It’s easy living in modern American culture to get caught in “trickle-down” mentality. It’s rooted in the idea that if we can get the top 1-5-10% of society (whatever that means) to join our cause, then their influence will “trickle-down” to the rest of society. If we could only get the wealthiest, smartest, most talented, and influential people, then we could bring lasting change to our community and culture. As a person of faith, the paradox that I’m often challenged with is that God repeatedly chooses to use those whom our culture would deem ordinary or even less than ordinary.
A few years ago I was sitting on a stool at the front window of Uncommon Grounds Coffee & Tea on Church Street. I’d heard and noticed that there was a rapidly increasing number of drug addicted young people living on the streets and in shelters in our town. You didn’t have to read articles or know the stats, because you could see the evidence with your own eyes on the street. I saw a guy and girl walk in. They were tattooed and pierced, physically worn beyond their age, and appeared quite malnourished. Later that afternoon I was catching up with an old friend who’d experienced a great deal of brokenness in his life: a recovering alcoholic, functionally illiterate, and living on welfare. I’m embarrassed to admit this now but the overall feeling I had that day was pity. Pity that they were stuck and their situation was seemingly hopeless. As that feeling surged inside of me, a scripture I had read earlier that week also invaded my mind:
Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you.Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29
My feelings and thoughts were in a tug of war over these questions:
Did I believe these people mattered period?
Did I believe they could have a life of significance?
Did I believe they could become influencers in our own community?
Was I choosing to view them through the eyes of our culture or the eyes of God?
I wish I could say in my role at ANEW Place that this tug of war never resurfaces, but you and I know that wouldn’t be honest. It’s in these moments that I’m reminded of Jesus’ “bottom-up” approach to life and ministry where he consistently invited those on the fringe to follow him and then developed these unlikely followers as leaders in his movement. I’m also reminded this principle applies to me. I’m the less than ordinary person God has blessed with purpose and opportunity, and now God is allowing me to do his work with my homeless neighbors through ANEW. Every day I’m blessed to walk into a place where I get to invest in future community shapers and cultural influencers.
For a real life example of this in action take some time to read about what’s happening with Christopher.