Mack McCarter envisions a world where “every single child, no matter their age, can be safe and loved.” That vision led him in 1994 to leave traditional congregational ministry in Texas and to found Community Renewal International in his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana.
Two decades of church work had convinced him that cities and towns are essentially a web of relationships. When the relationships fray, those communities begin to decline.
Crime, violence, addiction, child abuse, and high school dropout rates can be traced to the erosion of caring relationships. Community Renewal International works at restoring and repairing those relationship one neighborhood, one human heart at a time.
One of the methods of Community Renewal is the Friendship House:
“A Friendship House is like a community center in a home, reaching out to at-risk youth and families with after-school programs, community service projects and activities that build positive relationships among family members and neighbors. A CRI community coordinator and their family live in the home and become an active member of the neighborhood.”
Crime has plummeted in each of the neighborhoods where Friendship Houses have been established.
Community Renewal now has a presence in fifty states and 41 foreign countries. But it was not an immediate success. There was resistance to the idea of healing the world’s ills with something as simple and idealistic-sounding as God-inspired care for one another. For that matter, he still meets plenty of skepticism and criticism.
So, I asked him once how he had kept going despite obstacles and in the face of opposition. He said, “I’ve had my last argument.”
In other words, there will always be people who are not willing or not ready to hear something new or different. They’ll just be looking for ways to reject what you have to say. Save your energy and move on to people who are open to an honest conversation.
It occurred to me that Jesus had something like this when he sent his disciples out to spread the Gospel in word and deed. He told them, “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.” (10:14)
And we don’t have to let a rejection like that get us down. Jesus is the one who sent us. We’re doing our work the work of reconciliation on his behalf. When we make a friend, we’re also making a friend for him. Here’s how he put it: “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me.” (Matthew 10:40)
Jesus’ mission is to restore our relationship with God and to mend our relationships with each other. His aim was to heal this fractured world with the power of God’s love. Taking up Jesus’ work of reconciliation is what it means to be a disciple.
Jesus met opposition. And he was honest enough to tell us that we should expect nothing less ourselves if we genuinely follow him on the way of love. Sometimes we’ll get weary and discouraged. But don’t give up. Keep going. God is with us and working through us.
And remember that Jesus tells us to use our energy wisely. Spend it on people who are ready to hear about doing a new thing. A loving thing. And maybe even come along with us.
That’s why I take Mack’s advice. I’ve had my last argument. I’m going to just keep walking Jesus’ way of love. And I’ll walk with anybody who wants to walk that way with me.
This essay is a reflection on the Gospel of Proper 8A: Matthew 10:40-42 for the first Sunday in July. If you’re looking for some thoughts about this week’s lessons (Proper 7A, June 25, 2023) click here. My practice is to post about the lessons from the Revised Common Lectionary one week in advance.