I've been out of town for several days. Had lots of time to think. It's taken me several tries to get this post just right. I hope it illustrates the degree to which my heart has changed (and continues to change) in the past year.
You'll notice that this post is sprinkled with a degree of personal conviction. I think I'm starting to sound like a broken record. Sorry about that. I'm just on this journey trying to align myself with Jesus' expecations for his followers.
When I came home from my trip I saw a library book on the kitchen counter that Rhonda must have checked out. "Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: Moving from Affluence to Generousity." Funny. That's what I'd been thinking about the entire time I was away.
I had just visited a big church with a big modern building in one of the most affluent counties in America. As I looked around I couldn't help but wonder how much of it was necessary. Once again I was struck with how much stuff we have - particularly in the church.
Then I read this from Sarah Cunningham's new book called "Dear Church" The author asked a social worker how churches could improve their relationship with the local community:
"Churches? I don't see anything that churches could do." She wasn't being mean, but rather to-the-point. "We've already got tons of churches. Look around. There's a church on every corner. I bet you could count nine or ten within three blocks of here," she reminded me. "And nothing has changed, has it? But some of the social issues just keep getting worse and worse. Drunks wander the streets. The same homeless people have been circling in and out of the shelters for the last 15 years. Kids don't have anything to do to keep them out of trouble. Meanwhile, the churches keep right on existing, holding their services every Sunday. And it never changes anything. It seems pretty obvious to me that churches are not the answer."
Not the answer!?!? Why not? Why aren't we the answer? What's stopping us from being the answer - or at least part of it? We've certainly got all the stuff, don't we?
We're stable. We're predictable. We're safe. And compared to the people who need its help the most, the church is rich. Rich, but not the answer?!?!
God help us.
Take it further. I wonder if Africa (for example) looks at America the way this social worker looks at the church. "The richest country in the world?...Nope, that's not the answer!"
Haven't read the book on the kitchen counter yet. The title's enough for me to wrestle with for now.