We’re constantly saying goodbye. Working with refugees, we see dear friends and new believers moving on from Athens nearly every week. This is one of the most difficult aspects of the ministry here. Working in a transient community, we’re constantly saying goodbye.
There are so many fears… so many unanswered questions. Will he find other believers to help him grow? Will she ever put her faith in Jesus? What will happen to the kids? Will he be reunited with his family? Will she ever get a chance to go to school? I love working with refugees, but I hate the unanswered questions. It can be difficult to trust God with the futures of my refugee friends!
In this light, I appreciated a recent article at The Resurgence, “People Belong to God: Ministering in Transient Populations.” Whether we’re working with students, singles, or refugees, I found the insights below a helpful reminder that, indeed, people belong to God.
In Colossians 2:6–7 Paul states, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” The words of stability in these verses are compelling and profound. Rooted, built up, established in faith, and abounding are terms of deep connection and commitment.
- The importance of patience. Rushing people to a place in their lives they have never faced never works. Just because you hit a great home run in preaching and teaching a few times doesn’t mean people get it. People are becoming more process-oriented and need a place to work through worldview-transforming information with God’s people.
- Commitment to community formation. Community formation is more than just throwing people into “small groups” or “missional communities”. It takes the Holy Spirit to knit people to other disciples. Being positionally connected to the body through the gospel does not make a person functionally connected to God’s people. It is the beginning and an empowering mechanism of true and practical knitting. People have to want to be with one another (2 Corinthians 6:11-13).
- Help people face what they are running from. Stability is scary to many of us, although we know we need it. Slowing down helps us face places in our soul where Jesus’ functional rule has not yet conquered. Running only postpones the inevitable.
- Dealing with natural and spiritual maturity equally. Although all things in our life should be viewed through a spiritual lens, it is helpful to work through some distinctions. Emotional, volitional, intellectual, geographical, financial, sexual, and relational health is a must to help people grow in Jesus. While not a comprehensive list, these are the greatest obstacles that impede people from stability. Ephesians 4:15 calls us to grow up in all respects—a phenomenal challenge for transient people. When they are challenged in a way that is compelling and gospel-centered, they feel encouraged to face what they are fighting.
- Recognizing that people ultimately belong to God. Some people will remain for a season. Our goal must be to do as much as we can to love them and engage them in the season when Jesus has allowed them to cross our paths. God ultimately is sovereign over people’s life span and direction. Living by faith calls us to commit ourselves to see God use people’s instability to show us how fragile we are and our need to repent and believe the gospel in uncharted areas of our lives.