Today, I’ll wrap up my rant that began in “On Millstones and Disconnects, Part 1” with the hope that we’ll find a better way to bring biblical truth into everyday reality.
Recently, I was prepping for a small group Bible study I would be leading, when I pulled out some old reference material I had from a well-known, well-funded, conservative Christian organization. Their emphasis is on preventing further erosion of a particular societal and biblical norm. I’ve had a lot of respect for that group over the years, and they were formerly headed by theologians I admire.
As I was looking through one particular section of the material, I ran across something that was highly condemning. Worst of all, it was highly condemning of our situation. So I contacted that organization to tell them our story, to ask them what we should have done differently, and to ask what their organization was actively doing to ensure that no family found itself in the same situation we face, the very situation they condemned.
Their answer was to recommend a book on how to find a Bible-based church.
Total. Absolute. Disconnect.
Here’s what I would love to see the Church do. I don’t think any Christian pastor, teacher, parachurch organization, or Christian group should ever admonish people on any topic unless they have some means of drawing alongside those folks to ensure they have some means to carry out that admonition.
- If we oppose abortion, we better provide some way of helping pregnant women take care of the children they’re considering aborting should they elect to keep them.
- If we want dads to be more available for their families and their churches, we better provide a way to help them cut back their hours at work without losing their jobs.
- If we want moms to be at home with the kids and dads to be the breadwinners, we better provide a way for that to occur in families who are fighting for their economic lives in the midst of massive upheavals in a new global economy.
- If we want to reach the lost, we better provide a way to live out the Gospel instead of just talking about it all the time.
- If we say we want to instill a Christian worldview in people, then we better be able to speak to any issue, no matter how divisive, difficult, or sectarian it might be.
- If we want people to fall in love with Jesus, we better provide a way for them to be head over heels in love with Him to the point that nothing else in this world matters but Him (even our lives, our families, our worldviews, our money, and any other thing that doesn’t belong to us but to God alone).
But instead, we love those easy answers. We love telling people what they should be doing, even if we make no provision to help them to do what we say. It’s all deserving of having a millstone tied around our necks and a permanent dunk in the ocean. Just how many people are we causing to stumble because we tell them what they must do, but provide no clue how to do it?
I’m going to pick on a pastor/teacher/author now. I want to say ahead of time that I believe his books are important and that everyone reading this should read them. I have no personal grudge against him, but I want to use his advice as an example of how we can make it hard on people to meet the expectations that Christian leaders suggest.
Randy Frazee, who has now moved on to Willow Creek, wrote two good books. The Connecting Church is about reaching out to our neighborhoods, opening our homes and lives to our lost neighbors. Making Room for Life is about adopting a Hebraic daily schedule that shuns the 24/7/365 lifestyles we’ve adopted. On the surface both of these books are outstanding in that their focus is exactly right. I would recommend that everyone read them, if only for the issues they raise.
But Frazee’s books reveal a stark idealism that afflicts the modern American Church, creating more disconnects than they resolve.
The first disconnect is that Frazee, like many pastors in this country, has been professional clergy most of his life. Career pastors have no personal experience with what it’s like to live—like most people do—in the real business world. For instance, Frazee says that employers will have no problem if you let them know ahead of time that in order to maintain a proper Hebraic daily schedule you’ll only be working 40 hours a week or less. What planet is he living on? The average work week is 50 hours and people who don’t work it are the first ones gone when the downsizing comes. I’ve seen that a million times. Same goes for those who work from home. They have no office presence, therefore no political standing in the cubicle farm, so they’re the first ones cut when “dehiring” rolls around.
Locale is an issue, too. Frazee says that we should live within about fifteen minutes of where we work. But now that companies have no employee loyalty, career experts are claiming that people should be happy with two to three years in a specific company before they be required (or elect) to move on. I’ve never once had a job within 15 minutes of my home; most have been 40 minutes or longer. If by this standard I can expect to have more than a dozen jobs in my life, that would necessitate moving a dozen times or more to be true to what Frazee presents. Now ask what kind of lasting fellowship anyone can expect to enjoy when one is moving around that much! Worse yet, if we factor in Frazee’s The Connecting Church ideas here, how can we possibly have any Christian impact in our neighborhoods if we’re forced to move all the time just to find work or to be close to it? Frazee himself left Texas for Illinois for work-related reasons. How did that affect the neighborhood he lived in, the one he described in his book?
