New Monasticism Chapter 5: New Perspective

Monday’s post struck a very similar chord to the fifth chapter of New Monasticism. The author’s opening story effectively points out that where you stand in relation to an event has much to do with what you see. To him, who stayed in the streets of Iraq among its people, the United States’ military action looked vastly different than the story portrayed in the media. He tried to share his own experience, but it was so contrary to what others were experiencing themselves that they found it hard to believe. They were not seeing the same thing. They had a vastly different perspectives.

The key principle of this chapter is rather simple. Change where you stand and you’ll see the truth a little more clearly. I first experienced this when I began volunteering at Memphis Union Mission, a local shelter for men. It did not take long to discover that my preconceived ideas about the homeless were not nearly as accurate as I had believed. As I began to meet the people and hear their stories my perspective changed. A man I would have assumed to be poorly educated, when approached, spoke with clarity and poise. He held a doctorate. Others got caught up in the recession and lost long held jobs. That was something I could relate to. A year and a half of unemployment was a game changing relocation for me. It helped open my eyes to how easy it could be to find myself on the streets. If it hadn’t been for God’s provision through family, friends and His Church, I would have been another face in the crowd at the mission where I had served, led worship and preached. It changed me. For one, I realized just how gracious God is and how much he loves and cares for us. Two, I became far more compassionate as I realized how easy it could be for anyone to end up on the streets.

There is a second important principle that follows the first. It goes like this. When your eyes are opened to see more clearly, you are able to find better solutions. It frees us to imagine new possibilities. Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove closes with this idea and challenges churches to “imagine church from the margins”. To relocate and re-imagine life and ministry in the world. It might be as simple as relocating Sunday School into a prison or shelter. The underlying purpose doesn’t change. Lovers of God study His word together and grow in His likeness, but they invite others to join them who wouldn’t be able to if they weren’t somewhere else. The author shares his own experience of a similar experiment that has yielded great results. The possibilities are probably endless if we’ll only try to change where we stand, and in discovering the deeper truths of a situation imagine new and better ways to respond.

It’s a challenge I would like to continue to take on and share with you. Relocate and re-imagine.

-Kirk

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