"Going Jesus" on your community

Nathan D. Stanton


After this there was a Jewish festival, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  In Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate in the north city wall is a pool with the Aramaic name Bethsaida. It had five covered porches, and a crowd of people who were sick, blind, lame, and paralyzed sat there.  A certain man was there who had been sick for thirty-eight years.  When Jesus saw him lying there, knowing that he had already been there a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I don’t have anyone who can put me in the water when it is stirred up. When I’m trying to get to it, someone else has gotten in ahead of me.”  Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” Immediately the man was well, and he picked up his mat and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath. John 5:1-9 (CEB)

What does it look like for your church to “go Jesus, on your community?” We’ve all heard the phrase, “going postal.” The phrase ignites negative images of disenfranchised postal workers shooting up their workplaces out of frustration. On the one hand the phrase can be humorous when someone is about to lose it over relationships or work conditions but it also represents the tipping point of the human condition when intolerance, anger and isolation come out of us in the worst ways either by taking another person’s life or shattering someone’s psyche by exploding in violence. “Going postal,” is a complicated matter for our generation. It is also a complicated matter when it comes to being the church of and in this generation. So, what would it take for your church to turn “going postal,” to “going Jesus,” on your community?

I like to look at how Jesus went about his business. In the narrative about Jesus going up to Jerusalem to the pool of Bethsaida, we’re allowed to think about the narrative each of our churches is writing in our own community. Think about how we are following Jesus in our own communities. Think about several ways that you can “Go Jesus,” on your community.

Jesus went: It didn’t say that Jesus and the disciples and the rest of the entourage stayed put, fixed a nice meal and expected folks to come to them. It simply says that Jesus went.  How long has it been since your church went somewhere in your community looking for ministry rather than simply expecting new people to come to you in your building? Consider praying for God’s guidance where you might be led to minister in the greater community that your church is located within. Take time to look at the Mission InSite information that can be provided to you about your community. Send an email to either nstanton@greatplainsumc.org or athome@greatplainsumc.org to get connected to this great resource.

The Human Dumpster: Jesus went and had church at the place I would call the human dumpster. The human dumpster was the pool of Bethsaida, located at the Sheep Gate where the livestock were brought in and kept. It was a pool behind a wall in the back lots of the city of Jerusalem, hidden where people didn’t have to see or come in to contact with sick, diseased, twisted and outcast of the day.  Jesus seemingly had a way of finding these places and these people whether they were tax collectors, prostitutes, the unclean like the woman with the issue with blood or the people at the edge of society.  How are you and your church community taking time to pray where the edges of your community are, where there is abject poverty, extreme social and racial isolation and the lingering effects of a lack of education? Perhaps, for every church in every community, there is a way to begin to discern through prayer and a deeper understanding of what is happening in your community where you can make a difference right outside your doorway?

Take who you are: Jesus didn’t take the latest program with him, he took himself, his friends (team if you like) and the power of God. We underestimate the power of creating relationships with folks in our communities rather than thinking about what we can supply or give away and then imagine that those folks and their problems don’t exist until we need to buy school supplies and presents again at Christmas time. These holy and charitable activities are an important discipline in showing love within our greater communities. But, folks also want relationships and they want to know they matter. Jesus went, found the worst place in the community (or at least one of the worst) and he blessed them by bringing himself and the power of God with him.

He took a team and transformed one man’s life who had taken on society’s view of himself as well as the repeating tapes in his head; “Every time I try to get to the pool, someone makes it in before me!”  The church has the capacity to be present wherever it would like if it has the courage.  What will it hurt to take time to consider the strengths of who your congregation is and what you are motivated to do in your community? Pray, learn about your community, learn about yourself and what you are motivated to do and then risk taking the best you have wherever you go.  Wherever you go to “Go Jesus,” on your community you have you and you have the power of God!

“Going Jesus,” on your community is an opportunity for churches in the Great Plains United Methodist Conference to get back to some work like John Wesley. John Wesley proclaimed Christ outside of the church and he also worked to educate, feed and disciple folks to also carry on this important development in the life and history of Christianity. Perhaps, it is time we once again made it a priority to be in mission in our own zip code. What would it take for you to “Go Jesus,” on your community? Where is God sending you? Where are people in your town without significant, supportive and Christ-like relationships? Where are you willing to go for the long-term? “Go Jesus,” on your community! See what God does.

Share with us what you are finding in your communities! Share with us how you are taking Christ to the streets and transforming the world. What are your “going Jesus,” stories that could be told in order for others to learn as well? Let us know.

Nathan Stanton, coordinator
Great Plains Conference New Church Development