Abundance or scarcity: missional listening in Dorset

Abundance or scarcity: missional listening in Dorset

With the help of Rural Ministries, Ben Lucas has for the past year been a Missional Listener in Dorset. Ben has written an article, reflecting on his first year in the role.

With the help of Rural Ministries, Ben Lucas has for the past year been a Missional Listener in Dorset. Ben has written an article, reflecting on his first year in the role.

It was with amazement that we, as a family, received so many incredible gifts to birth the missional listening project in rural Dorset. Miraculously, funding came in from our partners Rural Ministries and Southern Counties Baptist Association. But perhaps most incredibly, an unexpected gift from someone who was and is unknown to us (as we are to them) to help us put a deposit on a house to live in. We really do have a God of generosity and abundance.

I should not have been surprised! Walter Brueggemann sees Genesis chapter one as a symphony of praise for God’s generosity and that later, God blesses Abraham, so he can be a blessing, making people aware that creation is the gift that keeps on giving. It is Pharaoh who introduces the principal of scarcity into our economics, for he is the first person to be afraid that there is not enough. He organises, administers and monopolises the food supply.

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Exodus tells the story of the contest between generosity and scarcity. Here, we have a new Pharaoh, afraid once again by scarcity, behaving in despicable ways to survive. Later, we read about the Hebrew slaves, who once in the wilderness, in answer to their fears and complaints, receive manna, a gift that they could not control, given by a generous God. Everybody had enough, but because Israel had been educated in Egypt, scarcity controlled them, and they stored up all that they could, only for it to rot and turn sour.

You cannot store up God’s generosity. Moses instructed the Hebrews to learn from the symphony of the creation and to take Sabbath seriously – Sabbath meaning that there’s enough bread, that we don’t have to strive every day of our lives.

The gospel story is one that begins with abundance with God in the garden and will end with abundance with God in the city. How are you and your church communities showing this?

All around me, I see anxiousness and panic because of scarcity. Whether it is NHS funding, housing availability, pension deficits, defence budgets or education, we need more to survive. Do our churches look like this too? Where are the people? Who’s going to keep the church open? Who’s going to fill our rotas? Do we live more like Pharaoh or those who have a God of generous abundance? We can live in peace, being generous with all we have, for God will provide for tomorrow.

Missional listening has given us many opportunities to be generous. As we have become embedded in our community, we have had many chances to serve. As a family, we pretty much involved in every aspect of village life. Worth mentioning is the community toddler group that was beginning to struggle, and now with time and effort, is flourishing. We have time as a family, to be on the parish council, cricket committee, village hall committee, pre-school committee and school association (to name just a few). Just over the last few weeks, I have had the privilege to volunteer and run the social club bar for the football matches. God’s generosity to us has led to us being able to demonstrate that generosity to our community. But more than that … in doing so, we notice that we are the ones being blessed. We are the ones building relationships, learning about culture, discerning where there is hurt and pain, and seeking to see God’s kingdom come into every part of community life.

Alan Roxburgh calls us all to dwell among those in our community by having authentic relationships without agenda; sharing meals, hearing testimonies, engaging in dialogue and witnessing as the Spirit leads instead of the tired church conversations and to do church in the public square.

This involves showing generosity. This involves our church institutions showing generosity to release its members to do ministry out there rather than in here.

My experience of the last year as a missional listener has shown that it’s worth it, and as you do it, you are joining in with what God is already doing. May you know our great God’s generosity and abundance today, and may that lead you to living in it, and living it out in the communities God has called you to bless.

Ben Lucas – Missional Listener, Dorset