Luke Edwards is a United Methodist Pastor working out of Boone, North Carolina. I’m always thrilled when I see some United Methodist folks putting missional theology into practice (something I’m having difficulty doing at the moment). But he has some good things to say over at Fresh Expressions about how the church has, in many ways, been known for what it hands out to persons. And, frankly, I can see that in the United Methodist Church, it’s been one of our standard ways of being in ministry.
But what if we didn’t hand out anything but built relationships instead? What if our hands were empty? This is what he says….
Empty-handed ministry is far less expensive than relief-based ministry, but far more costly. It is not quick, it is hard to measure, and you cannot complete it in a weeklong mission trip. Half of the time it looks and feels like you’re just hanging out with people. It might take years to see any fruit and when the fruit does come it’s pretty obvious that it was not because of you. It’s focused on building relationships the old-fashioned way, by talking to your neighbors. You will not feel like a superhero; you will feel more like a friend. Empty-handed ministry is slow, humbling, but absolutely transformational.
One of the hardest part about all of this is the “It might take years to see any fruit” part. That’s enough to keep many from trying it at all and to frustrate those who are trying.
But, I want to believe that it’s worth it.