The baby, that you have prayed for since before they were born, has just casually mentioned that he or she wants to be an urban missionary among the marginalized.
Maybe you’re sitting at a coffee shop, stirring cream into your cup of joe and out of nowhere, your child drops inner-city ministry into your cup of quiet.
Maybe you’re in the car driving down 635 at breakneck speed when your phone rings and you answer because your baby is expecting a baby and you think this could be the call. But it’s not. It’s the call that says your baby is moving her babies into a tiny apartment on the wrong side of the tracks because she just can’t shake the feeling that the wrong side is somehow right to Jesus.
Or maybe your professional son is climbing up the corporate ladder faster than you can blink your eye and you’ve grown accustomed to the lifestyle his lifestyle has afforded your entire family. Maybe it’s over Thanksgiving when he confesses that it’s no longer enough to simply write a check to a charity. He’s started voluteering at the YMCA and thinks his skill set could be put to better use at the center. He also thinks he could do greater good by living in the neighborhood where the boys live. All you hear is hood.
You’re afraid and confused and fearful. You’re seeing your hopes and dreams for your child circle the drain. The questions you have aren’t easily answered. No one you know has done what your kids are about to do. Isn’t missions for overseas ventures? Home missions? In the city? No way.
If this is you, this post is for you.
Your kid has heard Jesus speak and he or she has responded in obedience.
Every prayer you have prayed on their behalf is being answered. Jesus has captured their heart and moved them to obedience. Your child’s heart is soft and pliable and their spirit and flesh is willing to follow Jesus into the margins.
Years of prayers have been answered, just maybe not in the ways you had hoped. You prayed for an easier to understand following of Jesus for them. You prayed foreign missions for them. Or Mercy Ships. You prayed seminary and vocational pastoral ministry. You prayed para-church organizations. You prayed youth groups and small groups and Sundays at the growing church in the suburbs, the one near your future grandkids’ school.
But can I tell you something?
Jesus is up to something new in our generation and He has invited your child to join Him.
Jesus is waking up our generation to the mission field that is our country’s inner city. His spirit is moving all over our great land, shining a light into our darkest alleys and grungiest city blocks. Our eyes are being opened to the vast number of churches that line our streets and yet have no street cred in our communities. We are being awakened to the truth that the Gospel was preached by a man who moved into the neighborhood long before the first church was ever planted. And we are following Him into the neighborhood.
We have cast aside a culture of Christianity that has built for itself a kingdom that is irrelevant to a world in need of more good neighbors who seek the welfare of the people and place that God has placed them into. We have not forsaken the church. We have become a people who gather together in our communities, for our communities because we believe that when the Gospel is lived out in word and deed, the Church will emerge.
As our generation has moved into the neighborhood and become acquainted with the plight of our neighbors the American Dream we once aspired to has tarnished. We’ve downsized and taken lesser paying jobs in order to be more present in our actual communities. We’ve given up the 2.5 kids for a house full of children who may never belong to us in name.We’ve looked at our stuff and our stuff has become the means by which our neighbors have what they need. Celebrations have become less about celebrating us and more about bringing the community together to celebrate, period. Our homes are more than dwelling places for our families. They are community centers and churches and counseling rooms and triage centers and day cares. And our tables are where we break the bread and pass the wine and share the grace we’ve been given.
Because we desire to be wholeheartedly devoted to Jesus and to our communities, we look for ways to be a part of the systems and organizations already in place. We run for city council and head up our public school PTA. We serve the homeless shelter and we go into the jail. We tutor at risk kids on school grounds, during school hours. We prepare back packs for hungry kids and let the school disperse them. We use our gifts and abilities and resources to build up the community in which we live. If a low-income school can’t afford a book fair, we make a book fair happen for them. If kids need a basketball coach, we volunteer.
We don’t reinvent the wheel. We jump on the wheel and help turn it.
As Jesus has prepared our hearts to hold the cities He’s placed us into, He’s adjusted our eyesight to see our people and our place like He does. He’s removed the scales that keep us an us and them a them. And He’s made us a beautiful we. We look at our neighbors as family members before they come to faith in Christ. Homogeneity has been thrown out the window in pursuit of diversity because we believe that we get a fuller picture of the image of God when we immerse ourselves in a kaleidoscope of ethnicity. No longer do we believe that we alone have a corner market on Christianity or anything else for that matter.
Our worlds have been turned upside down for a kingdom already on its head.
If it’s broken, we want to fix it.
If it’s wrong, we want to make it right.
If it’s unjust, we want to make it just.
If someone is lost, we want to help them get found.
Right where they are, on a Monday afternoon at a picnic table in the front yard.
This is what is means to be an urban missionary.
Give your kid four years in the city and they’ll be able to answer all your questions and pose another hundred you’ve never even considered.
Meet me back here on Wednesday to get part 2. I’ll give you some tips on how to engage your urban missionary.