by Merv Budd
Back in the 70s and 80s an Australian Rock group became quite successful in North America. They sold more than 30 million records and had many songs appear in the top 20 charts. The Little River Band is mostly forgotten now. But one of their most famous songs begins with lyrics that I think capture a missionary strategy that God might say to those of us who desire to reach our neighbourhoods but don’t know where to start.
The lyrics come from one of their top ten hits in 1979 called Lady (watch the video clip below if you’re feeling reminiscent).
Imagine with me that you’re in a neighbourhood and you don’t know where to start in order to reach it. Perhaps God would say something in this regard:
Look around you, look up here
Take time to make time, make time to be there
Look around, be a part
Feel for the winter, but don’t have a cold heart
Living missionally starts by looking around you and then looking up to God and asking where He is at work. Where is the Spirit of God already brooding? I suspect that such a looking and observing process would not be quick. We will need to “Take time to make time.” But it’s not simply a matter of looking around with our eyes; it is a matter of joining with those in the neighbourhood and being truly present with them in order to see past the external appearances, becoming part of the social fabric of the neighbourhood. And then, as their lives touch ours, we can feel for the coldness of their hearts towards God. We can learn to understand the pain which keeps them from trusting or knowing him, but not allowing our own hearts to grow cold.
It’s not a new strategy. It’s as old as the Apostle Paul himself. In Acts 17 we read about Paul:
While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean.” (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.) Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.
Looking around, seeing as God sees, being present, joining in, and allowing your heart to be touched by the needs—but not overwhelmed. It’s a great way to start engaging your neighbourhood.