Our actions after Newtown, CT – will we step up?

by Jim on December 19, 2012


Ministry Encouragement Podcast – Episode #02512-19-12

“Our actions after Newtown, CT – will we step up?” 

By: Rev. Jim W. Hollis, Proactive Ministries 

Welcome to Episode number twenty-five of our Ministry Encouragement Podcast.  I’m Rev. Jim W. Hollis and it is my joy and blessing to have you allow me to share in your life today through this podcast.  It is my hope that this time will give you encouragement in your faith, raise new possibilities in your vision, and unite us in a new way as persons in community.

This past week has been one of the darkest ones in our history as a people and a nation.  We are living in an age where violence is on the increase.  Evil abounds in so many ways – not just in the news but also in the games our children play on MP3 players and in movies across our land.

The most recent violence volcano in a string of incidents took place in an elementary school in Newtown, CT.  Small town America – an ideal place to live and raise children.  As this has been unfolding following the tragedies, we have heard three pervasive themes twenty four hours each day on nearly all the channels, in every newspaper and online news source.  These themes are:

1) Massive shock, denial and immeasurable grief:  We all feel it and identify with these families.  Innocent children and those who worked to invest in making their lives better had life itself cut short, stolen and ravaged in an act of senseless violence and darkness.  In just a matter of minutes, the lives of an entire school, community, state, nation and world was jarred into another chapter of immense evil bringing on destruction that words cannot describe.  We’ve made attempts to respond – sending donations, teddy bears, flowers galore, and all kinds of rememberances to the place.  There are now mountains of expressions of this grief.

2) Accelerating anger and maximizing analyzation of the details: We all want answers that explain and justice that rolls down like waters of a righteous stream.  So we rally to ask all the questions that analyze – why?, what?, when?, who?, where?, how?, with what?, and a train of others that are in the same vein are being pursued with a passion.  The anger is spewing now – control guns, ban guns, stop selling guns, don’t blame the NRA and it’s not the tool but the people who do these things.  Debates of immense heat will continue to resurface and accelerate in the weeks and months ahead.

3) “We wish there was something tangible and practical that I could do to change this in our lives!”  This third pervasive theme holds the most promise of authentic, generational changes taking place.  Making the statement is part of the shock and awe.  But there is a remnant of persons in each community, city, town and area who are truly wanting to take ACTION that will prevent violence and at least make a difference to one or more people and families.  This has momentum to build on.  This has power that can be fueled by something beyond our own limitations. It’s this one that I want to expand on this day.

Not sure if you ever heard that old story about the terrible storm that hit the coastline and how thousands of starfish were thrown up on shore.  When the tide subsided and the storm went out to sea, there they were – thousands of starfish with little hope of life, of surviving.  Unless they could make it back into the water again they were doomed.

A couple was walking along the beach inspecting the outcomes of the storm and they saw the massive outlay of starfish.  The lady picked up one of the starfish and tossed it back into the waves.  And another one.  Then two more, three more and began to put them back into the water.  Her husband was not as enthusiastic but watched from a few feet away.

He asked her, “What do you think you are doing?  Saving the dying starfish?  There are thousands of them and you are not going to be able to make much of a difference at all compared to the magnitude of the situation!  What you are doing won’t really matter much at all.”

His wife held up one and put it right in his view, “You see this one? It will matter to this one and that’s a start!”  She threw it into the water.  He began to help, catching the importance of the action he witnessed.

So many lives have been taken and show many tragedies have occurred in our time that it is easy to just feel, “I couldn’t really make much of a difference to turn the storm of destruction in any signficant way.”  But don’t believe that lie and others that are circulating.  Because there are ACTIONS that we can take which will change lives through the power of us focusing on the one.

Most of you know that I have been blessed across 37 years of ministry to serve as Pastor of local churches and as an Evangelist & Ministry Strategist across 40 states in the United States.  None of the violence comes as a complete surprise to me.  I abhor it, am engaged to defeat it with God’s help, and am grieved by the string of violence in which we see taking place across our land today.  But it all comes down to people.

