If you read FALLING FREE, Shannan Martin returns with an even more lyrical and soulful memoir of her life as a radical neighbor lover. As a member of her launch team, I received an advance copy.
I was blessed so much by THE MINISTRY OF ORDINARY PLACES and I especially appreciated the very tactical ideas Martin offers for loving our neighbors. The author also takes a necessary and admirable stance against a lot of what I can only refer to as ministry "gimmicks" that churches in the First World have adopted as de rigueur. Examples of this included "pop-up" ministry events, short-term missions that do more harm than good, or just ill-advised donation drives. The love the author has for her neighbors and her neighborhood is so palpable, and the book is an inspiring look at how one family can be a beacon simply by choosing to stay.
The only aspect of the book with which I really struggled was the lack of discussion of boundaries. Much of the ministry of being embedded in a community was familiar to me, since I have lived at the schools where my husband and/or I worked. It can be very overwhelming at times to field requests at all hours of the day and night from those one has been called to serve. As a mother, I believe my first order of ministry is to my family. Sometimes living in an insular community, one has to set hedges around one's family in order that the family not get exploited. The author makes mention of how her husband sought counseling for anxiety, and I was grateful for that. As a Christian, we can see from Jesus' example that there were times he reserved only for his prayer time, that he disappointed people by being unavailable because of his priorities. I wanted to hear more about that -- that giving freely of ourselves is still something we need to have discretion about so that we're not placing our family as a sacrificial lamb on the altar. The Martins are fully committed to their ministry of being present, and there are certainly instances mentioned where simply being present is hard. Still, I was left to wonder what they did when and if their children just sort of wanted their parents to themselves (?) Projecting here, but my kids help alongside me in ministry but sometimes they have bad attitudes about it and it's usually because I'm not devoting enough time to them. I think this begs the question: Can you live in the upside-down kingdom while still keeping your priorities in order? I don’t have the answer and I think anyone living in close community is looking for guidance about how to do it well.
I think my favorite chapter was about the Jail Ministry house. Martin explains the real disparity for families with an incarcerated person reentering society and the high cost of housing, job hunting that befalls individuals/families because of time served. I was so moved by the story of the Jail Ministry house and feel inspired to explore opportunities to serve inventively in this vein in my own sphere of influence.
I highly recommend this book if you are impressed to live and experience the Gospel in a less abstract and more practiced way, to have your eyes wide open to the biddings and beckonings of Divinity that hasn’t given up on our spinning planet yet.