Last week, Detroit filed for bankruptcy, causing a flurry of media coverage. I actually heard a radio host refer to Detroit as an ugly lesion on the beautiful state of Michigan, wondering if it could simply be removed from the state, perhaps even sent to Canada. Obviously, his remarks were tongue in cheek, but they got me thinking: It's common for us to simply dismiss our problems and send them away rather than deal with them head on.
For me, that's a big part of what missional living addresses. Rather than removing ourselves from the ugly situations in our communities, we find ways to incarnate Jesus in those places.
Thankfully, not everyone is willing to abandon Detroit quite yet. In fact, many are making a world of difference by living missionally where they are with what they have. And our sister ministry This Is Our City has helped make those stories known. In fact, they go so far as to let everyone know that our impressions of Detroit are all wrong, and they explain why Christians' commitment to Detroit's renewal is going a long way.
One of my favorite stories is of the gardens that Riet Schumack is using to create beauty in neighborhoods and invest in youth. Another great video shows how artist Yvette Rock is learning to really see Detroit—a necessary practice for bringing real change. It's amazing how in the midst of terrible conditions, where it feels like it's all a lost cause, God is using these Christians and many others to create real change.
The real beauty of these stories isn't that someone is doing something for their community—it's that we can all do something for our own communities, and we can take a cue from people like Schumack and Rock.
Use the news about Detroit to discuss what staying put, truly seeing your community, and living out God's mission can look like for your group:
1. When you find yourself in a less-than-ideal situation, what's your gut reaction: to remove yourself from the situation or work to change it?
2. What are the situations in your community that simply feel too big to tackle? What seems to be a lost cause? Why does it feel like a lost cause?
3. It's easy to make assumptions about what causes situations or what people need. But when we get to know people in those places and become familiar with the patterns and policies that create certain situations, we can actually help in meaningful ways. Where in your community do you need to do some more intentional seeing—like Rock demonstrates? How can you become more familiar with the situations and people?
4. What skills, interests, and resources do your group members bring to the table? What unique activity might you be able to do as a group that could bring change in your community—even if it feels extremely small?