Many of you know that the church I pastor is very involved in Christian community development in a high poverty community. So we have a church, and the church overseas a grocery store called The Harvest Market, as well as social work services, community gardens, and after-school mentoring programs. It’s a unique type of work, and it would not have been possible without the vision of a man named Clark Millspaugh. In 2009, Clark sensed God calling him to use his time and money to start a relational ministry in a high-poverty community. The goal was to help meet practical needs as a way to connect with people and share the gospel message. That was the foundational vision when The Harvest Market began eight years ago - and it was also the vision that prompted Clark to invite us to plant a church here seven years ago.
In order to keep costs down, Clark established The Harvest Market as a non-profit grocery store, with income from the store covering half of the expenses, and donations from individuals covering the other half. We have maintained that model, even after Clark went home to be with the Lord. As you can probably imagine, it has created financial challenges over the years, as both donations and sales have a tendency to go up and down. However, for the past six months, both sales and giving have decreased to the point that we have not been able to break even financially. The result is that we will need to close the grocery store aspect of our ministry.
We’re not sure yet what God will have us do with the building space that the market now occupies. Some of the options include opening a food bank, or a thrift store, or daycare services for the working moms in the neighborhood. While the next step isn’t clear, what IS clear is that God is asking us to move in a new direction. While change is hard, and closing the door on something which has been a good thing for several years feels sad, the reality is that change and movement are a part of life. And as I've been pondered that reality, I've been reminded of the fact that being a follower of Christ regularly requires us to move.
It’s a reality that shouldn't come as a surprise though, because if we’re going to call ourselves “followers”, that implies we’re going to be moving. We can't really stay still and follow at the same time. I know this isn't a new idea for many of us because we're regularly taught that our walk with Christ is a journey, so we’re used to thinking of our spiritual lives as involving movement. But more often than not, we consider this in terms of internal movement or growth. In other words, maybe it’s becoming more patient, or gentle, or kind, or loving as we allow the Holy Spirit to develop His Fruit in us. So it’s a movement that’s more internal, as we grow to become more like Christ.
But while this kind of movement is obviously very important, the other reality is that a life of following Christ often includes physical movement as well. And I think that's because sometimes God has to change our physical surroundings in order to get us to change internally. Probably the best example we see of this is when God moved the Israelites from Egypt to the Promised Land. When the Israelites left Egypt, they did so without knowing exactly where God was leading, or how He was going to get them there - they simply left, committed to following Him.
And as God moved them, He made Himself known to them in new ways. With each move, the Israelites were required to trust God more and more for His provision, not only to lead them to the next spot, but also to provide for them along the way. The result was that they changed their understanding of God and how He wanted them to live. In the outward, physical movement, God was working to shape their internal understanding of who He is and how they should relate to Him. It's a pattern that shows up throughout the Bible - from Abraham, to Joseph, to the Apostles, with each example proving the truth that the Christian life is made up of movement, because that's one of the key ways God gets us open to what He wants to do in our lives.
So the key for believers is to stay open to what God might be doing in our lives, and to trust Him to provide all that we need as we follow Him. And the good news is, He's promised to do just that. The Apostle Paul drives this point home in Philippians 4:19, where he writes, "This same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from His glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus." God calls us to move and follow Him, but that comes with the promise that He will provide all that we need as we step out in faith.
I know that for some of you this might not seem like a particularly relevant topic today because you don't sense God calling you to leave your home, or job, and physically move somewhere else. But the truth is, God is always calling us to “move” for Him - whether it's as simple as moving across a room to talk to someone, or moving off the couch to volunteer at a local ministry. God wants us up and moving so that He can be at work through us - and in us. So today, let's commit to following God - no matter where He calls us, or what He calls us to do. And as we move, let's allow Him to provide all that we need so that the world around us will see that we have an active God, who is faithful to fulfill His promises to those who follow Him.