DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Changing society one life at a time

Written by: on May 14, 2015

Last Sunday towards the end of preaching my sermon, one man, Martin, raised his hand and declared that he wanted to give his life to God, right there and then. I hadn’t even reached the end of the message, but so desperate was this young man, that he couldn’t wait. Before the service had begun, he and his friend Nathan had explained to me how Martin was still addicted to heroin but how he’d also had enough. He couldn’t continue living like he was anymore and needed God’s help. Nathan, his friend who had brought him to church, was his inspiration. He had turned his life around from a life of addiction, crime and prison, and so Martin knew it was possible. If Nathan could change, anyone could. And so Martin made his way to the front of the church where Nathan and several others came up to pray for him as he gave his life to God.

Society is full of brokenness as Valentine’s Social Geographies explains well, in our communities, workplaces, streets, homes, schools, and so on. Reading Social Geographies felt for me, much like reading an academic version of the daily newspaper – a simple retelling of stories of pain, injustice and suffering in our world, but without solutions for deep, inner change.

There are many Martins in my local community, a few of whom have managed to change, but many others who are have not. Who can heal the brokenness of society: the addicted and the homeless, the mentally-ill and poor, those suffering from racial or domestic abuse? Nathan was a notorious character in our town and many lived in fear of him. But God touched him and he is a different man today. He had reached rock bottom, much like Martin now has, but found that God alone could transform his heart and mind.

Yes, society’s social spaces that need to change, but real changes begins in the hearts of men, women and children. God is in the business of changing societies, but often it is one person at a time. Reading Social Geographies left me wondering why the author only discussed curbing the repercussions of society’s pains. I mean, why aren’t there conversations about how to change society at its core: that is, in the hearts and minds of people? For example, if there is an increase of fear of youths and gangs on the streets, what are we doing to better educate and inspire the young to live differently? We need to do more than simply put guarded communities and CCTV in place to keep delinquent youth at bay.

Education is so important as it shapes the morality and minds of the next generation. According to Valentine, schools are where this takes place: “[S]chools are… spaces where children are acculturated into adult norms and expectations about what it means to be a ‘good’ citizen. Children are expected to learn to conform to authority and, in doing so, to become compliant and productive workers of the future. This is a process through which gender, class and racialized roles and identities are also (re)produced.” [1] They place such an important influence upon the next generation, and we should therefore do all we can to provide the best academic, moral and spiritual education we can. Yes, there are many problems in the various social spaces of life, but there is hope. But it’s a hope that reaches beyond human spaces alone, and into the divine.

 

[1] Gill Valentine: Social Geographies: Space and Society (Essex, England: Pearson Education Ltd., 2001), 144

About the Author

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Liz Linssen

8 responses to “Changing society one life at a time”

  1. Liz,

    What a beautiful post. Thanks for sharing the story of Martin. How beautiful to hear of a new life begun in your church!

    I so agree that the work is best done one person, one life at a time. Big change all happens through small changes. Your question is profound: “Who can heal the brokenness of society: the addicted and the homeless, the mentally-ill and poor, those suffering from racial or domestic abuse?” These are the ones who society often rejects until someONE reaches into a particular situation bringing love and compassion, kindness and hope. It is good to know someone who is doing that work. Thank you for reaching into the world of the hurting and the hopeless in your church. Your post made my day. Thank you.

    • Liz Linssen says:

      Dear Bill,
      You’re kind words are so sweet. Yes, God alone is the One who can bring the healing into the heart of society and lives. It’s what Jesus did, leaving an example to follow. But what a challenge it is! I am encouraged of the verse that talks about God’s power living in weak vessels. Indeed, that is what we are. But God is able. Thank you for your feedback 🙂

  2. mm Ashley Goad says:

    Liz, Your posts each week – how you are experiencing God in new ways, and how God is using to reach new souls – I am in awe of you and of God! You are intertwining God’s redemptive message with tangible pastoral care…just wow. I hope you are keeping a journal and will publish it some day! You are an inspiration to all of us.

    • Liz Linssen says:

      My dear Ashley,
      You’re so sweet! God alone can heal society. I’m sure you’ve seen so much pain and brokenness in Haiti. I so admire how you are able to visit there so often and build real relationships there. I only visited once, and I found it a scary place (if I’m honest).
      Blessed be our God. He is able to do far more than all we can ask or imagine. He alone is our hope! Have a blessed weekend 🙂

  3. mm Deve Persad says:

    Exciting to hear this news, Liz! God has placed you in the unique position to see a community change. I agree with you that societal change doesn’t happen all at once. You said, “God is in the business of changing societies, but often it is one person at a time.” That certainly is the reality you’re experiencing.
    As you mention schools, I wonder if/how your congregation is connected to any of the local schools? How might you be able to strengthen or bless them as they do hold influence over the children and youth?

    • Liz Linssen says:

      Hi Deve
      Thank you so much for your feedback.
      No, at the moment we don’t have any relationship with schools, but it’s certainly something we hope to start in the near future. Nathan (from the story) is someone who has a real heart to go into schools and share his story of drug prevention. I’m sure God could use him to speak into the hearts of the young in our community. Thank you Deve for posing the question!

  4. Michael Badriaki says:

    Liz, praise God for His saving grace that reached Martin and also for the space and context the church you Pastor. Indeed God is the ultimate place and space for the human spirit and soul. I am a firm believer in God’s sovereignty and the fact that God is aware about what goes on in the world.
    You are right in noting that “we should therefore do all we can to provide the best academic, moral and spiritual education we can. Yes, there are many problems in the various social spaces of life, but there is hope. But it’s a hope that reaches beyond human spaces alone, and into the divine.”

    Thank you

  5. Liz, wonderful to hear that your church is breaking into new geographical places of the heart of people. May Martin be the first of many more who will come into the space of redeeming love and care that is found in your church. Valentine and your discussion regarding the social space of education should be motivating. What is the possibility of connecting with some area schools to provide tutoring clubs or social engagements with kids? Our youth pastor somewhat stumbled into the opportunity of working with junior high and high schools in the area to provide character development classes. He has met with inner-city principals and teachers and is now on a weekly rotation through the schools providing guest speakers from his church sharing about character. Back during our college days, Michelle had the opportunity to speak to local high school kids when we did a mission trip to Atlanta Georgia. She has a powerful transforming testimony. I look forward to continual good news of your work there with the Welsh people!

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