Imago Dei:  So God Created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them.  (Genesis 1:27-28a - NRSV)
In Reboot 2021.1, I discussed the need for our lives to be Christ centered.  As faithful United Methodist, we must be sold out for the Gospel, the work, and the ministry of Jesus Christ.  This week, we look at what it means for us to be sold out for Christ and to see the world the way God sees it.  Jesus moved slowly through the crowds taking time to be in ministry to those, who the church folk of the day had overlooked.  Jesus deeply connected with these people, gave of himself, and offered God’s transforming love through healing, teaching, and time.  Today we focus on what it means to see all the people in your community the way that God sees them.  Not using our human eyes to see people but asking for and using God’s eyes to see the people of our mission field the way God does. 

Several years ago, at annual conference, we were blessed to have the late Rev. Junius Dotson come and teach about “Seeing All the People.”
“What would happen if we stopped fixing our church and started seeing all the people Christ calls us to reach?”   See All The People Is A Movement; https://www.seeallthepeople.org/the-movement.
He taught about our need as a church to “See All the People” in our mission fields. To recognize the Imago Dei of each person we come into contact with and to seek to be in deep relationship with those in our communities.  In this teaching he talked about  making room for meaningful relationships with all the people outside of our doors, lovingly welcoming those who come through our doors, and what it meant to introduce them to a life of Christian discipleship.  I encourage you to learn more by visiting the website https://www.seeallthepeople.org/the-movement. On this site you will find information about creating a Discipleship Pathway, which is so crucial for congregational pandemic recovery. We will come back to this topic in another blog.  

As “church folk” it is easy for us to know we are made in the image of God.  I mean we are the “church folk” right.  It is much harder for us to see people who have made different life choices, born into a different narrative than our own, who are from a different race or have a different country of origin, or those who have committed crimes and society has ostracized them.  We can see the people similar to us, but can we see ALL the people.  If we look at Genesis 1:27, God does not make some of humankind in his image, God makes all of humanity in his image.  That means every person you come into contact with has the image of God within them.
If we are to reboot, post pandemic, we have to be lavish with the grace offered through Christ.  We have to be willing to pour that grace not just on folks like us who would fit nice and neatly into our congregation, but on every person in our mission field.  Not in a coercive way, but in a way created out of genuine relationship.  Here are some questions to ponder:
  • What ways have you sought to “see all the people” in your community?
  • Looking at your Mission Insite Report. https://www.ctcumc.org/missioninsite   Does your congregation’s demographic make-up reflect the demographic make-up of your community?
  • In what ways are your congregation (formally and informally) engaged in relationship building with people outside the walls of your church?
  • What ministries does your mission field say they need your congregation to engage in?  Have you asked?
  • Have you prayed to see your community the way that God sees your community?
Through this prayerful brainstorming, there are conferencewide examples of how churches are now “seeing all the people.”   One example is Pastor Martin at First Corsicana.  Martin is the associate pastor of the Iglesia Jeme worship service.  From time to time, he goes to where day laborers gather with a box of donuts, just to hang out with these folks who are new to the community and to build relationships. Through these interactions the church has been able to minister directly to the needs of the people because they KNOW their needs firsthand.  Those new to the community have connected with individuals from the church and developed a support system.  Pastor Martin has become a pastor to people outside of his congregation.  Deep abiding relationships have formed.

How to get started - Church Leadership Activity:

The next time your leadership gathers, ask them to create a list of 5-10 people who are not engaged in a faith community.  Next to their names, ask them to describe the person (this is not a list to be shared with the group).  Then discuss as a group the common areas where these persons live life:  schools, civic groups, non-profits, coffee shops, businesses.  Consider ways you might engage in deep relationship with these people and those that they do life with. 
As we come out of the pandemic, let us not look just to those who may have disconnected from the church in the last 18 months, but let us look at all the people in our community.  There is a deep cry of despair in the midst of struggle and a desperate need for the hope that can only come through Christ.
 
See All the People with Love and Grace,
Rev. Leah Hidde-Gregory, Executive Director
Center for Evangelism, Mission & Church Growth