Just today, I spoke with a man who has seen his regular overtime cut back to zero. As a result, his wife, who was working part-time, is now having to work full-time for them to make ends meet. When both spouses are working like this, how do they have time for their church, much less for a Connecting Church like Frazee describes? I don’t know. That’s the disconnect. Those spouses instead become two ships that pass in the night, one working day shift and another working night. It’s a miracle they can keep their own family together much less be actively reaching out to meet the needs of other families in their neighborhood.
This same man told me that everyone he knows is struggling with lost wages due to changes in the economy. The Wall Street Journal just last week trumpeted the fact that Silicon Valley is hiring again. Hurrah! But wait. The average salary in the Valley is now $69,000 a year compared to the $80,000 a year it was eight years ago. Is this progress? Gas is running $2.50 a gallon where I am. I can only imagine what it costs in California. And we got out of California before the electricity rates doubled. Honestly—and some of you in other parts of the country may not grasp this—$69,000 a year is NOT a livable wage for Silicon Valley. Even $80,000 is shaky. (Our rent alone on a two bedroom apartment was $1950 a month when we left in 2000. Taxes, too, are insane in California. ) With those salaries, both spouses work or they have to leave town. And if their specific work skill is linked to Silicon Valley, where else do they go that’s not similarly oppressively expensive?
It may seem I’m talking too much about economics and jobs. But many of the issues that confront the Church today are rooted in the fact that our employment (with commute) takes up more time during a week than anything we do. Most everyone I know barely has time to do anything but work. Families that were adamant about having only the husband work (because this is what the Christian message is) are now requiring mom to work full-time just to make ends meet. What does that mean for volunteering at church, or for spending quality time with our families, or any of the other myriad things Christian radio, our pulpits, or Christian books tell us we must do in order to be good Christians?
The disconnects are massive. We need more radical answers. To the organization who told me the answer to our problem was finding a Bible-believing church: I haven’t run across a single Bible-believing church that is speaking radical answers to these issues. If an organization such as their own that exists solely to provide biblical answers to these issues can’t speak to them in a practical way, then how is any heavily diversified church going to, no matter how Scripturally accurate they are?
Here’s what I see:
- Some Christians force themselves not to think about these disconnects and are just carried around on the winds of change, even if those winds blow them into a foul place.
- Some Christians think about these disconnects, but they routinely fall back to doing it the way that they’ve always done it, even if that way doesn’t work anymore.
- Some Christians fall into a sort of Christianized fatalism, saying there’s nothing that can be done, so they’re just putting in time till heaven rolls around.
- Some Christians self-destruct because they can’t make what they’re hearing from Christian leaders fit with their own daily reality.
Want to know what’s truly sad about those folks? None of them will make a lasting difference for the Lord in their generation. Instead, we need Christians who are willing to acknowledge reality, address it in the light of Christ’s truth, and provide biblically-based, practical solutions to entrenched problems, changing the world in the process.
Those kinds of Christian change agents are rare because they must speak against the prevailing wisdom, which is actually no wisdom at all. Sounds like a prophet, doesn’t it?
Lord Jesus, send us men and women of vision who are not satisfied with answers that never intersect the reality of most people’s lives. Your Church needs them now more than ever.
51 thoughts on “On Millstones and Disconnects, Part 2”
“Today, I’ll wrap up my rant that began in ‘On Millstones and Disconnects, Part 1’ with the hope that we’ll find a better way to bring biblical truth into everyday reality.”
Unfortunately, you didn’t provide any practical answers. Maybe there aren’t any. But at least you touched on something I thought of as one of the problems: Churches ordain many professional clergy right out of college, and they lose touch with working-man reality. Maybe if more elders were men nearer the end of nonministerial careers, who have had to put in the hours and survive with family intact, maybe then the Church would have better answers for the night clerks of convenience stores around the world.
