Recently I interviewed a man with long experience working amongst the urban poor. In the course of the conversation, we touched briefly on how disruption figures into the start of movements.
He noted that many migrants to cities are “economic migrants” – they come to the city seeking work, often because the situations at home are unsustainable. Upon arriving in the city, they find their entire worldview challenged, turned upside down. They have new problems they never anticipated, and have to find new solutions. They are in crisis. Their life is unstable. They are experiencing severe disruption. It is in the midst of this period, when they are forced to think in new ways to meet the challenges, that they are most in need of blessing and often responsive to Good News.
I was reminded in the midst of this of other situations of crisis, where Christward movement has been possible where previously it was not. Obviously, there are issues with work in the midst of crisis–one doesn’t want to require conversion to receive blessing, for example–but nevertheless moments of disruption and crisis have stopped wars and disrupted long-standing traditions, enabling a change of movement toward the Kingdom.
Christians are not the only ones to notice this, of course. I’ve read articles in the past–I wish I could find them now, but I unfortunately didn’t note them down–where other religions have met people in the moments of crisis and facilitated a “return to faith.” When things are good, people tend to secularize, seeking the pleasures of the world. When the world fails them, they often (not always) are open to a return to the fundamentals.
C. S. Lewis, in the Screwtape Letters, notes this: “a man feels he is finding his place in the world, when really it is finding its place in him.” It may be that God permits danger, crisis, disruption–because even though these things are painful, they serve as “wake up calls” which spark people to seek out the deeper, eternal truths.
If this disruption can enable Christward movement by breaking old patterns, rituals, and structures, this movement still requires someone at the time of disruption to point the waytoward the new. Churches and disciple-makers who seek to place themselves into “edge” situations where disruption and crisis is rife–at the edges between two “worlds,” at places where crises is more likely, in the midst of the poor, the seekers, the desperate–may find themselves in a place where they can be a blessing, and a signpost.
After all, people who are content to sit at home are not as likely to be moving as people who find themselves thrust out, and standing at a cross-roads, seeking a guide…