Throughout bible colleges, churches, Christian literature, conferences, and anything else that makes up post-modern Christendom people are asking the question, "how are we to do church?". A popular theme amongst these conversations is a return to the model of the first church (Acts 2). Although I do agree to some extent with this consensus part of me wonders whether or not we're missing the point by striving after a model rather than the Master. When we strive after a model, our natural inclination is to trim off the "unneeded fat" that slows down our agendas. But if we merely seek nothing but the Master our striving, our goals, and our agendas tend to fall by the wayside and we are free to simply spend time with Him and His beloved creation. But enough theology, let me share about my good friend Fatima!
I met Fatima around seven months ago on the streets of Newark in the bitter cold. At that time she was sleeping behind a gas station in Newark's South Ward. My heart broke as she told me of her addiction to heroin, her need to "sell" herself, and her perpetual homelessness in one of the worst winters of the decade. To make matters worse the social services for women in Newark is not a thriving market. Immediately I started to think of things we could do to get her off the streets. Although Fatima seemed interested, the follow-up process was/has not been so smooth. Every week she would express her desire to be off the streets. And to no avail I would tell her the same things every week. After a few months it became apparent that we weren't getting anywhere. It was at that moment where I consciously laid down my agenda to "save" Fatima and simply be her friend. A couple of months later as I was setting up for our regular outreach Fatima came and gave me the biggest hug. Surprised by her joy, I asked her what had happened that she was so happy that night. She replied that she was just thankful to see her friend.
Since that time Fatima has been in and out of jail, on and off of drugs, and sporadically homeless. About a month ago she disappeared and I began to worry that she might have died. But two weeks ago as I was driving through Newark I looked down an alley and thought I saw her. I drove around the corner and there was my friend again.
At the end of the day Fatima does not fit into any church model. Any agenda or goal we may have had for her has failed. But does it really matter? Because at the end of the day there are no "services" that will save Fatima. What she needs is dignity. What she needs is a friend to walk the journey with her. What she needs is the Master. Going back, my gut instinct tells me the "first church model" just isn't going to do it this time. So for now I continue walking with her. I ask any who have taken the time to read this, who do you need to stop "saving" and simply start walking with?