Street-level faith. Now I like that!
Maybe I like the phrase because I am feeling tired at the moment. Maybe it is because I need to be reminded.
After all, right here in the middle of life, there are people who are going through turmoil of some kind. Is that true in your world? They are everywhere around me. These people are family, friends, fellow workers, people in our church, etc. These people are in situations involving pain, devastation, confusion, rebellion, and heartache. They often require answers and solutions that are not easy. In fact some situations with some people seem — impossible.
- Just before Christmas, one of your adult children announces that he is going to leave his family.
- A friend of yours is in trouble at work. Some money seems to be missing. The numbers don’t add up. Your friend is in trouble.
- A longtime friend in the neighborhood has cancer. He has been fighting this for three years. Things don’t look good.
- You just got out of a meeting. Your boss announced that this has not been a good year and that they are going to have to "make some changes" before the end of the year. You then find out that you no longer have a job.
- After spending five hours in the emergency room, the doctors still don’t know what is wrong.
- Two longtime friends in your church are in conflict. There is incredible tension. You almost dread going to church because of all of the turmoil.
- You are a minister. You have only been with this church for a year. You moved your family from across the country. The situation has been extremely difficult. You are angry because you don’t feel like the key leaders leveled with you before you agreed to come. Now you are here.
Now I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. For some of you, there are enough situations like these in your family alone to exhaust and deplete you. Others of you are simply trying to be a friend to someone in your office or your church or to support a longtime friend. There was a time when I thought I was supposed to fix (or at least make better) these situations for people. That was a long time ago.
Right now, I am seeing that the most important thing I can do is to simply be present and to be a person of prayer. Listen to Henri Nouwen from his book A Living Reminder…
We have fallen into the temptation of separating ministry from spirituality, service from prayer. Our demon says: "We are too busy to pray; we have too many needs to attend to, too many people to respond to, too many wounds to heal. Prayer is a luxury, something to do during a free hour, a day away from work, or on a retreat. … Service and prayer can never be separated …
(Cited in Norman Shawchuck’s A Guide To Prayer For Ministers and Other Servants, p. 107.)
Street-level faith is about trusting and obeying Jesus 24/7. It is about keeping my spiritual life and my ministry with people intact. Street-level faith is about recognizing that we are right in the middle of draining, impossible situations that cry out for someone who is above and beyond us and yet has made himself available. In this context, prayer is wartime.
Prayer is like a soldier on a walkie-talkie desperately crying out for back-up and support from other troops while his company is being shelled. There is an urgency to street-level faith. After all, we desperately need God.
This may be "old stuff" to you. If so, just move right along to the next blog or website. But for me? Well, I need to be reminded of this quite regularly.
If you are a dad, mom, minister, or just an ordinary person trying to live as a Christ-follower, you may be in need of the kind of faith that is for everyday people trying to make it in a broken world. This kind of street-level faith is messy. This kind of street-level faith sees prayer as essential.