Neighbors and Numbers
“Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time
and always start with the person nearest you.” -MOTHER TERESA
The question was asked of Jesus as to who was his neighbor. He immediately went into the story of the Jewish man traveling and accosted by thieves and left for dead. We know this as the story of the good Samaritan. The neighbor turned out to be, not the priest, not the Levite, but the despised half-breed Samaritan.
Christine Cain records how she was reading the story and thought to herself that she was the good Samaritan when the Holy Spirit spoke to her and said, “No, you are the priest sho passed by.” She was jolted by that. The Lord was speaking to her regarding the plight of human trafficking that she was witnessing in foreign countries. She since has formed A21 which is helping to deliver as many as a 100 girls a year out of bondage in the sex trade.
Not all of us have ministries of international impact, but we do have neighbors.
I, for one, had been concerned about numbers. It kind of started around the year 2000 when I was invited to help build a church to 200 and beyond. The whole focus turned to how to build a church that size. When you focus on numbers, the change in ministry gets jaded in some ways. It is so slow and insidious that you do not even know it is happening to you. Do not get me wrong; I like it when there are a lot of people responding and the meetings are full. However, the call can be lost in the pursuit. The call requires being faithful to the message you have been entrusted with.
“Preach the truth whether it fills a room or clears it out!”-Phillip Anthony Mitchell
So, we come back to who is my neighbor? Or maybe the question should be, when was the last time I was a neighbor? As a church we have been talking about Go-Love-Serve. This cannot be, “that will be really nice when I see people doing that in our church.” What it has to be is you doing it. If we do not get involved we are like the priest or the Levite walking by, seeing the need, but passing by without interaction.
As we move toward Serve The Valley, we have to begin to see ourselves involved somehow. We must begin to see ourselves as the Samaritan who was willing to go out of his way to meet the need of this suffering human. It reminds me of the Peanuts cartoon where Snoopy is shivering and cold and the Peanuts character, Lucy, comes by and gives a Christian greeting to him which said, “Be of good cheer, be warm and comforted.” However, she did nothing and Snoopy is still shivering and cold.
We need to start with the person next to us, our neighbors in this valley. We are going to not only speak, but do. A nice warm blanket would work. A good meal will work. A lunch for a kid will work. A conversation with a shut in will work. Serving the village, the school will work. Loving somehow on the lonely will work.
The numbers are there, but they must have a face, a heart, a voice.
I know the Lord has spoken to me very forcefully that I must return to my calling and stop worrying about numbers and do what I am called to do. The individual becomes far more important when they are not viewed as a statistic. I have certainly repented for the diversion of numbers that infected me. Now, I think I can move forward with more joy and be a neighbor.