The other night a few of us in our gospel community got together to listen to this talk by Steve Timmis entitled Being Neighbours: A Gospel Strategy.
What was apparent to us as a community was that we need each other to help us intentionally “go down the hill.” The hub for our community at the moment appears to be our house. Our house’ it seems, is rather strategically situated at a confluence of at least two vastly different worlds. If you go up the hill, broadly speaking, you encounter the cool, funky, hip (hipster actually) community. The food is good, the beer is crafty, the people are nice (which is to say remarkably like us). The vibe is creative, quirky and just a little bit grungy. This is the fun and exciting part of our community. All of us enjoy hanging out there. We don’t need help going “up the hill.” It’s going to happen. Whenever we feel like grabbing a pizza or watching some sport, it’s natural and easy to take a walk up the hill. This is also, perhaps it goes without saying, a community that deeply needs Jesus.
But down the hill a simple five-minute walk away from the hip side of town’ life is completely different. Poor, drug ravaged, high unemployment, little or few role-models. Kids wander the streets, sometimes till late at night. Family breakdown, crime, drug addiction and jail sentences are fairly common aspects of many families lives “down the hill”. These are not “our people” (and our community is fairly mixed racially). It is not comfortable, fun or safe by our usual standards. This is the kind of place we have to intentionally choose to be. It will not just happen, naturally or organically. It will take sacrifice, effort and a grab me by the neck kind of reminder these are exactly the kind of places where the light must shine brightest in the midst of the greater darkness. And sadly these are also the places where traditionally churches have been at their least effective.
I don’t need my community to help me go up the hill. I like them when we go up the hill. But I need to get me to go down the hill. Perhaps we don’t fully understand the mutual necessity that Jesus builds into the church as body image simply because we simply do not go down the hill enough. We like each other when we go up the hill but we need each other when we go down the hill.