The answer is radical renovation of the heart.
If you want to reach the lost, you MUST renovate your heart and LIVE the Gospel. Otherwise, your words are worthless.
Faith without works is dead. Works without faith are deader.
Yes, Dad loses his job. Mom loses hers too. Unemployment pays a pittance. Trust in your own abilities to find work? Trust in your own self-worth? Or spend a lot of time on your knees asking God what He wants you to do – before you make application anywhere?
Been there. Done that. Ask God FIRST. Not second. And that does take radical renovation of the heart, to trust yourself to ask God first – not making plans, but talking to Him and letting Him make your plans. You’d be amazed what you’ll come up with.
Not making enough money? Have to cut back expenses? Ask God FIRST to provide the daily bread. Then cut what you can, and see what He will do. God’s idea of what’s good isn’t always ours!
Check out the “Best of Cerulean Sanctum” if you want specific answers. I’ve gone down some of these paths many times before and you’ll find what you want in those “Best Of” posts. The categories and post titles should help.
Also, I’ve long been calling out for people smarter than me to start coming up with fully Christian answers that are willing to go to the very heart of every assumption about how we live our lives as Christians in 21st century America. Where are the Francis Schaeffer’s of this age? Are there none?
I am calling for people to live the Gospel. I think we’re only living a culturally-corrupted version of it. What does a truly 21st century expression of Christianity look like in the Western World? We may never know, because so few are courageous enough to buck the system.
As for people going to God first, most honest believers I know spend countless hours praying over their futures. Even then, those futures may not always result in picture perfect endings. To say that some did not seek God first is to make assumptions that are beneath the truth behind what those people went through. They may have spent months on their faces, fasting an praying. I know because I’ve been there.
There is a reason that the faithful cry out for justice.
You know years ago I asked and asked for Christians in my current church to share housing… seriously… in most cultures, having one family in a 4 bedroom home is a luxury… and we are spoiled. For example…my husband and I have a 3 bedroom to ourselves… no children… we could easily accomodate a single mother and two children here… and share expenses… and lives… you know, like the NT church did… breaking bread together DAILY. Why are we so compartmentalized? I am so tired of seeing the Christian church looking pious, and going home to their two car garages and tivo and seeing each other only twice a week. We are suppossed to be part of each others lives, and when I bring that up, I get the group of people looking around thinking “oh please don’t make me give up my personal space!”.
We are suppossed to be different from the world, so how come we don’t look any different? Our houses look the same, we don’t stand out at work, our children look like any other families.
ENOUGH. We are selfish. We must all have our “room” and be able to go home to our own personal spaces… well you know what? Our economy isn’t going to make it much longer on single families… we need to pool resources.
I’m beginning to thing that the group called “twelve tribes” are getting it right.
So here is my challenge… who can you live with? Who can you let live in your house and split expenses with? I’ve offered to a number of people and I think that it is just a matter of time until there are two families living in this one home. Yup, it will be crowded… yup, we will have to share a single bathroom… So what?
This is a good post. The answers are tough, though. You’re right, we need someone to step up here.
I get frustrated sometimes because I see so many well off Christians with their huge houses and expensive cars. Granted, maybe they give a boat-load away and God keeps blessing them. But I just don’t know why followers of Jesus need such expensive things. Do you need a $40,000 car or could you get by with a $25,000 car and give away just a portion of the difference. Is a outwardly wealthy Christian a good reflection of Jesus or a good reflection of the world?
Along those lines, I will say that there are some Christians that struggle financially because they don’t want to be frugal. They want to have all the world’s doodads. I have a hard time feeling bad for those people.
When I finished grad school in 1980 I was offered a reporter’s job at a small daily newspaper near home. It was the perfect entry-level position for a journalist.
Then one morning as I was praying, the Lord spoke to me very clearly to turn them down. No reason, just turn them down. I did, and began my descent into the world of low-paying, dissatisfying retail and construction jobs. Twenty-six years later at age 48, I’m still there.
