In the talk about what should be and what oughtto be in the past few posts, I’m moved on this Saturday morning to ask ‘So what?’ What is going to happen now? Are we all going to go out and renovate our buildings to look like we’re more interested in the community? No, we’re not going to do that. I’m a bit cynical about our willingness to do what we know to be true and right, when it comes to breaking out of our own pre-conceived notions of what always has been. It is so difficult for us to conceive the church acting upon it’s purposes.
And, yes, Hurricane Katrina taught us a lot of lessons. One of the lessons it taught me is that when we fail to bless our community, we fail to be God’s people. I think many churches have a mentality that is closer to the nomadic children of Israel. The only time they engaged those around them was to go to war or to embrace their idols. The Jewish sects of Jesus’ day were no different. It was a closed society. That’s one of the reasons Jesus rocked their establishment and toppled their power structures when he sat down to talk to a five-time-divorcee-with-a-shack-up-lover at the well. When Jesus told stories about people like a “Good Samaritan” (what Jew ever heard of such a creature?), he raised their eyebrows and crossed their sensibilities. A church that seeks out people to help funtions in the same way. While most churches are attempting to rebuild their nests and settle back in to self-serving programs that work hard to keep members happy, are there some prophets out there who will provoke God’s people to their true calling?
I believe our nation as a whole has fallen into a slumber when it comes to Katrina recovery. Volunteers are hard to find across the Gulf South. It is tempting even for local Christians who are back in their homes with everything in it’s place to think that this is pretty much over. There are no quick fixes and no easy answers. There are people who are still living in houses with a curtain for a back door. On my block there are still people living in campers. Housing is scarce. If you could manage to rent something you likely could not make the payments. People in their late seventies and early eighties are being faced with the trauma of acquiring a mortgage. Insurance is becoming unaffordable, creating complications that cannot be managed. The Salvation Army is overflowing with people who have no where to go. If there ever was a time for the church to be the Body of Christ in a community, this is it.
But what will our response be? You may not have had a Hurricane Katrina at your place, but I guarantee that within a mile or two of your “church building” there are people who are suffering at the hands of their own private hurricanes. They will not come to you for help. They will not come in on a Sunday into a beautiful ediface with ornate appointments, people dressed to the nines saying they are “fine”, and a sermon about premillinnialism.
We need elders and preachers who are committed to serving the hurting and lost in the community, at the expense of placating spiritually lazy people who have settled into a routine of finding something to complain about at every turn. When leaders rush to comply with the critics, they must set aside the more important work of reaching the lost. The Hebrew writer talked about people who “ought to be teachers” who were, instead, having to be petted. How long has it been since someone expressed repentance for not being spiritually involved at your church?
We need elders and preachers who are more concerned about the task at hand than the popularity of pursuing the mission. It is hard work. It is messy. It often doesn’t ‘pay off’. It is disappointing. It is, therefore, easier to sponsor a seminar on ‘how to be happy’ than it is to sit down with someone who has nothing and try to help them find solutions to living a life that includes God. The truth is that most American Christians are looking to be served. Jesus sought to serve. We have to make some choices.
We need Christians of all ages to begin grass-roots movements of service in their communities. If you can’t start a soup kitchen, go work with the one that exists. Find a need in your community and band together with other believers and tackle the problem. If your leaders are disinterested in community service, sit down with them with open Bibles and ask hard questions.
We need Christians that are prepared to endure scorn and gossip for doing what is right. Most people will not be interested.
We need visionaries to purposefully begin ministries that reach out to those who cannot help themselves. That might take the form of a new church. Perhaps several from your church can band together to have a worship and study time in the inner city on Sunday afternoons? Perhaps on Saturdays you can walk in some neighborhoods you’ve never been in before in order to meet people and see what their needs are? I could list several things here…but they need to relate to your talents. What are you good at…and how can you use that to bless someone else?
We need visionaries who have been blessed with wealth to use what God has given them to fund the work no one wants to do. Large suburban churches were created often by those who sought to escape impoverished neighborhoods. Inner city works and those who are working with those trapped in the cycle of poverty should never have to beg for funding … they should be fully funded to do first class outreach that really matters.
We need to pray and ask God to help us see the opportunities that are before us. No one person can do it all, but what can you do to help one person?
I have a lot of questions about who we say we are, and how it relates to who we really are. It’s a struggle for all of us. I do want us to be involved in the struggle, though, and not turn away from it. Your thoughts would be welcomed. Unless you just want to say, ‘So what?’
Tomorrow morning I will be speaking at Calvary Christian Church in Stockbridge, Georgia. My friend Chris Lockhart is the Senior Minister there (Podcast HERE.) Come on by if you are in the area. I will also be speaking Sunday evening at a small group study that is led by John Alan Turner. We will return Monday, so please pray for a safe trip for Margaret and me.