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Taking the harder road

Taking the harder road

Taking the harder road

27 January 2020

Community meals are a regular part of the Townsville Riverway Corps life.

By Peter Hobbs

Much of the community service provided in the name of compassion is done transactionally rather than relationally.

Transactional is often focused on what we can deliver, do or give to people, which makes us feel good and accomplished at the expense of actually making genuine connection to the people we are sent to serve and support.

For example, when we engage in some kind of street ministry we can just hand out water, a tract, food or a lollipop, say “God bless you”, and think we’ve really made a difference. But other than making someone feel good we may not have really engaged with the people we were sent to connect with.

There’s usually good reason for this transactional approach. It’s easier, superficial and quicker. It’s measurable and makes us look and feel good with very little human sacrifice. But this approach often leaves the people we are serving feeling disconnected, sometimes used, and maybe even left feeling like they were a ‘project’.

Usually this transactional approach doesn’t lead to genuine relationship and it’s in this approach that ‘client’ or ‘church member’ language is embraced.

What’s worse is if the ‘client’ doesn’t like or appreciate the ‘help’ we have given them it can cause us to get offended, become angry and bitter, and start saying things like, “I don’t know why I bother” and then quit.

This transactional approach to community development can easily become selfish, and is often where the term ‘do-gooders’ is derived.

The type of community development that actually makes genuine change and empowers relationship and community is a relational sacrificial approach.

The focus is on listening, serving, genuinely getting to know people, long-term commitment to relationship and being vulnerable with people. But this way is not glamorous and comes with a real human cost.

It requires sacrifice, energy, authenticity and the risk of being hurt emotionally or even physically. It also requires long-term commitment to people and modelling the reality of Jesus in the good and especially in the bad times. 

It’s teaching people to turn to God when life hits the fan, modelling how to live when life falls apart. Modelling the fruit of the Spirit in the community.

This means actually putting our faith into practice within community. We have to live practising what we preach. Therefore, the transactional is easier; we know how to do this because it’s easily measurable and is, therefore, the default method for ministry.

However, it’s relational connection among people that makes a genuine difference; that sees lives genuinely transformed. People don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care.

To do this we need to be right with and secure in our motives and in ourselves. We need to be surrendered to the Trinity, and full of the Holy Spirit so we can be led and empowered by God.

One side note: Jesus tells us in Luke 10 not to invest in everyone. Instead, he tells us to invest in “seekers of peace”. This means any people who actually want a relationship with us, and people who are spiritually open to a connection with a higher power – God.

Jesus makes it clear that we should not invest our energies in people who are not seekers of peace. The seekers of peace will find Jesus as we model the reality of God to them in community.

Investing heavily in people who are anti-God and not interested in relationship at this time, is a waste of time and extremely painful. We should keep praying for those people and be kind to them, but be wise and invest all our energies into the “seekers of peace”.

If we stay in community long enough, the naysayers often watch and will see that we are the real deal and become seekers of peace in the end anyway.

Jesus modelled this and he is our motivation and example. Let’s choose selfless, relational community engagement that actually brings genuine change and lasting effects, which starts a movement of change.

Let’s keep on sharing the love of Jesus one life at a time! 

Captain Peter Hobbs is Corps Officer at Bellarine Peninsula.

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