On Sunday pastor Jerell Carper spoke about formation in the life of the believer, and if you haven’t heard it yet, you can find the message here. He reminded us from Ephesians 2 that as believers in Jesus Christ we are new creations created for good works, not ones that saves us but ones in which we partner with God in His rule and reign. Jerell outlined four practices within formation — confession, suffering, work, and applying our spiritual gifts — and asked us to take inventory to see which practice needs the most attention in our own lives in this season.
We look forward to talking more about formation when we gather for Bible study on Thursday. This week we are in I Thessalonians 4:1-8 and 5:12-28. Catch up on our posts and recordings here.
What we’re pondering from last week…
How do these discipleship practices we’re studying this fall — learning, communion, community, compassion, formation, and evangelism — become the beat of our hearts, not just items to check off our to-do lists?
Could the answer be relationships?
Relationship with God that motivates our learning, communion, and formation.
Relationship with our church community to keep us grounded.
And relationship with men, women, and children who are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God that spurs on our compassion and evangelism.
To-do lists can establish daily rhythms in our lives that eventually transform disciplines into passions. Checklists can remind us to spend time in God’s Word, to pray, and to display compassion for others, and then in time, that list might become obsolete as investing in relationships with God and others becomes second nature.
The blessing of relationship was seen clearly during our study Thursday — both morning and evening — as our UFC sister Beth Sheehan, the director of philanthropy at the Eugene Mission, updated us on the compassion efforts of this faith-based organization. She shared stories of the homeless men and women who live at the mission, her love for them, and the natural overflow of compassion that comes from seeing each one as a treasure.
The mission is the only one in Lane County and houses about 400 men, women, and children each night in four facilities — one for men, one for women, one for the Life Change men, and one for women and children. She touched on the homeless crisis along our coastline and emphasized that the mission’s goal is not just to provide shelter and meals but to get to the root of an individual’s chronic homelessness — often drugs, alcohol, and mental illness — and provide a lasting solution.
“Their mess isn’t hopeless,” Beth said. But throwing them free resources without relationship is a problem. A place to pitch a tent or a house key, meals, and services can be an act of generosity, but they don’t help someone escape a dangerous life on the streets, one that pulls them back at every turn. Instead those leading the mission have found that community with encouragement, accountability, keeping to schedules, responsibilities, education, and training over a period of 12-18 months have allowed for long-term success for many of those they serve, including the men in the Life Change program, a residential, relapse prevention program.
And best of all, these men, women, and children are introduced to Jesus Christ, the One Who gives them hope for the future. Funded through private donations, the mission staff is free to share their faith along with faith-based services and programs, but there are no compulsory religious requirements at the mission. Volunteers have the opportunity to teach skills and walk alongside mission residents, forming long-term relationships that help these men and women transition into long-term housing, employment, and stability.
So, how do we move discipleship practices from obligatory items to check off a list to something deeper and long-lasting? The example of the mission’s ongoing compassion and Beth’s love for others helps us consider how relationships — forming and deepening them — is key to the process of becoming like Christ.
To learn more about the mission’s programs and how to get involved in loving and supporting God’s image bearers, go to www.eugenemission.org.
— Jaime Sherman