Friday, September 13, 2013

The Gospel: The Kingdom is Near

WorkFaith Connection exists in the city of Houston on the surface to help men and women find work. For their clientele this can be a particularly difficult endeavor. They reach a segment of the population who have backgrounds, drug and alcohol abuse, and long gaps in their work history due to prison time and homelessness. As a consequence they are also people who have been so far beat down by their circumstances they are often suspicious, lacking confidence, cynical and fatalistic.

In other words they are modern versions of the the least, the last and the lost people of Jesus' day.

However, finding a job only touches the surface. This ministry jump starts deep transformation where persons discover they are persons of worth when the Lord looks at them. Everyone who completes the 8 day course turns from seeing themselves as worthless to valuable, from hard-headed to open-hearted, from condemned and judged to saved and loved. They launch from this platform to begin the process of job interviews that will follow. When graduates eventually find a job they return to the WorkFaith Connection offices and ring a large bell where everyone stops what they are doing and celebrates that another graduate has just joined the workforce again, that another graduate has witnessed the gospel according the Jesus, that the kingdom has come near.

After preaching a WFC graduation
Attend one of their graduations and you will see what I mean, how deep and significant transformation takes place in people's broken lives.

What I appreciate about this ministry of Christians is that this is not so much church work, as it is kingdom work. This ministry is about making the kingdom of God appear. The end game is not a job, but discovering that no matter the deep wounds we experience, the troubles we see, or the hardships relentlessly pursuing us the Lord is about healing and wholeness in real time.

You have to know something about me, and how I think about the kingdom of God. I don’t only think about it in terms of some far off distant future, that exists up there, after we die. The kingdom of God is anywhere that the will of God is done – and so the kingdom is happening all over the place whenever the hungry are fed, or the naked clothe, or the sick healed, or the poor have good news proclaimed to them (Luke 4). The kingdom happens whenever children learn to read where they could not before, wherever the stranger is welcomed, and yes, when the down and out are inspired and led to meaningful work.

Also, know this about how I think of the kingdom of God: As much as we love the church, invest ourselves in it (for me now over 22 years as a pastor), the church's boundary line isn't the limit of the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is found in places and among people where the church isn't.

The kingdom of God is anywhere that the will of God is done, in the church and beyond it. People argue with me about that; though for the life of me I don’t know why – because I think they aren't so much arguing with me, as they are arguing with Jesus and his teaching about the kingdom of God.

What is it that Jesus answered, when he was asked by the disciples, “Teach us to pray?” Jesus said, “Our Father, who is in heaven. Hallowed be your name.” Then Jesus told them, "Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The kingdom of God is when the will of God takes shape here and now, in our midst, for all those who have eyes to see it.

WorkFaith Connections helps people find jobs, but more importantly they are making the will of God known by helping people find healing and wholeness, and in making the will of God known, they make the kingdom of God appear. The gospel in Jesus' words was simply, "The kingdom of God is near."