Communitas starts churches that think, care, and act like Jesus did when He was on earth. We reach out to those who are hurting, the downtrodden and outcast. And because of that, we see real change in peoples’ lives. Undeniable change due to the working of the Holy Spirit!
When Geoffrey* used to walk in, there was a bit of uncertainty. Which Geoffrey were we going to have? Friendly-calm-and-quiet or loud-abrasive-and-confrontational? Our well-known rule at Men’s Group is that no one can come in under the influence, but it was hard to tell with Geoffrey if he had been drinking or not. At about six feet tall, stocky, and a few missing teeth, he wasn't easy to turn away when we needed to. We hadn't seen him in a while until he showed up again recently.
It didn’t take long to find out why he'd been away: prison. Of course, we were saddened by the news. Today, though, Geoffrey seemed happy and content. He had come in late, just as the current affairs discussion group had begun its conversation. Our topic was about change. Geoffrey said he had a story about change.
In fact, Men’s Group itself is a story of change. The men’s group – or Men’s Activity Hub as it is now called – is put on by a charity in Scotland called Bethany Christian Trust which does fantastic work among the poor and vulnerable across Scotland. In Communitas, one of our core values as we start new churches is partnership, and we highly value being people-focused and listening well to our context to see how God is at work. Joining in the amazing work God is doing through Bethany is true Kingdom partnership, including Men’s Group.
Initially it was a large meal for men who were homeless or vulnerable to homelessness, poverty, and isolation. Each week, there would be about 45-65 men coming through the doors. But the leaders wanted to see it transform into something that catalyzed change for the men who were there. At that time, it simply gave them a meal and sent them on their way, but didn’t give them purpose or meaning.
So the men’s group underwent some transformation. We started earlier in the day and had activity-focused groups. The men now come to learn guitar, cook, practice art, talk about current affairs, have a Bible study, and other varying activities. Initially, many of the guys didn’t like the changes. But now, the guitar group has learned more and more songs and started performing in front of large crowds. They recently wrote and recorded their own song. In a matter of months, the three men in the cooking group went from not knowing how to cut up an onion to putting on a Christmas meal. One of them has since taken a cooking course to become a chef. The current affairs group talked about the EU referendum, how to make their voices heard to local and national governments, technology and how it affects us, sports, and more. Men are encouraged to open the Bible and think about how Jesus might respond to situations they deal with. The transformation of men’s lives within this group has been astounding!
But back to Geoffrey. Indeed, he had a story of change. “I’m about to turn 40. With all I’ve done, that’s surprising. I shouldn’t have made it this far, but I made it to 40. I can’t be doing it all anymore. All the drinking, the drugs, stealing stuff, breaking into flats and taking things. It’s rubbish and I can’t be doing it. So now I’m clean. I’ve got a support worker. I get up every morning at 6:30 and pray for an hour. I’m no Christian, but I talk to the man upstairs,” nodding his head upward. “And then I go about my day, avoiding all my old pals who would get me into trouble. So I think change is a good thing. I’ve made some really good changes and we all can. Now I want to do all I can to help others change their lives, too.”
We all sat there, a mix of being dumbfounded, excited, and thankful for all we heard. He continued talking throughout our discussion and it was clear that he truly has experienced a change in his life.
It’s because of moments like this that I keep investing in Men’s Group. There are men there who don’t shower, who spit when they talk, who can’t control grunting or other bodily functions – it ain't glamorous. But I go because Geoffrey and every other man there have worth and dignity as people made in the image of God. Society may cast them aside due to their financial plight, their substance abuse, their backgrounds, or other reasons. But Jesus is there sitting next to them and cheering them on in their addiction recovery, in their onion slicing, in their song writing, in their painting of seascapes, longing to see them flourish and take His offer of new life and salvation. Step by step, these men--including Geoffrey--are moving into relationship with Jesus.