But when I got to seminary at age 42 (on student loans), I noticed a difference. As your first commenter noted, freshly minted clergy often have little or no experience with workaday reality. There’s a built-in disconnect right from the start. Many of my fellow students were intelligent, caring individuals. But they simply could not empathize with the daily trials of ordinary working people.
I’ve often returned to this passage, which describes a process that ought to take place in every minister of God:
“For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest . . . Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Heb. 2:16-18).
Costly? Sure. Necessary? To make the kind of impact you speak of, I don’t see how would-be ministers can avoid it.
Amen and amen. You know how I feel. When my first husband and I separated, the church told me it was an abomination to file for divorce. But filing for divorce was the only way I could ensure financial support for me and my child. The church didnï¿½t offer to pay my rent, or buy my groceries, or put diapers on my baby. But by golly, if I filed for divorce I was going straight to hell.
There was an article in the Dayton Daily News this week about the poor farmers who have lost their laborers ï¿½ immigrant, migrant laborers who worked for pennies ï¿½ because those folks have found better paying gigs. Poor, poor farmers. The same thing happened when slavery was abolished. The wealthy plantation owners ï¿½ many of whom were Christian ï¿½ had to actually do some work. And they had to pay people actual wages all of a sudden. Oh, the horror!
Even though Americans are very generous, we are also very suspicious of others, unlike other cultures in the world. We automatically start judging people’s motives. That’s one reason why you don’t see much of what you described.
We have to be careful about judging people the way you describe. If there’s anything I’ve learned in my life, it’s that expensive things aren’t contrary to the Kingdom of God.
What if a couple buys a million dollar home, but then keeps that home open to people in the church and whomever stops by? Their home becomes a haven to others, no matter how rich or poor those people might be. I know someone who did that and they were awesome folks who gave and gave to others.
What if someone buys a $45,000 car but is able to drive it for twenty years because it’s better made than a $15,000 car that only lasts for six? The more expensive car not only becomes a better buy, but it’s also more environmentally friendly because three cheap cars got built during the lifetime of the one expensive car. Very expensive cars also come with better service policies that might make them comparably cheaper to operate over time. Not only that, but the more expensive cars tend to depreciate less quickly and retain more value over the life of the car. Which car then is the better buy?
What if you see someone driving an expensive minivan, but then find out its being used to drive immigrant families to the hospital and for medical care? I know of that exact situation.
Better to reserve judgment, I say.
Been enjoying reading your blog, by the way. I could tell you had some past writing experience.
I forgot to add that I worked in between jobs as a house framer. Could drive a 16-penny with one blow. But now they do everything with nailguns. I feel like John Henry.
Unionization ended that career path for me. Part-time, seasonal guys were verboten.
It’s not as simple as you think.
Small, American farmers have to compete on a global market. Cost of living here is significantly higher than a country like Vietnam. The Vietnamese are using cheap labor, too. Far cheaper than the migrant workers here. Migrant workers do have labor protection here (which costs money), but no such protection is afforded a Vietnamese worker. American healthcare will treat everyone who comes in, even if they can’t pay. That is not true in most places overseas. The cost of patients who don’t pay gets passed on through the system to the farmer in America, who then has to raise his prices.
The playing field is heavily tilted in favor of the cheapest producers. If American farmers can’t compete, then one day the United States will get the majority of its food from overseas, and then we’re hosed. Damage that foreign food supply chain through war or terrorism and you’ve got a disaster for this country.
Here’s another case in point: The coastal shrimping industry in the US has been obliterated by low-cost Thai and Vietnamese shrimp flooding the market. Typically, Thai and Viet shrimp are coming in at 20-25% the cost of American coastal-caught shrimp. And it can for a number of reasons. If you’re an American shrimper, what do you do? This problem is happening in every market, not just shrimp.