In every community, town, suburban area, county-seat town, county, parish, and urban area we see people with struggles.  How far do you have to look to see this?  Go to the closest mirror.  We all have our issues, our stresses, our struggles and our moments of feeling hopeless and defeated.  Then when evil strikes us or those in our families we feel an even greater burden on our backs and new waves of pain in our hearts – causing us to consider just giving up on hope, luck and life.

          But today I want to bring new hope.  I want to declare from the depths of my heart that each one of us can make a vital difference through our combined actions if we are willing to step up and enter being part of a lasting change. 

Though our family has lived in several community settings across the 37 years of our marriage, I have been part of a wide range of friendships and ministry relationships that were based in all kinds of settings – urban areas, right downtown among the skyscrapers – like in downtown Phoenix, AZ or the southside of Chicago, IL; rural areas so vast that no security lights shine after dark for miles and residents there get excited about a new restaurant going up 40 miles away from their farm – like in North Dakota, west of Bismark and Mandan; and then quaint little spectacular communities like the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington state where ferries run like buses on the waters; or in the other corner of America on the St. Lawrence seaway where eighty year olds drive daily on packed snow in the winter – like Massena, NY.

All these communities have their differences but so much more in common.  I want us to focus on the things we hold dear and in common, rather than accentuating our differences and divisions.  We are all people created and loved by God.  God is love and that’s a really great bit of news which brings us hope beyond our own limitations, individually or together.

           But with all that being said, what practical, tangible actions can we come together to take that will truly turn the tide of violence and hopelessness around – or at least bring an increased number of victories against it?  I believe there are three major strategies that can be accomplished in every place in America if we step up, step out and pull together in a whole new way: 

       1) We can maximize the power of prayer in every community. 

       2) We can establish relational outreach, grounded in God’s love and grace in every community.

        3) We can organize and implement new, relational, caring Connect Groups through networks in every community. 

As you and I – all of us – ride through our respective communities across America today, what do we see?  We see schools, churches and homes of all kinds.  We ultimately see people and families trying to make another day.  The vast majority of them we see in the line for Dunkin Doughnuts or in the aisles at Whole Foods, we don’t know at all.  They are nameless faces.  And sometimes on those faces we see the stress, the pain and the pervasive sadness or anger.  But do we act?  RARELY.

What could we do?  Initiate a new friendship?  Risk personal rejection?  Have someone look at us like we were an alien and tell us to mind our own business?  Fears will fly at the thoughts of new ways of changing our world.  Bet on that and don’t be shocked when they come flooding in.

Think with me then about the HOW questions for a minute.  How can we get together in our community so that we can live out the three actions I mentioned earlier?  You know: Maximizing prayer power, relational outreach that intitiates new authentic friendships, and building new, caring relational Connect Groups that persons from all walks of life could become part of to find new friends and new hope?

My default setting would be to contact a Pastor of strong church in any given community.  I’ve done that thousands of times and know it well.  It’s another way of initiating a new friendship that can be pretty tough as pastors are barraged with people wanting to talk with them constantly – mostly to get something.  This results in many pastors becoming a little overly suspicious.  You know – the way that telemarketers have conditioned so many of us across the last three decades!

And even if I find one who is friendly, open, hopeful, positive, optimistic, and willing to consider a group of fellow Christ-followers coming in to discuss positive changes, he or she has to then talk with their Leaders about it and gain approval for the first meeting.  It’s not the shortest path or the easiest walk in the park.

Suppose we could get a local church to fully subscribe to be part of a community transformation of hope effort, what would other churches say in response to being invited to share in that?  Now some of you would think, “Oh!  They would be very open to share.”  Don’t let me burst your bubble friends.  Too often, if the sign in front of the first church who came into the plan read, “Episcopal” or “Baptist” or “Community Interdenominational” it would be much the same – a number of other pastors and churches would instantly label the effort, “Oh, that’s an Episcopal thing.” Or a Baptist thing, or a United Methodist thing.  And it could die right there.

