Thats what she said. Didn’t blink. Didn’t smile.
She just picked up some food, said “thank you,” and went on her way.
My co-founder had met her at work. They both picked up morning shifts to have health insurance. Kim was a really nice lady. Friendly, chatty, always willing to make pleasant small talk about work or what her kids were up to.
Thats why her statement caught me off guard. It was like a religious preemptive strike. A warning shot across my proverbial bow. The message was simple: “You’re a nice guy, and I appreciate the help, but don’t try to get me to join anything”
I got the message loud and clear. In fact, the more I get involved with my neighborhood’s life, the more I realize the stigma attached to churches and “religious people.” It’s not a pretty picture. There is a lot of mistrust, and that’s where Kim was.
Over the next year we shared food with Kim and her two children. She learned who we were, not through what we said, but by how we loved her and her family.
-We played with her kids while she picked out food.
-We set aside food that we knew her son especially enjoyed.
-We made small talk and left Jesus off the table.
About a year later, Kim showed up to our house with a gift for us. A really sweet cart to move food around on. Stainless steel. Expensive. She said it was going to be thrown out at work, and she thought of us. She was excited to share it with us.
We were very grateful for such a nice gift.
About a month later Kim asked if we could help. She needed someone to pack and move her entire house. She had no one else to turn to. One rainy Saturday, we rounded up a bunch of teens and got to work. Everyone hustled and laughed. She made chili. We ate a LOT of chili and moved a LOT of boxes. It was a good day.
We loved without an agenda.
Shocking how powerful love is when we truly, deep inside our hearts, set down our agenda to show people the truth and trust God to change someone’s heart without forcing the issue. Even if that doesn’t lead to someone’s conversion. We have to drop our desire to control the outcome. We have to set down our agenda, no matter how noble. We have to trust that God loves people more than us, and He will do the heavy lifting.
The Kingdom was designed to be spread by bus drivers, and baristas. It’s spread through teenagers with pimples, and moms who drive minivans. By fisherman and IRS agents. It’s spread virally from human to human. People who choose to love others—not to convert them—simply because the person in front of them is made in the image of our Father. It’s spread through people who choose to see themselves as carriers of Kingdom of God, and use each moment in their life to reflect Jesus, the Son of God, to whomever comes across their path.
When we stop seeing people as fuel for our institution’s fire and start seeing them as Jesus sees them, then we will start to experience the Kingdom of God.
People who choose to set down their agenda and engage this process are called the Kingdom of God. When we do this together community is born.
These are difficult lessons for me to learn–but people like Kim help me.
Speaking of Kim, she has been watching the whole time. When the time was right she brought Jesus up. She was open. We had built trust through our lives, and she wanted to help others like she had been helped. She jumped in, and now she and her kids bring food with us to the assisted living home. They seem to meet Jesus a little more each trip. Has she ‘accepted Jesus’? No. But she has accepted us. She knows she is loved and she senses there is something deep, powerful, joyful and collaborative about our way.
I’ve learned a profound truth: God doesn’t force me to choose between words and actions. I had to truly love her enough to not force the truth upon her. I learned it’s just as much about me and my heart as it is about hers.
Having an agenda to simply get people to join your Sunday service will cause people to question your sincerity. It will place you among the countless other consumer-based groups jockeying for their time and money and resources. This is not perceived as love. It’s seen as marketing, and people smell it a mile away. It drives them away from the very thing we hope to show them.
There is another way. This Way asks me to set down my leadership agenda, and trust God. This way asks my community to renew its focus on serving and loving without an expectation of more people coming to our church service. This way loves people because they are people. This is the way of Jesus … to love without agenda.