When I visited City on a Hill, the urban Milwaukee mission center that I wrote about yesterday, I sensed the presence of God in this place instantly. The people were warm, caring and joyful. The place was clean and the work of serving God’s people was going on all around me. The whole place spoke of the love of Jesus, thus of the works of mercy and reconciliation.
The lunch meeting I attended began with prayer and some simple introductions, led by the director of BASICS, Mark Mallwitz. BASICS has served in four Milwaukee Public Schools with four primary areas of focus: (1) Prayer – praying for the schools, prayer walking in the schools and praying for the staff. (2) Care, or acts of compassion and kindness. (3) Share – to share the good news of Jesus Christ with students and faculty/staff. (4) Prepare – by helping those interested in preparing themselves for life.
Mark Mallwitz has embraced my son, and the ministry of Crossroads Kids Club, as a partner, not as a Chicago ministry seeking to replace something in Milwaukee. This is at the heart of what I call missional-ecumenism – the freedom to allow God to bless others and use them freely regardless of who does the work or gets the credit. Mark not only demonstrates this stance but his leadership of this gathering revealed it to me over and over. He allowed the Spirit to guide the agenda yet he had an agenda and followed it well. His goal was to allow the Christians leaders of ministries to “listen” to the stories of school leaders, both principals and volunteer coordinators. He was seeking to cast a much bigger vision of the teamwork necessary to truly impact more of the city with the gospel. There was no ego on display, just a compassionate heart for people and Christ’s glory.
The handout included the names of various other ministries, and their leaders, so that school leaders and Christian workers could take away this information. Groups like Campus Life, Child Evangelism Fellowship, Crossroads, Here’s Life inner City Ministry, MPS Covered in Prayer, Moms in Prayer International and the Oneness School Initiative were all featured, along with others. Several local churches serving in the area were also involved, though as it too often the case very few pastors were in the room. This is an area of deep concern for me. Pastors are so busy managing the programs of the church for the benefit of those already members that they do not get deeply involved in these kinds of city-building efforts. If I were on a church council, vestry or elder team I would ask: “What is our pastor/priest’s role in getting into the stream of what the Spirit is doing in our city so that we can hear, as a congregation, what God is really doing for the unity of the church in Christ’s mission to the least of our brothers and sisters?” It is my passion to urge churches to do this and then to embrace and empower pastors who do. I believe most of our congregations have settled for caring for our physical, emotional and spiritual needs (as consumer) without envisioning what it looks like to truly embrace others in our common mission. What I saw in the room at City on a Hill was a huge blaze of missional-ecumenism led by good people like Mark Mallwitz.
Perhaps you read these words as a businessman or a homemaker, a nurse or a teacher. You think to yourself, “What can I do about the mission of Christ in my place?” In Milwaukee one such person asked this question and others joined. For well over a decade this has been going on there and when I walked into the stream of mercy I experienced last Thursday I simple observed the result of years of prayer and service coming to fruition. Much more will follow but this is a paradigm shift that needs to happen all over America. Perhaps what happened in Milwaukee will touch lives in many place. I pray that readers of this blog will visit the sites I reference here and ask this one great question: “What can I do to bring Christians in my city into the unity Christ prayed for in John 17 and how will this unity lead us into mission that centers in Jesus Christ who is the Lord of all?” To ask and answer this question is to enter into what I call missional-ecumenism.