Jonathan Clater, Community Outreach Director at Griggs Memorial Baptist Church
Click here for part two.
Greenville, South Carolina is becoming a thriving city full of business, art, and academics. With our growing downtown, the buildings are becoming bigger and more beautiful. Business is booming and we are developing our own DNA that some say rival our neighbor cities such as Charleston and Atlanta. Reconstruction and building projects scattered throughout the city give us just a little sense of what is to come. The future is truly very bright for the citizens of Greenville.
Known by many as the “Buckle of the Bible Belt”, Greenville also continues to be religiously affluent. College students, young married couples, and any newcomers will not find a lack of churches. We are surrounded by like-minded churches, whatever your flavor may be. Finding a church in Greenville has become a Subway Restaurant style of church hunting. We pick and choose based on our preferences. If there is a church that does not have exactly what we want, there is a good chance a “better” church across town will have what we are looking for. It has become very easy to slip into church consumerism.
Hidden from the eye of many is the side of town that people see only when driving up to the mountains for the weekend or out to the countryside to visit family. The West End of Greenville is a different story when it comes to city life. The crime is high and the number of churches is low. Greenville Mill Villages such as Welcome, Judson, San Souci, and Poe Mill are plagued with poverty, homelessness, drugs, alcoholism, and broken homes. There is a general lack of churches and many of the churches that exist are in desperate need of revitalization. They are in need of Christians ready to embrace some discomfort.
City planners and deep-pocketed businessmen are drooling at the financial opportunity before them as real estate becomes available. Many of the old mills are being turned into high-end apartments and plans are being formulated for complete demolition and reconstruction of many neighborhoods. If they get their way, the poverty may well be driven right out of the West End, but Jesus says the poor will always be with us. They will find a place to settle, and it is our place to settle with them. Let me explain what I mean by that statement. Jesus set an example of proactively seeking out the poor and needy.
I am constantly reminded of a phrase found in Luke 8. “Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God.” The headquarters of Jesus’ ministry was Capernaum, but here we see the Savior broadening his ministry to areas that were less comfortable. He went to the impoverished villages. He healed the sick. He cleansed the demon possessed. He cared for the poor. He strengthened the weak. He embraced the discomfort.
He was exemplifying the commission he would later give his disciples that the Gospel is for all people, even the people in the villages. Jesus is the Savior of the City and He is the Savior of the village.
I believe that Jesus’ example calls for discomfort. The Great Commission is very uncomfortable. Believe it or not, you can find discomfort even in a city full of beautiful places and smiling faces. The West Side of Greenville and surrounding neighborhoods are chock-full of uncomfortable experiences (trust me). But there is great comfort in the discomfort that we are called to because “when the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:17-18). The charge to bring the Gospel to all people comes with a money-back guarantee that the Holy Spirit will be with us always. The beauty in this charge is that the Commissioner becomes the Comforter and the uncomfortable becomes the conquerable.
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The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.