Out of Sorts: The Big Small

Revolution doesn’t look like changing diapers or making meals, right? Kind people don’t change the world. We can’t imagine overturning the empire through this small stones that we lift up, one after another, through the small lives we minister to, through our words and our prayers.

The Kingdom is often taking root in the small ways — in our kitchens and in our parish halls, in our streets and our subsidized daycares, in youth group mentoring relationships and after-school care, in prayer circles an bylaw meetings at the city council. (Out of Sorts, p.205-206)

On Wednesdays a group of people make their way through our church building. Every now and then we will see them in the office, dropping off food or asking for directions. But mostly they go about their business in the background. They prepare food in the kitchen and make plates of food that are then delivered to homebound residents of Oklahoma City. It’s part of a program called Mobile Meals that helps the elderly maintain independence and dignity in the latter stages of life.

There’s this man in our church who has been retired a number of years. He’s a quiet, unassuming gentlemen who you’d easily miss if you visited our gatherings. Every week this guy makes his way to one of our local elementary schools where he spends some time with one of the young men. It’s part of a mentoring program through the school system. He’s there every week to talk about life or help with school work. Every week, no matter what.

One Saturday a month if you come through the back portion of our church parking lot, you’re likely to run into lots of cars. There’s a group of men here who enjoy working on their own cars and restoring old ones. But on this day you can find them changing oil or performing routine maintenance for anyone who shows up. They hold this Car Care Clinic so that those who cannot afford to take their car in for repairs, need to save money or are afraid of getting taken advantage of by a shop can receive honest assistance. They change brake pads and fix broken tail lights. But most of all they provide a friend and resource to so many who would otherwise be on their own.

The funny thing is that all of these people do their work without much fanfare. They’re not on the news or even mentioned much in our church communication. But there they are, consistently serving others in the way they were gifted. Every day and week and month.

 

You hear the words “social justice” being thrown around a lot in church circles. If you’re like me your mind can envision solving global problems like the wage gap or clean water or human trafficking or mass hunger. Our world has huge problems and we need to work toward solving them.

I love how so many people are becoming aware of the world around us and the inequalities that exist among people. These issues cross all borders and lines. They are universal in nature and I feel like there is a generation of Christians being awakened to our responsibilities as God’s people to join in the restoration of all things.

But perhaps also like me you get a little weary when these things are brought up. These issues are massive in size and I can sometimes wonder if progress is being made anywhere. Injustice and war and pain seem to be constants in our world.

How much of a dent can we actually make?

Part of the seduction of the way we do church in American Evangelicalism is the temptation of big. We like big — big gatherings and big programs and big budgets and big production. It just feels better when we’ve got a snazzy logo and cool slide show and the accompanying t-shirt. It makes us feel like we’re a part of something. Something larger than ourselves.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. Much good has been done by mega-churches with mega-budgets and mega-goals. I’d prefer the pews on Sunday to be full instead of empty when I speak. But big is not the only way.
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What Sarah reminded me of in this chapter was the beauty of the small.

She writes, “The Kingdom of God is a seed, a grain of wheat; the Kingdom of God is a treasure in a field, it’s leaven in the bread, it’s a feast and a wedding party, it’s the forever way.” (p.199)

And so I am reminded that what grows large often starts very small. That big changes often occur because brave people choose to do the small things.

Like preparing a meal or mentoring a child or changing someone’s oil.

I feel like so much of the greatest work is being done when no one else is looking. It’s done by the everyday servants who take care of their loved ones with dementia or care for a child with special needs or mow their elderly neighbor’s lawn.

Social justice is always local. It begins right outside my door.

So today I am thankful for all the people around me who are doing the things that seem to be small. Because they’re not small at all. They just look that way.

 

These acts of kindness and mercy are bringing greater joy and peace into the world than we will likely every totally understand. They are mustard seeds that bring life and healing into a world that could use a lot more of both.

May God bless all those working in so many “small” ways, bringing His story to life in their neighborhood and town. And may we all be inspired to work for the big restoration of all things by doing good in our little corner of the world, in all kinds of small ways.

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