A sense of purpose and community

Georgia Steele volunteers

Psychologists tell us that one of the greatest sources of meaning and satisfaction in life is to live for a cause that we believe is greater than ourselves.

I have long believed that this is a significant aspect of the appeal of christian belief. People should want to be part of a movement to make the world a better place, and christianity should provide this.

But it doesn’t always work out this way (sadly).

Look around your church

Have a hard look at your church (if you belong to one). Do you see people who are enthused and enlivened by the mission of Jesus to bring God’s rule on earth? Do people find purpose in bringing freedom to the oppressed and good news to the poor (Luke 4:18-19)? Are christians visiting the sick and the prisoners, and giving food and drink to strangers (Matthew 25:31-46)?

Or are they mostly more like passive consumers who come to church each week for the professionals to lift them up spiritually, then go home to get on with their lives?

The kingdom of God and the flourishing of our fellow humans is a big cause and gives our life real meaning. Sharing this mission with our fellow believers brings a great sense of community.

But I wonder how many of us are in churches where we see this?

Politics is the new religion?

This last 12 months I have been deeply involved in a political movement to elect an Independent candidate in an electorate where this seemed impossible. This wasn’t because I am a political animal who wants to be close to the seat of power. Not at all.

It was because I believed our government, and to a lesser extent our opposition, wasn’t governing for the good of the people of Australia, and certainly not for the good of God’s good earth and all who inhabit it. I believed justice and integrity demand a new way of approaching governing Australia, and I believed only a well qualified and well-intentioned Independent would achieve this. This was a cause I could believe in, as part of my commitment to the kingdom of God.

And it seemed that many others agreed with me. And so hundreds of citizens, most of whom had never been politically involved before, rallied to the cause. Many of them were busy mothers with school-age children who had to fit their activism in between driving their kids to school and sport, preparing meals and doing the shopping.

This disparate and amateur team handed out leaflets, erected signs and re-rerected vandalised signs, and massed at coffee shops and pub trivia nights wearing campaign T-shirts.

Most illustrative of this enthusiasm were gatherings at roadsides in peak hours to dance, wave signs and generally have fun to advertise our candidate – and putting the events to music on Tik Tok and Instagram.

And then backing up for long stints handing out how-to-vote cards during the 2 weeks of the election.

Strong team spirit

The team spirit was very impressive. A strong sense of unity and purpose, in a cause we all believed in, strongly. Enthusiasm, creativity, commitment. Willingness to get out of comfort zones and normal activities to give this the best everyone had.

On the team chat channels, everyone was positive, encouraging and supportive. New friendships were made. Neighbours came on board.

High standards of behaviour were set. No matter how much our signs were interfered with (while others’ often were not), we would not do the same. Of course there were negative comments about other candidates in the private chat, but the leaders kept this within limits.

Hang on, help is on its way

My major task was to organise the team handing out how-to-votes at 11 days of pre-polling, 12 hours most days. With two people at least per shift and 4 shifts per day, my site needed almost 90 volunteers. The other two sites needed almost as many each.

Most days were working days and school days, limiting volunteer availability. Yet we filled all our shifts, some volunteers turning up day aftter day in gaps in their busy schedules. And when someone had to drop out unexpectedly due to a sick child or a Covid contact, someone else always volunteered to fill the gap.

It was impressive and heart-warming. I won’t forget this time and some of the people I met and worked with.

Working for the kingdom of God

The kingdom of God is (obviously) a much bigger thing than one election. And Jesus’ call for us is to serve sacrificially (take up our cross and follow him – Luke 9:23), putting all else lower in our priorities.

We are also called to be a community of common purpose bonded together in love. It does happen. But in my experience, not always as it did for this team.

Of course a life of service is much more difficult than a single 3-month period. But I think the Steele Squad put many of us christians to shame. I think we can all do better.

Photo: volunteers at the post-election party (from the Georgia Steele Facebook page)

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