An Interesting Story In Which We Are Walk-Ons
Prologue: of all the stories we could tell about ourselves, this is probably the best one because it begins with two people who seem like they might be the main characters, but as more people come into the story, the originals kind of fade into the background and that keeps happening with character after character until it finally dawns on the reader that the main character, the lynchpin of the entire narrative, is also the author, which is kind of intriguing and quite creative.
Chapter 1 starts with a couple who, months after moving into an old farmhouse and beginning to live an idyllic life in the countryside, feel God calling them to up and move with their small children into the center of the city, into a neighborhood scarred with drugs and poverty and depression. which eventually they do, which is a good thing because if they hadn’t, this story would be very different and probably not as interesting. that couple, hoping to be Good News for their neighbors, finds their hearts reoriented after two years there, after the demoniac across the street finds Jesus and they start to pray with him, and he invites others, and soon there is a group that gathers every night on their porch to pray for the neighborhood. it appears that this couple is central to this story, but they are only walk-ons, as is revealed later in the narrative.
Chapter 2: and so is this unlikely group of friends and fighters, a teensy army that gathers on their porch each night, which spends its time dreaming up crazy ways to love and serve their neighbors. which begins praying for a space for others to live and serve and pray alongside them, because there’s so much prayer that needs to be done in that neighborhood. and the husband and wife remember that one night a few years back God gave them a glimpse of a red moon rising over their city, his sign that there would be a movement of prayer in that city, and that they would have a small part of it.
Chapter 3: trusting in the God who gave that sign, the husband leaves a tenured university job and its salary to start the stockbridge boiler room: a movement of prayer and mission and discipleship and love in a place bereft of all of that.
and while this plot is unfolding, there’s a whole other story being written across the alley from where this couple lives: a crack house and brothel. and every day they watch addicts come to that house, weary prostitutes leave to buy a pack of cigarettes, the same cars and cast of characters over and over and over. and this couple dreams of God filling that house with light. and so they ask him to do just that. they do not ask people for money to buy that house or to pay their salary, which worries their families; they ask God. and a few months later, he gives them that house to use for the boiler room.
Chapter 4: he gives them the house because he is going to fill it with people who are necessary to the plot of this story: barristas and mechanics and homeless and teachers and musicians and addicts and artists who will, for the next five years and beyond, fill that house and the neighborhood around it with singing and worship and prayer and parades and good food and varied acts of kindness and love. who will learn what it means to live missionally not just for a season, but for the rest of their lives. people who will go on to buy houses and raise families and walk dogs and be known in the neighborhood. characters whose lives will begin to blur with those they serve and feed and love so that eventually, all those characters, who play such a variety of roles and have stories of their own to tell, become more and less important to the story than they thought they were, which is the genius of the author, who is writing, even now,