Old Habits Die Hard

Eric Russ

How serious are you about your community and missional living? Are you willing to discontinue activity even if it is seemingly good activity if it can interfere with staying true to Jesus and not our comfort? Here is a letter given to the men in our local body exhorting us to make sure that our focus stays gospel centered and not insular. I hope you are challenged and inspired.

There has been an encouraging movement over the last few weeks among the men of our body to meet together and seek God together.  We were encouraged to read the emails of men seeking to pray together for our community.  A google group e-mail list is a great way to connect and keep close contact as we seek to serve God in this community.

We are sending this e-mail to both encourage and challenge you as you pursue God together here in this community.  One of the great things about MACC is the community we have here.  Being able to come together on Sunday…and any other day we choose, to fellowship together is a blessing that many of you have not experienced in other churches, or anywhere for that matter.  It is a gift from God to be able to gather with people we love who are like minded in their pursuit of God.  But we must be careful lest this gift from God become a tool in the hand of Satan to insulate us and make us ineffective in ministry.  For the same friendships and comfort in cultural similarity that makes community at MACC great, can lead easily to isolation from our neighbors and the community around us.

MACC is not and is not intended to be a monastery.  What we mean by that is that we should not be walled off and isolated from the community around us.  We are not an isolated community of believers pursuing the knowledge of God away from society.  We are an active body of believers seeking intentionally to proclaim Christ in one particular community–48214.  This community was not chosen at random. At the core of the philosophy and theology of MACC and Christian Community Development are the three R’s, Relocation, Redistribution, Reconciliation.  These were formulated as a specific response to specific ills in our society…namely the history of racial and economic segregation that has led to the formation of poor urban ghettoes populated largely by poor black people.  This penetrates to the core of who we are as a church body because it is one of the central formational facts in our cultural and social history and is one of the greatest areas of sin that we as the body of Christ have to come to grips with.  This is not a pet issue for us, or for a few of us.  We believe it is central to our lives as faithful followers of Christ.

And so MACC was founded here specifically because it is a place of great need and it is a place where the three R’s can be lived out to great effect.  We have all (or many of us) relocated to one of the abandoned places of the empire in an effort to see social and economic justice wrought.  This area is a place of great racial and economic tension where we desire to see reconciliation across the boundary of Mack Ave and between the city and the suburbs.  And it is a place in tremendous need of redistribution of resources which we are attempting to facilitate by our presence and through things like MACC LIT, and MACC Development.

All of that to say–don’t sit back and enjoy community/fellowship too much.  Simply moving to the 48214, but continuing to spend the majority of your time with the same upwardly mobile folks that you would have before does absolutely nothing for our community. Stay true to your calling and go out and interact with your neighbors on your block, across the street.  Invest your time wisely. Spending all your time hanging out with friends who like you have moved into the community, not only makes for an ineffective ministry but eventually your walk with Christ will stagnate, then wither. Spend your time investing in the lives of our neighbors, in the youth of our community…

Getting together for prayer is awesome. But don’t let it be the end of what you do.  The men of our body have shown tremendous leadership in seeking to pursue God and grow together.  We hope to see that same leadership turned outwards to reach out to those around us. Challenge one another to consistency in following up with outreach contacts. Pick one or two or three of your unbelieving neighbors to regularly and intentionally pursue for Christ. Being involved in the lives of your neighbors takes great intentionality. We cannot emphasize this enough, because it is unlike anything virtually all of us have done before. You will have to consciously decide to be available when your neighbors are, not just when it best fits in your study/life schedule. You will have to meet them where they are at, not just expect them to join you in your favorite activities (e.g. ultimate frisbee). You will have to invite again and again and again. You will have to be visible, responsible, and accessible members of the community, not stay in your houses or apartments playing video games or studying or relaxing waiting for your neighbors to knock on your door.

Ideally the community of men at MACC serves to spur this on as together we get creative in connecting and reconnecting our neighbors. To do so effectively in the long-tem, however, we must commit to a constant remixing of those we spend time with. Constant remixing is required because those of us who are not from the community will effortlessly separate out from those who are (like oil from water). This does not take any malicious intent, just doing life the way we’ve always done it. So we have to rethink things all the time. Like is email a good way to reach our community? Or is my time better utilized studying yet a few more hours for my test or mowing my neighbors lawn? Or when I invite people over for a meal, do I cook what my friends all like or should it be different? Or when I explain the gospel to people am I using words that they can relate to? Or is it better for me to eat at the place me and my friends all like in Royal Oak or to head to Legend’s?

We love you guys and really are excited to do life alongside you in our community. At the same time, we ache for our community to be transformed. From our own struggles to be on mission over the past few years we know how easy it is to retreat into the receptive arms of the Body of MACC and forget about the pain and hurt around us. We pray that you would own your community and your mission and ask that you would pray the same for us.

Love Y’all