On any given day there is plenty of negative buzz around the internet about the emerging/emergent conversation. It is accused of being heretical, a fad, a perversion of the gospel, New Age, a disappointment, false teaching and dead. Some participants have even decided to drop the label completely – and that’s okay as the label seems to have a lot more meaning to those outside of the conversation than to the participants.
I still identify with the label and so I find myself being asked a lot of questions. “What is it?” “Why am I attracted to it?” “Is it distorting the truth?” “What difference is it making?” “What do the participants believe?” “Does it line up with scripture?” and many other questions that are difficult (if not impossible) to answer in relation to the conversation.
Sometimes I try to answer by explaining that embracing doubt and uncertainty doesn’t mean that I don’t have beliefs or don’t live out my beliefs with conviction, sometimes I make the point that what scripture says is pretty clear but, on the other hand, what it means isn’t so black and white, sometimes I state that unity shouldn’t be dependent upon conformity and that making relationships and community the main thing IS right doctrine.
Sometimes I share how the conversation has helped me sustain my faith, learn how to believe in a way that builds bridges instead of barriers and become teachable once again. How it’s given me a safe place to express myself, ponder my doubts and beliefs; permission to change my mind and to be wrong without shame or guilt; and beautiful, diverse, authentic friendships that are able to survive our differences with grace and love.
Today I am here to answer questions about the emerging/emergent conversation in a different way. Today I want to share someone’s story as the answer to the questions. I don’t know if the person in the story identifies with the label – just that we connected through the conversation. I don’t know what this person believes about the trinity, the virgin birth, heaven or hell – just that he believes in loving others in the way of Jesus and he believes it enough to do something about it.
Today I am here to answer questions about the emerging/emergent conversation with a story because
“the answer is in the story and the story is unfolding”
– Pádraig Ó Tuama
After the recent article about us in the local paper, I have been asked dozens of times just what we do, exactly.
We feed people. But we aren’t a feeding ministry. And while we do help people get jobs, we aren’t a job training program. Almost 50 times since Christmas we have gotten work shoes for folks. But we aren’t a clothing ministry. And in a few weeks, we will be celebrating the 4thof July in the park with our friends who live outside – but that isn’t what we do.
At any given moment, we may be doing any or all of those things. But we are primarily a ministry of presence.
Being homeless means having no one to listen to you when you hurt, no one to share your dreams with, and no one to celebrate with when good things happen. And no one to stand beside you when you are scared.
Which is why, several weeks ago, I was in the doctor’s office, sitting next to my friend Sarah, holding her hand as we wait to hear the bad news. She had recently had her first annual exam in 16 years. (When you are struggling to survive, sometimes you let things like that slide.) And when she had called for the results, they refused to give them to her over the phone. This is never good.
Her sponsor in NA died of cervical cancer, so she was scared to death of going to that doctor’s office by herself to hear the news. So there I was, looking very out of place as she and the doctor talk about cervixes and ovaries and so on. And when he told her it looked like cancer, I was the guy who held her as she cried. And prayed with her in the parking lot.
Today she got the results back from the specialist. It is cancer of the cervix, and in a few weeks she is going in for an operation. So it was only natural that she called me and some of our volunteers to let us know. And when they wheel her back in the hospital room after cutting on her, it will be our faces she will see when she wakes up.
What do we do? We are present. Often our being present doesn’t change things – she is going to have surgery if we are there or not. But now, she won’t be alone. And that is not a small thing at all.
Love Wins. Always.
The only reason Hugh was able to be in that doctor’s office next to Sarah was because of financial contributions that pay his salary. And, it is financial contributions that will buy the flowers in her room when she comes out of recovery. If you don’t currently support Love Wins but want to be part of this story, you can find out more about that here. They really need people who are willing to commit to ongoing monthly contributions, so they can budget.