Greetings from the midst of a very active and bustling Downtown Memphis!
Early evening one Sunday our Community Group decided to take a Trolley ride down Main Street to the South Main District and back. Our intention was to pray for the people we saw as well as get a mental snapshot of who all is a part of our primary mission field at First Church. On our ride we saw many tourists going from the convention center to their hotels. We saw a few young families out for a walk. We saw many people who appeared to be homeless starting to find where they would settle in for the night. We saw lots of people of wealth around the Orpheum and Beale Street and we saw many people who worked in the stores, restaurants, hotels, and even our trolley driver. In just that one hour we saw hundreds if not thousands (I'm horrible estimating crowds) of very different individuals doing many different things.
“After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.” (Luke 10:1–3, ESV)
Sometimes, I am so bad at walking around Downtown or anywhere else and seeing all the people around me I as a nameless crowd. Instead of unique and precious individuals. If I'm in a hurry, they may even be a nameless crowd I wish would get out of my way. The other night on the trolley I was reminded once again to pray that I would see the crowd of people more like Jesus does.
When Jesus sees the crowds he sees each individual and not mere categories of people: It seems more than ever we are defining people by the categories we think they fit into instead of seeing people as individual and unique creations of God. We see them as a generation instead of as a person who may be discouraged because they can't find the right job. We see them as a political party instead of someone who might be new to Memphis in desperate need for community and connectedness. We see them as a race instead of a person who may be dealing with the pain of a recent death of a loved one. We see them as a particular target market to attract on Sunday Mornings instead of as persons who would try out a church if they just knew one person who they could recognize when they walked in the door.
When Jesus sees the crowds he people who are ready to be brought into Christian community if only those of us already on the inside would go out and invite them in. While it is true that the number of people looking for churches to attend is drastically decreasing every year, what has not changed is the need every person we come into contact with each day has to know Jesus through Christian community.
As we in the church approach Easter and begin an increased focus on the radically transforming power of the Resurrection for all who believe, we all need to recognize the hundreds and thousands of individuals we pass by each week who might possibly agree to come hear this Good News in our incredible community at First Church.
Grace and Peace,