I have often wondered if we are taking the right approach to ministry in Isla Vista. Our church is a church for the homeless. On any given Sunday, we have a few dozen people (half of whom are houseless) sharing coffee and pastries followed a few hours later by a church picnic of tacos. More and more of our “houseless” friends are joining us for worship at 10:30 as well. They feel comfortable with our congregation and want to worship the Lord.

On so many levels that is really cool.

Still, it seems that every week an internal wrestling match takes place within me between two competing ideologies. Sometimes the match is over in about 13 seconds (we’re talking Tyson vs. Spinks fast). Other weeks, the match takes 2-3 days.

Who are the contenders, you ask? (Cue the ringside announcer…)

“In this corner weighing a lean 150 pounds is ‘Kingdom Values’!”

Scattered applause…

“And in this corner stands his opponent, weighing a hefty 250 lbs, ‘Worldly Success’!”

Thunderous applause…

On the outside looking in, it really does look like this match is lopsided. Everyone appreciates and values worldly success. I mean everyone. The most saintly of us still want to hear an “Attaboy” on this side of heaven.

The odds-on-favorite to win the wrestling match when Kingdom Values are in conflict with Worldly Success is Worldly Success. That is the sad truth. Pastors and churches get discouraged by slow “results” that don’t earn them “attaboy’s”.

It is then that a pastor, church leader, missionary or any other committed believer must strengthen themselves in the Lord, and remind themselves that Jesus stands in the corner of Kingdom Values (I am preaching to myself again).  He is not coaching the participants in how to be successful in the world’s eyes.

This week I was encouraged by reading the words of Bryant Myers in his book, “Walking with the Poor”.  He writes,

“We are to do transformation in the Spirit since the mission is God’s.  The Holy Spirit empowers us for mission, leads us into mission, and is responsible for the results of the mission.  If there is to be any human transformation that is sustainable, it will be because of the action of the Holy Spirit, not the effectiveness of our development technology or the cleverness of our participatory processes.  Because our role is to be faithful and obedient, in contrast to being successful, we must modify our ambitions and redirect our praise.” (p.84)

John Perkins had this to say about Bryant Myers and his books after reading…

“This book really comes out of one who loves Jesus, walks with Jesus, and has this great passion to eliminate poverty in the world.  The evidence of a Christian life is our love for all people, but also special love for the poor.  This book really reflects both the heart of Myers and the work that God is calling us to do.”

After reading these passages, the wrestling match was over!  Game over, man!  That is might be said of LLG that they “love Jesus, walk with Jesus, have a great passion to eliminate poverty in the world, love all people, and have a special love for the poor” is all that really matters.

The bell has sounded, the match has begun…Let’s get to work walking with the poor.