to get to know the city that I've come to love and serve. I still do. My basic approach is to keep up on local news through our papers and such, to spend time enjoying my city (eat the food, sit in the café, go to a concert or a high school football game), talk to businessmen and women, shop locally, read on city and county and region demographics, ask people questions about what good in the city and where the needs are, and so on.
I've come to see this isn't enough.
A couple of weeks ago a new video game store opened in town. My boys wanted to check it out. As we were there my daughter and I popped in to the Dollar General store. As I opened the door to enter I felt uncomfortable. I was uncomfortable because I realized most of my friends probably wouldn't be caught dead in there. And neither would I. That's where "poor people" shop.
I have a real fear that missional pastors and churches aren't doing much better than the institutional, traditional church. That approaches to knowing our city like mine are missing a key element, remembering the poor.
- Luke 4 - Jesus quotes Isaiah and fulfills these words, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor."
- Galatians 2:10 - Paul is told to "remember the poor," likely a reference to poor Christians in Jerusalem.
- James 2:2 - James warns against giving the better seats to the rich and letting the poor sit on the floor.
One of the most convicting to me...
- Luke 14:12-14 - When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.
If we're being honest I think we have to admit that when we go to take the gospel to a city we too often take it among the rich (or richer).
I mentioned the local farmers market and Paul in the marketplace in a recent post. They aren't the same. I love our local farmers market, but it's not where those with less money can shop. It's for those with more. The marketplace of Paul's day was for everyone. In our day we are, more or less, financially segregated. Let's remedy the fact that we usually live along the lines of our financial status and really get to know our city.
So it's important to know your city in terms of the flow of commerce and places to eat and politics and news, etc. But I think we need to do better to know our city by also hanging with and living among those with less. A few ideas...
<>You probably shop at stores that are nice and clean and big and has a big selection and has fashion you like. Find out where people with less money shop for groceries, clothes, etc. Where do single moms shop? Where do most people with food stamps shop? Now, shop there for the next couple of months.
<>You hang at the café in order to meet your neighbors. Good. Now realize how many people in your city can't afford it. Or realize how many won't get their coffee there because they don't "fit in." Where do they hang? What do they do instead? Can you hang there? If not, why not? Is it pride? Fear?
<>A lot of people don't have or can't afford a washer/dryer. Spend the next month doing laundry for your family at a laundromat. Don't just go to the cleanest & newest one. Go to the one nearest to public housing. Go when traffic is high and get to know those neighbors.
What do you think?