Starting anything new has inherent hazards. Starting a new ministry has the same hazards as starting other new ventures with the added weight of operating in the realm of faith-over-feelings.
In listening to the stories that others have shared with me, both directly and indirectly, I have discerned that many of us hold a certain amount of hope after enduring painful or otherwise difficult life circumstances. For people of faith in Jesus, that hope is tied to a belief that “all things work together for good.” We take that to mean that great value and understanding can come from our experiences of suffering. Even more directly, we believe that we are transformed by the work of God the Spirit during these experiences of suffering. It is the process of transformation by the Spirit of God that brings us hope and that hope is the most important ingredient in the building of our faith.
After having one pilot session in Raleigh, NC – Opening the Door to Hope: Spotlight on Addiction – we are now looking for churches to host several more pilot sessions. During these sessions, ministers, lay leaders, members and guests will gather to discuss the concept of developing Hope Ambassadors through the training ministry of Opening the Door to Hope. These Hope Ambassadors will be at the forefront of congregational and non-traditional ministry settings, serving families that suffer under the effects of addiction, depression and other related illnesses in all various and destructive forms. (NOTE: These sessions are not meant to serve as rehab or therapy for addicts or for those who are suffering with depression. These sessions are for church leaders and family members who want to learn about these diseases and learn about ways to offer support, resources and encouragement to loved ones who suffer.) Proposed Spotlight topics include: Addiction, Depression and Grief Support.
At least, that’s the idea. That is my hope.
That is the dream that has developed over the course of 10+ years. At worst, those in attendance will garner tools to effectively activate hope in their own lives and in the lives of those in their spheres of influence. At best, Hope Ambassadors will begin to appear in congregations all over the world among people of faith in Jesus, offering the same hope and healing that Jesus offered during his earthly ministry, doing even greater things, even as He promised we would.
I know about the chaos and the stress that surrounds loved ones suffering with addiction or mental illnesses – those that have been diagnosed as well as those that have not. I know what it’s like to lose someone you love dearly and I know what it’s like to see God transform and heal someone you love dearly. I know what it’s like to be transformed from the inside-out! I, too, have hoped that my experience would bring good on a larger scale through the process of transformation.
In that context and from that perspective, I lift up the banner of hope.
If any group of people on earth should understand hope, it should be my fellow followers of Jesus. However, my experience shows that church members are generally ill-equipped to offer hope to hurting, desperate people. A lack of education, partnered with bad advice and a code of silence regarding stigmatized behaviors in the church has left many of its members in situations of prolonged suffering and marginalization.
Too many people and too many families are suffering for the church to continue on this path. This need is much broader than any denomination. In Jesus, we find all the hope any of us could ever need.
The church must be a place where hope is experienced and taught and nurtured.
And the church is not the building where we gather on Sundays to worship. The church is the people who do the gathering and the serving and the worshiping and the praying … and the hoping. Wherever those people go.
Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
**If you are interested in the Hope Ambassador ministry project or would like to participate as a pilot group member, please leave a comment here with an email address whereby you can be contacted.