Note: This is the third in a series of blog posts describing lessons learned during our time with DeAmon Harges and Mike Mather of Broadway United Methodist Church in Indianapolis. To read the first post, a reflection on Acts 3:1-10 and the importance of “looking intently,” click here. To read the second post, a reflection on discovering neighborhood vitality, click here.
Mike Mather loves to tell this story. You can see it on his face.
During our visit to Indianapolis, as we finished eating breakfast in one of the many community rooms at Broadway United Methodist Church, Mike, the pastor of the church, shared the story of how Broadway changed into the congregation it is today.
It’s a long and inspiring story, and there are many dimensions to it that are each worth exploring on their own. But they all add up to one thing: a complete change in mindset. Ultimately, the story Mike loves to tell is the story of how Broadway shrugged off its obsession with scarcity and replaced it with an appreciation of abundance – an appreciation of the gifts and passions and vitality of the people around them.
While telling us this story, Mike paused for a moment. With a smile, he launched into a discussion of John 10:10, where Jesus says, “I came that you might have life and have it more abundantly.”
Mike reminded us that the only miracle story that appears in all four gospels is a story of abundance – the feeding of the five-thousand. Here’s that miracle story as told in John 6: 5-14:
“When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, ‘Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?’ He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, ‘Six months wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.’ One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, ‘There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?’ Jesus said, ‘Make the people sit down.’ Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, ‘Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.’ So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, ‘This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.’”
Here, the disciples Philip and Andrew represent two variations of the scarcity mindset. For Phillip, the response is, “We need money – and lots of it – if we want to buy food to feed these people.” For Andrew, it’s, “We have some food here, but there’s no way it’s enough to feed everyone.” But Jesus knows that what they already have is more than enough.
In our conversation, Mike drew an interesting connection between Jesus’ statement of abundance in John 10:10 and the story of the feeding of the five-thousand. In the original Greek, the word translated as “abundantly” in John 10:10 is perissos. In Matthew’s, Luke’s, and John’s versions of the feeding of the five-thousand, that same Greek word is used to describe the fragments left over.
Literally, perissos means “all around.” It is derived from the root peri- (think periscope). But in scriptural usage it usually comes with connotations of surprise and is used to describe things that dramatically exceed our expectations. Hence the surprise when the disciples gather up the fragments left over and find that they’ve filled twelve large baskets.
So we might say that wrapped up in that one Greek word is an abundance that is all around and that dramatically exceeds our expectations. And that’s exactly what Mike and his congregation have discovered in their neighborhood.
By rejecting a scarcity mindset that fixated on the needs, problems, and deficiencies of the neighborhood, Broadway has been able to open its eyes and seek out the gifts, skills, and passions of the people around them. In doing so, they’ve discovered themselves surrounded by an abundance that far exceeds what they had ever expected.