I want to talk to you about the two things that I believe are very important keys to working in inner-city environments and have made all the difference in the world for me personally when it has come to reaching people. These two things would be consistency and relationship.
Consistency is the first thing you have to have. If you’re not able to offer consistency, you might as well just pack up your bags and not even be there. The very definition of the word means that I’m going to be here day after day, week after week, month after month, and sometimes year after year. And no matter what they do, they can count on me being here.
Understand that in this environment, there has been a lot of trust that has been broken. You have some people who are dealing with abandonment issues. You have others who’ve been told one thing and what was acted out was something very different. So, the only way I can battle against that and prove that I’m not going anywhere, is to be consistent.
I’ve worked with outreaches in which there were people who wouldn’t pay me any attention. 3, 4, 6 months would go by and I would talk to them, they would ignore me, and I wouldn’t care. I would just try again the next week.
Finally, there would be a day where I’m not even thinking about them, and they would walk past me and say, “Pastor Jay, I’ve got to tell you something.” For me, this was proof that just being present on a consistent basis has been making a difference. These are the kinds of wins that begin to open people’s heart to the second key called relationship.
Now, I’m going to tell you something, and there is no good way to say it. So, I’m just going to say it. There are a lot of cultures in the world that even if they absolutely hate you, they can take the information that you give and they can utilize it for their own benefit. They might not give you any credit at all, but they can take it and use it to work things out in their favor.
For a lot of my people, I will be honest with you, if we don’t like you, we don’t want anything to do with you. We don’t want your answer, we don’t want your resources, we don’t want your money, we don’t want your help. We’ll even be honest and say, “You know what? He’s right, and what he’s saying probably could help and probably would make a difference. But, I don’t like him.”
Please understand that when it comes to working with the Black community, it actually is that serious. So, the relational side of things really makes a world of difference. It’s here that I start learning people’s name, and I begin learning about their family. This is where I learn who they are as a person and what some of their desires are.
For them, this is the place where their heart starts to open and they start sharing some of their dreams and some of their fears. They begin talking about some of their desires and some of the things they would love to see for their future. They’ll share some of the things that they even have as regrets that they wish they could change, or do differently.
It is in this place where God begins making all the difference in the world. Because I’m now at a place in the relationship where I can begin challenging them on things. I’m able to start talking to them and bringing ideas, resources and opportunities. I’m able to start telling them some stuff about themselves that they wouldn’t possibly listen to if it were to come from anyone else, or someone with less relational capital. I’m able to start bringing some things to their mind they may have never been challenged on ever before because they’ve never allowed anyone to get close enough to be able to have these types of conversations.
Know that if you want to see lasting long-term change in a person’s life, discipleship is where it’s at. And the foundation of true discipleship is always going to come back to your ability to provide unconditional consistency and build authentic relationships.