503: A new grassroots prayer is rising: Help us START> being Good Samaritans

How much difference can one person make?
    If you’re a regular at ReadTheSpirit, you know our answer: an enormous difference!
    But how much difference can lay people—people who are not ordained clergy—make in their congregations? Or in their communities?
Well, again our answer is: An enormous difference! That’s what our whole Lift Your City in Prayer effort is all about. (See our Prayer stories Monday and Tuesday or visit our Lift Your City in Prayer resource page.)

TODAY, please meet Michael Seaton, creator of START>
    That’s Zondervan’s major new small-group curriculum to help millions kick-start their community-healing activism. By this time next month, thousands of small groups will recognize this “START>” logo with a little arrow at the end of the word.
    The Web hub is www.JustStart.org.
    There’s also a special Participants page if you want to see everybody involved in the effort including big names like Desmond Tutu, Rob Bell, Shane Claiborne, Eugene Peterson, Jim Wallis, Kay Warren, David Batstone, Joni Eareckson Tada and Philip Yancey.
     Now, it’s true that many of the big names associated with START> are clergy—you know, “official religious leaders.” But the Idea Man behind this? The prophetic voice who envisioned START> and who got this whole effort rolling at Zondervan?
    You’ve probably never seen his name before today: Michael Seaton (photo at right).
    Who is this guy?
    Like the staff here at ReadTheSpirit, he’s a “media guy.” He’s a filmmaker who traveled all around the world for Zondervan producing short film clips for earlier Zondervan multimedia kits and teaching materials. One day, he was filming some clips with inspirational author Philip Yancey and Michael stepped out from behind the camera long enough to confess to Yancey:
“I feel like in a lot of churches, things are really too safe. I think we all need to do more and get outside the doors of our churches.”
    Yancey fanned that flame.
    Eventually, as in a biblical story, Seaton was jolted out of his sleep one night with the key innovations that START> represents: First, he wanted to combine as many religious voices as possible in a single curriculum for small groups—rather than the usual approach of a single author per project. Second, he wanted to ask all these dozens of inspirational men and women for advice on getting churchgoers up and out of their pews—to help heal the world’s many wounds.
     Now, here are the disclaimers about Seaton’s and Zondervan’s big effort: The Zondervan publishing house speaks powerfully to America’s tens of millions of evangelical Christians. This program is inclusive of various Christian denominations, but the effort is designed to speak to Christians as a whole. Secondly, if you’ll notice the names of famous activists above, you’ll note that most are men.
    There are women involved in this new multimedia campaign, but this START> movement is starting within the evangelical community, where there’s a continuing bias toward male leadership.
If you’re among our many non-evangelical readers, that might stop you in your tracks. But consider this: These folks are investing a huge amount of prayerful effort, creative energy and money in producing a multi-media campaign to get tens of millions of evangelicals out into the hurting corners of our world.
    And that’s a great big START>
    What happens when people follow the biblical mandate to go out and help the poor, the orphaned, the stranger, the hurting?
    We all discover God waiting for us there, as Rob Bell puts it, and before we know it? We’re building a much bigger, healthier community.
    So, how does this multimedia campaign work? Well, check out Zondervan’s Web site and you can pre-order materials right now for the autumn, if you wish.
Each small group is challenged to spend 6 sessions with Michael’s book and video clips featuring these dozens of top names in Christian activism.
The subjects covered in the series are near and dear to the hearts of activists like Shane Claiborne, Rob Bell and David Batstone. Click on their names and you can read our earlier coverage of that prophetic trio.
    In the end, this is an important new religious campaign for all of us.
    Michael Seaton says evangelicals need this, because too many Christians are missing the Bible’s true calling to transform the world. He credits evangelist and author Tony Campolo with putting this truth in blunt terms. “Tony says that while we do try to tithe—we tithe to ourselves,” Michael told me, recalling Campolo’s stark warning. “We give our money to programs at our own churches. We improve our buildings. All these blessings seem to surround us and our friends because we’re giving our tithes right back to ourselves! We’re not turning outward to the world as much as God really wants us to.”
    Michael says he’s learned this: “God doesn’t want passengers climbing onto the train to Heaven with their stamped tickets in hand—just riding along. God wants us all to get off that train, move out into the world and make life better for everyone.”

Finally, here is a prayer for communities, adapted from START>

    God, help us to START>
    Start showing mercy.
    Start healing the sick.
    Start seeking justice.
    Start serving the poor.
    Start caring for Creation.
    Start befriending the disenfranchised.

To that we say: Amen!

What is your prayer for our cities? Email us.

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    (Originally published at https://readthespirit.com/)


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