August 25 was one of those days when God seemed to reach down and plant a big kiss right on the cheek of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Why the kiss?
When more than 8,000 "guests" joined together with more than 1,300 volunteer servants for this year's Convoy of Hope at Garfield Park, it marked not only a spectacular outreach, but also another giant step toward the local church becoming, in lifestyle, the "church turned inside out." Renewal can turn a church upside-down. But revival is when the church turns inside out.
Convoy of Hope is a national ministry raised up for such a purpose. It serves as a catalyst that networks food and health care opportunities for thousands of hurting lives in cites both large and small. Under the visionary leadership of Hal Donaldson, Convoy of Hope has become a significant force of mercy evangelism in the United States.
This was true of the outreach at Garfield Park. When all was said and done, the enormous effort by so many produced a mega-harvest of souls and a mega-harvest of unity between churches and pastors who otherwise would not have crossed paths for years to come.
So, now what? Or as the cynic would say, "So, what?" Wasn't the Convoy of Hope just another event-evangelism project that lasts a day and is forgotten the next? Not necessarily, and here's why.
The word convoy means a "group of vehicles traveling together." Trucks come and trucks go. Even trucks carrying benevolence and love such as the ones that drove into Garfield Park on August 25. Trucks are made to travel--to move on, not to park.
So what remains for the people whose lives were touched by Convoy of Hope? Another Convoy of Hope this coming Saturday? Not hardly. Those trucks are long gone, logging miles somewhere else.
That which does remain is faith, hope and love. Our mission now is to become an "Envoy of Hope" for the city of Grand Rapids. A convoy involves trucks. An envoy involves people--specifically, you and me. An envoy is the link that connects separated people over the long haul.
The day following the Convoy of Hope event, we all gathered for an outdoor city worship service. Some 40 churches, their pastors and congregations joined in corporate praise and jubilee. The rally cry was the sheer joy of togetherness and the pure delight of celebrating the spoils of grace the day before.
At that gathering, I shared four principles that the envoy must cultivate if the event called Hope has any chance of becoming the atmosphere of Hope:
1. It takes a miracle of the heart, not just the head, to keep hope alive. We can intellectually plan an event and follow it through while never engaging our hearts. But any long-term investment requires a heart commitment, not just a head-driven plan.
2. It requires "otherness," not just togetherness. We can rub elbows with people, like corn stalks rubbing leaves in a field, but that is not enough touch to bring unity. That is not enough touch to meet long-term needs in peoples' lives.
3. It requires prayer, not just worship. There is an instant work of grace between those who pray together. When churches pray together, jealousy and insecurity cease. When pastors pray together, competitiveness flees. When rich and poor pray together, unspoken walls are destroyed. Ongoing hope requires ongoing prayer.
4. It includes everybody, not a select few. Hope sets no limits. Hope has no lists of who's in and who's out. Hope is an indiscriminate act of God's love that requires no membership to join.
I believe our cities are ripe for the biggest thing God has ever done as we turn our convoys into envoys. Will you believe? Will you sow both in tears and resources toward this end? Until next time, let's stay inside out. Scott Hagan is the senior pastor of Grand Rapids First Assembly of God in Michigan. He and his wife, Karen, have four children.