Doing ministry in the inner city carries with it a desire to “do good” in our neighborhoods. So when you live where 42% haven’t completed High School you know you can “do good.” When websites rate your community an “F” for crime, you know there is a need.
So the goal becomes:
Step one: Help children get an education. (“Help kids read good.” -Zoolander)
Step two: Help adults get jobs.
Step three: Cuddle up with a good book and watch rainbows and unicorns appear.
But beneath all the platitudes something sinister lurks. If we perfect this and crime goes down, education goes up and indigenous people revitalize their own neighborhood, we can still fail.
Take Japan for example. The economy is booming. Neighborhoods are clean and crime sprees in certain neighborhoods consist of someone writing on walls with chalk.
Wouldn’t we love our neighborhoods to look like Japan? As a church, the answer should be an unequivocal no. While Japan may look perfect in all the ways we would love, they are also far from Jesus. Statistics say only a half of a percent of the people of Japan confess Jesus as Lord. If we truly believe what we say we believe, 99.5% of a beautiful, fun, creative, civilized country is destined for hell. That should cause alarm. Japan struggles with an alarmingly high suicide rate. The MAJORITY of people under 30 seem to not be interested in a romantic relationship at all! Pornography, video games, social media and sex toys dominate the lives of young men to where they have little to no interest in actual women. All that is to say, Japan needs Jesus.
If we improve the physical climate of our neighborhoods but neglect the spiritual, our hoods will be destined to become successful communities on the road to hell. Forgive me if I sound flippant. I am not. I adore the people that surround our house and pray daily for their salvation.
Clean neighborhoods are not what Jesus is looking for.
He wants to see dead people come alive.
May we always consider whom we can share our resources with but may we never forget their dire need for a savior and redeemer.