newsletter september 2004

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BesideStillWaters Vol. 1  Issue 1

 
The Beginning of the Manna Ministry

Hello All,

 

Welcome to the Still Waters monthly newsletter.  We have been very busy the past couple of weeks.

 

We have begun a ministry to those with out - the poor in Pottstown.  August 25th marked the beginning of the Manna Ministry, and as we have begun this work, we have also established Still Waters as a legal organization, registered as a Church.

 

We currently are sharing our vision, of being church in a new way, with many people.  There seems to be much curiosity about our approach, and there are several people that we have met, who are potentially interested in the church, and this work.

 

Finally, you are reading another first for us - the start of our monthly newsletter to keep all of our friends informed about our journey.

 

Growing Pains

It was with some fear and caution that we entered this work. I personally was unsure of myself, feeling a serious responsibility, not only for connecting with people and blessing them physically, (as we had done here before as a para-church ministry), but now from our new perspective, to catch them up into the family of God. 

 

Today our focus is to begin the church, here with them. I am so ill equipped for this task, and we feel a heightened sense of responsibility this time around, as we work for the kingdom by establishing not only ministry, but this church.

 

Our team was very understanding, cooperative and thankful, as everyone pitched-in to begin this street ministry.  The nuts and bolts came off like clock work…well except for my forgetting to bring 5 loaves of sandwiches.  Thank you to the Boatmans for returning to my house and correcting my error.

 

Aside from that hitch, we began very modestly.  There were probably 15 or 25 people that we met.  Half of them were regulars from before.  The area is much worse than when we left it 5 years ago.  We are now serving directly across the street from 3 individual crack houses known to the police in this area. 

 

Of the folks that we knew from before, all of them were, and still are key people in the area.  Imagine moving several times in the past ten years, and never leaving a 2 block radius.  They missed us, which gave me pangs of guilt for not continuing before.  We simply lived too far away to pastor all the need.  Praise God that we are here now.  These are the people that spread the news that the ‘truck’ is back on Wednesday nights.  It kind of feels like a Samaria story.  People with terrible lives going and telling others who is in town, and inviting them out to see for themselves.  Please don’t think that I’m comparing us with Jesus, but we are their first idea of who He is.

 

Many people didn’t want us there – you could just tell.  But, that happens every time we do this sort of thing a fresh.  We will need to prove ourselves once again.  Having finished up the evening, Missy and I drove through a familiar alley because Nancy – a friend from the past – wanted us to see where she lived now, and to greet her former live-in boyfriend, who has just been released from jail.  He had a stroke in prison but is doing pretty well.  He has not had a drink in 5 months.  This man hated us before, because Nancy wanted to follow God.  He mercilessly beat her – a whole other story, and a whole other life.  Now, they are still together in the same house – not as couple, but she does take care of him.  We said, “Hi!” to him with a hug.  I have never seen Melvin with a smile before.  I almost didn’t recognize him!  He was so glad to see us I almost cried.  He was so proud to say, “I don’t drink no more.”  He looked so good!  He asked me where I was preachin’, and I told him, “at your house.”  He’s coming out to the corner next week and I’ll explain to him how we are doing church.

 

There is so much for us to learn in this work, and it seems as though God speaks loudest when we are moved as far away from our own personal comfort as possible.  Before I published this newsletter, I wanted feedback from our team who was on the street with us on Wednesday, to include in the newsletter.  This dialog was very interesting and even brought some things out of me in response to the questions posed.

 

Here is the letter:

 

Subject: Re: Thoughts about last night...?

 

Kork,
     To be honest with you..............  I was very uncomfortable Wed. night.  Not threatened, not "scared," kind of embarrassed like "we brought some food for all you hungry people".....I'm sorry I just sat on your tailgate talking to XXXXX. It was safer back there (comfort zone safe not secure safe). 
     I find it really difficult to be open with people it seems like I still have a some "walls " that need to come down. 
     I'm not sure it was because I missed the Prayer preparation or if I thought I was only going to have to give out food instead of giving people something of myself.  This whole thing is very troubling.  A chord has been struck in my soul and I cannot identify the uneasiness.  Maybe I'm just weird.  Any thoughts on this. Does this make any sense?  Was it first time jitters? Was it seeing people living in such a broken neighborhood? 
    Is this a common first outing experience?

Response:

 

Yes, you are normal.

 

That having been said, this is a culture shock for most people.  When we first started doing this it was hard for most people who viewed ministry as a way to give to God idealistically.  They were shocked by the mundane.  This stuff seems hopeless, people have bad breath, folks have body odor, people don’t like us or want us there.  In a way you are absolutely right.  We did come out to “bring some food for you hungry people.”  And the truth is that there were some hungry people.  More truth is that most of them view us as, “here come the good Church folk to bring us poor people some food so that THEY feel better about themselves.”  That is what the church in Pottstown (and probably the whole US) has created.  Dis-ingenuine church folk inviting people into our big building one day a week, and no involvement the other 6. Or, involvement with very little cost.  This is why I try to play this all down and try to prime everyone to not expect too much. 

