I had the opportunity this last week to meet with the West Seattle Mars Hill Campus Pastor and a volunteer coordinator with the Union Gospel Mission to dream big and talk about ways we can team together to put hands and feet to the gospel. We talked about the homeless problem in White Center and talked about how the church can get involved to help change people’s lives. As we were talking, Chris from the Union Gospel Mission talked about needs people have and how people try to meet those needs. He drew up a diagram (see attached document) and talked about how different people come up with different solutions. Those on the right see the problem of needy people having to do with behavior, so naturally the solution for those on the right is to fix the person’s behavior through structure and accountability. Those on the left see the problem of the needy being systemic, in other words they believe people remain in poor conditions due to lack of opportunity, so naturally those on the left try to solve the problem by providing opportunity.
The flaw in the solution of those on both the right and the left is that the problems people face are both systemic and related to behavior; in other words the solution is not as simple as structure and accountability or giving people a handout – rather the solution for someone in an extreme situation is both / and plus the Gospel and relationships.
Take for example a person struggling with drunkenness and homelessness – the solution of the state might be to put him in jail for 3 months in an environment that provides structure and accountability. During that time as he sobers up he might begin to realize he needs to make changes. When he gets out of jail he might even take strides to make those changes, but if there is no one there to help him learn how to present himself, get a job, keep a job, and spend money wisely, then that person will likely just end up on the streets again hearing people say things like, “You worthless looser!” If all this person hears and experiences is negativity without the offer of hope, then that person will more than likely not change.
If you give a person hope by developing a relationship with that person, then that person will be more likely to make changes that are long lasting. To do this requires a community of people to surround a person to help them change, to be transformed, and to live differently; and none of this can happen without the GOSPEL of Jesus Christ inspiring people, like you and me, to have compassion to minister to people like this who need the hope that Jesus offers.
The left offers programs to help people get out of poverty and improve their situation. The right offers structure and accountability to change a person’s behavior. What if the left and the right came together in relationship to minister to the whole person with the GOSPEL of Jesus Christ?
This is what the Union Gospel Mission is doing. But their vision is bigger than the Union Gospel Mission in downtown Seattle. What if the Union Gospel Mission came to White Center and what if churches philosophically got behind what they are trying to accomplish and then sent people to volunteer to develop relationships with people at the Union Gospel Mission to integrate them into local church communities?
This could transform the culture of White Center!!! This is what the church has done throughout history; imagine if we were a part of history by relationally bringing the heart of compassion from Jesus to the least of these in our midst. That is a church I want to be a part of!!!