February 8, 2017

Why We Do It – The Theology of Streetworks

As Esther and I bring in what we hope will be a successful new season for Streetworks, it is our hope that we all will be on the same page with us every step of the way. And as we are starting a new chapter, we feel that it is necessary to first find the anchor that we should orient ourselves around as we move forward. It has also come to my attention that Streetworks can easily be seen as an organisation that simply does good works in the community. Now, this is a good thing, but we are much more than that. Streetworks unashamedly and unapologetically follows Christ. For these reasons, I am doing what I will call ‘The Theology of Streetworks’.

The theology behind the organisation and the reasoning for doing it is something multi-faceted and I want to approach it from three different aspects. So please read and think with me on the theology behind Streetworks.

For The Glory Of The LORD

The first element in the theology of Streetworks is probably the most obvious one of all. Jesus himself said that he did not come to be served but to serve (Matthew 20:28). And if Jesus is any example to go by, then we must do the same. Quite simply, it’s as simple as that. The practical element of Streetworks was the primary motivation for its founding and it is something that we as an organisation want to continue with. We see it as a core foundation to the organisation. But serving our community is more than just something we do because we are told to do it. It is also something we do because it reflects God’s character. Deuteronomy 10:18 says that God defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing, and this is just one of the many times that the bible shows this message. You see, God isn’t just in the business of commanding that we help those who are in need but he actually has a heart for it to happen himself.

But there is still another element to the good works that we do. Again, the words of Jesus, let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). Our good deeds aren’t just something that we do for the people in need but we do these things as witnesses. If our deeds are deeds of love and compassion and we are doing them in order to capture the heart of God, then it logically follows that God is loving and compassionate. And so, as we serve others we help them and give glory to God from our own standpoint, we also will spur others into praising God too and be a light in the Hamilton community.

Mind As Well As Matter

There is a very interesting passage near the end of the gospel of Matthew which is part of a larger passage that is often known as the seven woes. It says, Woe to you teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices – mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness (Matthew 23:23). The first thing that I find interesting is that the teachers of the law were supposed to realise that certain aspects of the law were more important. But how would they have been able to do this? By using their minds. Jesus is telling them that instead of simply pointing to a scripture and following it blindly, they should have looked at the whole law and applied their brains to it.

Streetworks works not just to simply serve God practically but do so strategically. If we simply built a hundred houses for the people of Hamilton but only thirty were needed, then we would be wasting both time and resources. That is why Streetworks aims to serve in the areas that other organisations typically don’t. We aim to fill the needs that fall through the cracks in order that our service would be strategic. I often will look at the church of Christ as a group of people lost in a desert. Sure, in order to survive you do need to actually walk somewhere in order to find safety, but if you don’t stop and figure out which direction to go in, you could easily get lost. Even a slight misread of a compass could lead to the group being very lost further on down the track. If you actually imagine this group in the desert, you will most likely find two types of people. There will be those that want to set out straight away without wasting any time strategizing. Or there will be the group who will want to spend great amounts of time figuring out exactly which direction they need to go but have very little desire to actually get going. Streetworks aims to connect both groups of people in the work that we do.

The Primary Reason

In this section, I’m going to take you through a process of logic. Firstly, I think we can all agree that we are called, by God, to do practical things. And secondly, I think we can all agree that God can do anything better than we can. Well, if this is the case, and God could outdo us in any area, then why would he even bother asking us to do it at all? Relationships. What God truly desires from each of us, individually, is a relationship with him. This is the heart of our existence. This highlights the difference between helping and serving. Helping is doing something on the terms of the person doing the helping. It is doing something that looks to fulfil the needs of the person who does it, not the person receiving it. This can be a bit of a wolf in sheep’s clothing and can often do more harm than good. Serving on the other hand, puts the needs of others first and seeks to first ascertain the areas of need before simply going ahead and helping. This is the approach that Streetworks endeavours to uphold.

But the aspect of relationship goes deeper. In the beginning, God created Adam and put him in charge of the entire earth. Adam had the entire world (more or less) there for his enjoyment. And yet what did God say? It is not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). All of the material things on earth were considered worthless without others there to enjoy them. At Streetworks, we endeavour to keep both a relationship with God and relationships with others as the core element of what we do. Because it is the foundational element of God’s creation.