You see – churches in America, like so many other organizations are territorial and exclusive.  I know – surprise, surprise!  So this is reality too often.  Doesn’t have to be but often it can become a hurdle that blocks some incredible goodness from taking place.  SO- what then?

          We will have to go to someone who has the following attributes in their portfolio and is known for these across the community: 

  • Clearly experienced community leader with a history of integrity and fairness
  • A person who makes honest, sound and caring decisions for the community
  • A Leader in the community who has a clear faith in God, but doesn’t get confrontational with that or pushy with others on that topic
  • A Leader who would be respected by the Clergy and Laity church leaders across the community

Could this be a Mayor with a positive witness of leadership and years of authentic caring for his or her people in the community?  Could this be a school Principal who has given much of their life to serving youth and families of children?  Might it be a very well known and loved Sports Coach who has positively impacted many families across the community for years and years?  Or a wonderful Business Leader who has the respect of his or her community?

And who would they reach out to?  I believe to the Clergy of the churches in the community, the Leaders of the schools, the Business Leaders in the area, the teachers, and others in the community who would be willing to come together for a gathering that would focus on a new kind of UNITY in changing lives through the three major strategies I mentioned earlier:

1) Maximizing the power of prayer across the community

2) Establishing ongoing, relationship building outreach through people working together in this new unity

3) The establishment of caring, compassionate, relational Connect Groups in which people could find new community and hope

So what am I inviting you to do today?  I’m inviting you to prayerfully consider stepping up and entering into this vision for community transformation in your community.

Our ministry Staff and I have the experience, content and organizational knowledge to work with a group of leaders in  your community who would be interested in such an effort happening where you live.  We could be the resource team to help pull this together, lead the informational meeting of all those interested, form a Leadership Team in the community and plan the progression of such an effort in your community.

What can you do?  Share this vision with your pastor, your Principal, a Coach you have loved, a Business Leader who has a heart for people and positive change, or any other leader that you feel would have the heart to work at something like this.

Get in touch with me on your thoughts on this.  I would love to hear from you and talk about HOW this could work in the community, town, city, suburb or rural area that you would want to see change for the good.

Loneliness and hopelessness are two of the most pervasive forms of leprosy in our communities today.  For a parent who has a youth who has become reclusive, violent and beyond reach to have a new group of friends who would reach out to them – desiring to become friends – this could bring that parent to share the burden, expose the darkness they are living in and find new courage to seek help from those in their community who would be willing to work at a victory instead of responding to a tragedy.

My prayer is that no matter who you are this day, that you will take this seed of possibility and share it with someone that you discern could take it to the next step.  It is my prayer that in the coming days and weeks I will hear from you or those you share this with to have some conversations of hope and possibility.  Lives hang in the balance.  Someone, within a mile of your home, across the street or on the same floor of your apartment could be giving up today.  They could be covered in hopelessness and despair.  It’s going to take a community effort to change this, one person at a time.  Let’s get started.

Well, thanks again for letting me share in your life today through your listening to our Ministry Encouragement Podcast.  Your emails, voicemails on the blog, and phone calls fuel my commitment to keep building future Episodes for ministry sharing.  I hope to hear from you as often as you feel like sharing.

My contact information is:

Rev. Jim W. Hollis, Proactive Ministries, 2400 Lake Park Drive, SE, Suite 155, Smyrna, GA, 30080.

Offices in Smyrna, GA: (770) 803-9988

Email: jim@ministryencouragementpodcast.com

Facebook: Proactive Ministries page or Jim W. Hollis

May the Lord bless you and keep you giving you the fullness of God’s love, grace and power for living out the joyful life!  Until next time, live fully in the faith we share.  Each of us can make a difference with God.

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