For my birthday I was given a copy of “A Busy Christians Guide To Busyness” – that was six years ago and I still haven’t had time to read it. Life and ministry are busy! There are so many things to do – good things that fill our time and keep us busy. Programs to organise, assignments to work on, and housework to do [or not do]. And the reality is that in our western world, tasks often trump relationships.
And it was with this mindset that many of us embarked on mission this week. But in Indigenous culture and ministry, this just doesn’t work.
“What matters the most this week is just being – sharing your heart with their heart and connecting.” This was the advice Michael gave us as we started our week at Macarthur Indigenous Church (MIC). “People want to know who you are, where you come from, and what makes your heart beat! They want to really know you.” In our busy task-driven world these questions seemed almost irrelevant, but in our context this week they were essential.
Indigenous Australians are deeply relational and personal, and connecting takes time. Ministry at MIC slow, intentional and deeply relational. For the Gospel to really take root in someone’s life it takes a real trust and respect in the person sharing. Michael’s weekly schedule is flexible, with programs and tasks low on the priority list, and instead, space is left to be available to people and their needs as they arise. Everyone is considered family and so are given that space in Michael’s life.
We got our first taste of this relational ministry at MIC’s outreach lunch. Every Monday a meal is prepared and shared with anyone and everyone in the community who has need – whether they live in poverty, spend their days drinking in the park or live on the streets.
While it may have been tempting to be concerned with providing the best food or focussing on the task we instead focussed on listening. For some of us, this meant sitting in silence next to someone. For others, it meant listening to the hurt and pain and brokenness in people’s lives and for others, it was sharing a laugh.
There was no big Gospel conversation or lightbulb moment at the table, but Michael reminded us that to just sit next to someone shows them you value them as a person. Too often Indigenous Australians are told they are not valued, not worthy and have nothing to contribute. The fact that we sat down next to them and shared a meal challenges their worldview – it makes them stop and think what’s going on here?! And that’s what the gospel should do.
The people who came to lunch haven’t stepped foot in the church. They haven’t had lots of exposure to Christians let alone white-Australian Christians. But we had the opportunity to sow seeds of life and to demonstrate the wonderful truth that we are all valuable to God and in Christ, we truly are one family. Relational ministry gives a tangible demonstration of God’s deep love for us and a visual representation of our unity which comes not from our culture but the Gospel itself.
It was a helpful reminder that God is deeply relational, and ministry should be too. Too often I am caught up in what I need to do and the deadlines I have but in reality, life doesn’t work that way. Sometimes we need to slow down and just be with people and connect. After all, discipleship can start with a bowl of soup.