Last Thursday’s post, “The Godblogosphere’s Black Hole” riled up a lot of people. Unfortunately, I was unable to devote time on Friday to keeping up with the comments because of a hectic day and more household illness, so I think I’ll say more here.
First, I want to thank everyone who commented. I read every comment even if I didn’t reply personally. Blogging can consume all your time if you let it, so I couldn’t comment on everything that readers said. I hope to cover a few general replies here, so read on if you were slighted and just maybe I’ll ramble into addressing your particular concern.
Second, I’m not down on blogging as a tool. Blogs make dialogue possible. While that’s perfect for heated discussions, I feel we’re thinking too small with that use. I know hundreds of people who are hurting or covering for hurts they feel the Church will never address. I want to address them. I want to find a way to meet the practical needs of hurting people all around, whether they be hurting because of physical needs or hurting because they don’t know Jesus Christ.
Before I get a number of responses saying that someone knows of a church that’s meeting everyone’s needs perfectly, I would like to add that my own experience as a Christian is that in most of my darkest times I had to tough it out alone because other Christians hit the road at the point of my deepest need. And it’s not just me. I talk to other people all the time who are left twisting in the wind by the Western Church. I would even venture a guess that the majority of people sitting in the pews on Sunday have a viable need going unmet. Say what you will, but this is the Biblical model right here:
Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
—Acts 4:32-35 ESV
There was not a needy person among them. Can we say that about our churches today? Or the Church universal?
Now a complete lack of monetary want may very well be the case in some of our upper crust churches; you know, the ones with the chauffeur’s entrances. But while I did attend such a church at one point in my life, I don’t today. My church is packed with needy people. I suspect yours is, too.
If even one person in our churches is going ignored in an area of need, then we can’t sit back and say we’re doing the job right. Not only this, but I think the Lord would have us expand our notion of what constitutes a lack of need by going beyond money fixes. I know people who are dying for someone to call them on the phone to talk for a few minutes. I know single moms who would love to have a solid Christian man around for her sons for a couple hours each week. I know a family who faced foreclosure on their home because the breadwinner lost his job to outsourcing and can’t find a job to replace it. I know a family that would have loved to have had someone talk to them at the church service this last Sunday. But you know what? In every case that need went unmet. No one called, no one took the single mom’s sons to a sporting event, the family lost their home because no one bothered to help them, and the mom, dad, and two kids that showed up this last Sunday made it all the way back to their car in the far corner of the church parking lot without anyone caring enough to say hello.
I’m sick of those stories. I contend that one of the reasons that Christianity is not growing in the West is because of stories like those. Every year more people stop going to church in the United States, Canada, and Europe. Yeah, even if our doctrine is perfect, our living out the Gospel sure needs a major overhaul. This is the major reason why I’m not going to participate in anymore theological “discussions”—especially ones guaranteed to be contentious. I don’t need a finer point on my doctrinal stance. I need a bigger heart for the needy. I need to put the doctrine I already know into practice or else it’s utterly worthless.
The fact is that if all this truly made a difference to us, we’d go to whatever lengths it took to meet people’s needs. Unfortunately, too many of us simply don’t care because:
- We’re too mired in our jobs.
- We’re too addicted to entertainment.
- We’re too geared up about buying the latest digital camera, computer, plasma TV or other piece of ephemeral electronica.
- We’re too in love with the world system.
- We’re too worried about what other people might think if we went 100% counterculture for Christ.
- We stopped asking God if He wanted to use us in a way that could change the world, even if it meant that we started small by just helping our nextdoor neighbor or the family beside us in the pew.
To whom shall we go? Where is the Kingdom of God found outside of Jesus? Do we need to fill our houses with one more gadget when the money we spent on it could have been better spent funding a dozen struggling churches in Africa? And for all the good that Christian books have done us, why do most of us Christian eggheads need one more tome for our sagging bookcases when we’re not putting 0.00001% of that accumulated wisdom into practice reaching out to the lost, destitute, and broken?
I’m not sure we really believe there’s a heaven. We don’t live like the world to come matters more than this one. If we did, I suspect we wouldn’t be so hot to be on our second generation of iPod or standing in line for the latest digital camera to replace the one we bought just four years ago. We’d be asking God every day how to give it all away until it no longer mattered because it no longer held our interest—instead, heaven was ringing in our ears. We’d be known as people who lived unencumbered lives. As Leonard Ravenhill was fond of saying, it is one thing to say that Christ is all we need, and something altogether different to say that Christ is all we have.
If it really mattered, we’d find a way—even if it meant we had to pick up a cross and carry it daily. Oh wait, we’re supposed to be doing that already. It’s easy to forget isn’t it? Hey, there’s a sale at Best Buy….
I’m working on a Godblogger map that may help us field needs more effectively. I also think it would do a better job of getting bloggers together if they saw how close their proximity is to other bloggers. Still, the point of that map is to make it easier for us to help other people. If we purposefully made ourselves more available, especially those of us who get huge traffic running through our sites every day, perhaps we could become a resource for meeting people’s needs. We have so many strong Christians blogging. I’ve got to believe that we can somehow band together to use all the gifts God has given us to make a difference in the lives of the unheard people, many of whom may be too poor to even own a computer.
We know that the world’s need is great. I believe that the power of God’s word paired with a Good Samaritan’s heart might be the synergy needed to reach a world that is not so impressed with what we say as it might be with what we do. We Christians get a lot of bad press today and I think part of that is reflected in the fact that we’re not as plugged in locally as we should be. Our atheist neighbor may have all sorts of preconceptions about the greater unwashed mass of Bible Thumpers that get in his way of receiving what we have to say about Christ, but I can guarantee that those barriers will come down if we’re the one there for him when he is ill (especially if—as is so often the case—no one else bothers.)
And like I said, that kind of charity begins at home. If we can’t practice it in our churches on each other, then there’s no possible way we’re going to make it work with “scarier” kinds of people out there in the gutters of the world.
Earlier in this post I said that I believed that the majority of people in our pews have vital needs going unmet. I’ve been around long enough to know that this is absolutely the case. If you don’t think that’s true, I don’t think you’re looking hard enough. Many people may appear fine on the outside, but inside there’s devastation that we know nothing about. Some people in our churches possess minds ingrained with the idea that they can’t ask for help because American Christianity states that “God helps those who help themselves.” So they go without, sometimes for decades. I think it is a sad thing to hear from people that they’ve been in various churches over the years and no one ever bothered to lift a finger to help them when they were struggling. I heard another one of those stories just this morning. As long as their need is within the bounds of what I can do to help, I can’t call myself a Christian if I can’t be there for that person. Should their need be beyond what I can do, then I either find someone who can make it happen for them or I throw myself on the mercy of God alongside that person so they know they are not alone. And not just once, but for as long as it takes.
God created the Church to be His chosen instrument to the world. Yes, He can act on His own through miracles if need be, but more often than not, He wants us to do the work.
As for me and my house, we’re rolling up our sleeves.