 

The embarrassment that you are feeling is the embarrassment of knowing full well how the world, and especially the folks in this neighborhood, views us.  It’s obvious, and true.  I think that God has given you the proper discernment for doing this, and you are feeling some of the angst that I feel from the choice to take an uphill journey, knowing full well how this looks at first.  When they see the church this way, this is how the see Jesus.  The true ministry is to show them the real Jesus – to overcome their perception about us and also let them, and God, overcome our perception about them, and in some way we complete each other, and Jesus is revealed in spirit and truth.  We are gaining through the feeding part of this, the chance to be truly involved in their lives – whoever “they” is.

 

The chord that is struck in you, I believe, is that you might be embarrassed by the church and how we have done things.  Please take this the right way, there might be even a little pride in there.  I feel it too.  Knowing what we initially look like, and how they see us makes me ashamed and self-conscience.  I want to scream at them, “NO, we are not like that!!”  That’s my pride of not wanting to be viewed like a wooden headed do-good-ing Christian.  This is the same thing that the apostles went through.  Think back to how many words, and mundane actions, Jesus had to walk them through to teach them how not to be counter-cultural for those reasons (fighting and insurrection to gain cultural change), but to really be counter-cultural (or counter-religious) by doing the simple, boring and mundane.  Feeding, walking, fixing things, sitting…all just to gain trust and the right to influence through genuine friendship.

 

If what we are really doing out there is to feed poor people we should probably stay home – they will not starve.  But the uphill ministry that we are looking forward to, is personal involvement – knowing them, going to their homes, sitting in their alley’s, letting them get us a drink, listening to their problems, and including them in the salvation of knowing God with us.

 

In the weeks to come, there will be more people each week.  Some weeks a lot more – some weeks a lot less.  It could be just a few folk some nights.  But, standing there week after week, telegraphs something important to them – that we are not out there for our own feel-good Christianity.  We are out there to show them a steadfast commitment to them and Jesus. 

 

We will never change some, or even most of their minds about our numb Christian do-good-ing.  But we are going for the ones who connect with us, and as we change, and they change, they will begin inviting their friends into our friendship, as we sit with them in the alley, or move them to the next tenement, or fix their broken stuff.  And as we being to walk with them, then – and only then – will they see Jesus. 

 

What we are doing is completely counter cultural on all levels – to us, the US Christian, its easier to do something quickly that will fix their temporary problem, and get them to say a sinners prayer.  Then we can go home.  To the poor, they expect that do-good-ing Christians will come here, see the trained monkeys, act nice and give us a little stuff, get us to say a dumb little prayer (and we will, just to get them outta here and off our backs so that I can drink, drug, and cuss), then they will leave feeling good about what they had done and we won’t see them again.

 

Poverty is always hard to be around.  I do think that you have some walls up, but I really believe that they are for noble reasons.  I think that you truly want the genuine article.  I also don’t want to do fake Christianity, or modern marketed Christian stuff.  I have a really good book for you when I see you.  It’s called “Visions of the Harvest” by Rick Joyner.  In particular, one book in the trilogy is, “Escape from Christendom” by Robert Burnell.  I don’t agree with all of it, but it might help you as it did me.

 

It is really overwhelming to see how bad things can be, and how feeble our tools are to overcome the terrible conditions and injustice around this place.  I believe that just as Jesus was “moved with compassion” for Jerusalem being without a shepherd, I think that you are too.  But, once moved, a kind of death needs to happen inside each of us.  We intuitively know that now we are being called to act upon this awakening.  To sit back would feel like sin.  But moving forward, with only the tools that we have through our old Church paradigms, are inferior and even feel dishonest.  How do I move forward in honesty and really be a help?  I can’t.  Only God can.  But we are responsible to move forward by faith that somehow, as He changes us, and we die to where we’ve been, somehow we are fulfilling what He wants done.

 

Think about Jesus: in a wrong-headed religious culture that procedurally did not violate the law – doing the necessary things (and sometimes not) to help the poor; stark class division; living in a narcissistic, hedonistic society of Greco-Roman style justice; and people just wanted to be the “right-est” with God personally.  Sounds familiar, doesn’t it.

 

Now think about Nicodemus having this internal battle, being awakened to God’s truth, wanting the simple mundane, but genuine truth; struggling to overcome the popular religious, institutional, personal right-ness with God, and being moved to do what he has been seeing Jesus doing – feeling responsible to do this in spite of where he has been, to where he comes to Jesus at night so as to not be seen.  Jesus called it a “new birth,” and it is painful.  I think that what is being birthed in you is of God’s Spirit.   

 

I don’t know if any of this makes sense either – I could be wrong, but I would encourage you to read John 3:1-21.  It might have some answers for you.

 

To answer your question if this is because it was the first time – in some respects yes.  But yes because it forces us to not theorize about God and His mission.  Our own personal theologies are brought into the light and we are forced to be what we believe.  It’s part of being born again.  It is a first.

 

Dude, I hope this helps.  I really do!!  I know how much God wants to use you, or He wouldn’t be showing you this stuff so loudly.  Most people never hear Him in this way.  You have genuine-ness, integrity and humility.  That is what God uses to bless the world.

Kork

 

We will do the same thing next week for most of the same people, and hopefully some will invite friends along to meet us.  Please pray for this area, the people, and that God will move powerfully.  Also pray how you might personally be involved.

 

Peace,

Pastor Kork

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Still Waters is a Grace Brethren Church located in Pottstown PA. We are a different and re-imagined way of being Church. Church is not a building, but God's loving people serving his creation.

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