Reconciling certainly covers a broad range of relationships. I would like to focus on the minister’s opportunity and responsibility to assist people in being reconciled to God. An author and scholar by the name of Leonard Sweet is quite insightful in the arena of ministering in the post-modern world. Some of his thoughts deal directly with our attempts to share our faith with those who have yet to experience God as a spiritual Father and understand the significance of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection in regards to our being able to experience God’s love and forgiveness. Leonard Sweet has four principles he feels all should follow in our efforts to reconcile people to God. First, we should spend an abundant amount of time listening to their story. Unfortunately, many Christians are taught to control the conversation. Post-modern thinking challenges us to remember how important their story should be to us and ultimately is to that person. Secondly, one should look to find where God is already at work in their life. We know that God wants everyone to know Him so we should not be so arrogant to think that God could not possibly already be at work in their life without us! They may not realize that it is God, and we can help them to recognize His presence at work on their behalf already. Next, we should tell Jesus’ story and God’s story. Do not focus on a set of beliefs and doctrines. Again, here is post-modernism at work. The story is important. God has a micronarrative. Jesus has a micronarrative. Tell their stories. Finally, tell your own story. This is of interest to post-modern people and communicates in a language they understand and appreciate.
Sustaining is the last of the four parts of ministry, according to our working definition above. According to Dr. Simmons, sustaining is helping a hurting person endure a circumstance (known as spiritual accompanying) when transcending or restoration to a former condition or recuperation is improbable or even impossible. The post-modern concept I would like to associate with this is called communiopathy. In Dr. Lartey’s lecture, he shared that empathy is feeling the pain of an individual and communiopathy is feeling the pain of an entire community. In my years of working with the homeless, I have come to realize why the Bible says the poor will always be with you. When I hear people and organizations say they are setting out to eradicate homelessness, I think sarcastically, “good luck!” We may be able to work to ensure that the people who comprise the population of the homeless is turning over, but there will always be life circumstances, mental illness, personal trauma, and even free wills exercising their right to make poor choices, all of which can lead to homelessness. Sustaining is so applicable here because we must not loose sight of the value inherent in loving someone where they are without our first priority being rescuing them. If we are there to be a hero to someone, we may move on too quickly from the person who doesn’t want to be rescued to find a more hopeful case forgetting that the first person still needs to be loved regardless of the possibility for change in their situation. Communiopathy is so important here because the church will benefit greatly prayerfully seeking to some how sense the pain of a community like the homeless so we will be more sensitive and better able to love them in a Godly way.
Although one might argue that modernism is still quite popular, we must consider where the future is taking us. Dr. Lartey talked about the concept of Dynamism which challenges us to not cling to how and where God moved in the past but to look for where God is moving now (sounds a lot like Henry Blackaby’s book “Experiencing God”). I’m not sure what the sociological equivalent is to Dynamism, but that truly is the wisdom before us: striving to fully understand post-modernism and how these changes will affect our work in ministry so we can be effective in the future and not just celebrate past successes; hurting people are counting on us finding them and then being able to help.