Some organic farmers are making it even though they charge higher prices because of the “premium” attached to organic production. But as organic spreads, that premium will eventually go away. With Wal-Mart announcing it’s going to jump into the organic market, small organic farmers are going to watch their premium vanish. And we all know the iron fist that Wal-Mart uses on their suppliers, too.
Christians need to provide answers to this. We need to ask if there are co-operative living systems that can keep small communities of people fed as a collective of sorts. But no one in the Christian community (save for possibly Wendell Berry) are exploring this. With the rise of “Crunchy Cons,” perhaps this will change. I don’t know.
“Poor, poor farmers”? Yes. As one myself, I know exactly what the issues are.
Did you know that the enormous Amish population in Ohio is abandoning farming because they can’t make money doing it under current conditions? Only 10% of Amish still farm, as opposed to 100% just fifty years ago. They’re getting out of all commodities. That tells me the system is broken.
But what are Christians doing to fix it?
“And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; but unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian” (Luke 4:24-27).
I think one solution is knowing when to take on ministry. There are many sick and widowed among us, to whom we should go as the Church, but if you are the only person in your church, or just one of the few, willing to take on such a ministry, obviously, you cannot visit everyone. Not even Jesus did that. Some will refuse ministry. Others will need prayer for workers to be sent into the field, because you already have enough or too many people you are visiting yourself. I think one reason American Christians get discouraged about ministering to others is because the need is so great, and we grow up among mega-organizations promising to meet all needs if more people are just willing to give more money and time. We also grow discouraged because…
Well, let me put it this way. It is a disconnect if I give up overtime and entertainments to minister to others so they can have “normal” lives, which most Americans define as overtime and entertainments.
You are right Dan, it is better to not judge. I TRY not to judge people on their outward appearances whether rich or poor as I have no idea what is going on behind the scenes.
But I do know people who have very expensive things and are not sharing or engaging in some ministry as you suggest. They love money and the things it buys. At least where I live I see that alot.
I’m not trying to judge the people but judge a culture that puts too much emphasis on material goods. If you can’t convince Christians to live with a bit less and share then how will you get the kind of cooperative community you talk about?
Well, you got me on that one!
Yes, we do need to live on less.
“I would recommend that everyone read them, if only for the issues they raise.
But Frazee’s books reveal a stark idealism that afflicts the modern American Church, creating more disconnects than they resolve.”
Why would you want anyone to read these books? I understand that the issues discusssed are important but if the author sows confusion I do not see the benefit. Your examples of his “wisdom” only reinforces the idea that such popular Christian advise is at best harmless trash and more probably an impediment to Christian harmony and Christian maturity.
If specific prescriptions for Christian living have no obvious connection to reality then it is a bigger waste of time to read such books than it is to drive an extra 30 minutes to a job that provides for your family.
Sometimes your rants sound like a child pouting. It is obvious from your many fine posts that you have a fine intellect and understand Christian discipleship at a mature level. That being true, why do you even let such ideas as those in that book offend your Christian peace? Forgive me for sounding harsh but you should disregard such nonsense as the silliness it is. I don’t care if he is a published Christian author, pastor, or whatever. Christian instruction that does not consider reality is like honey that tastes good on the lips but turns bitter when digested. I better stop now. I have an enduring fault of overdoing analysis. I apologize in advance for being opaque. My advise- trust your Spirit-informed instincts about Christian matters.
Well, I guess we have enough material to discuss in the upcoming months/years/decades/centuries until the Second coming.
1. Migration (of any sort): should we let the immigrants come or keep them off the borders?
If we encourage their coming, then issues like the draining of resources in medical facilities will continue happen. If we do not encourage their coming, we may end up like the european nations who complain their population is becoming too old that they can not sustain them any longer with the money young people contribute.
In what is the system relying on? A pyramid? I don’t know. Correct me if I am wrong.
2. Then we have to face the fact that medical science seems to push up the limits of expectation of life even more. That means, more resources are needed for Medicare. Who will pay the bills?
3. Canada offers residence to immigrants with more ease than America does. Should we wonder why? I do. Is their population growing old too? I don’t know. But with the high fuel prices (currently in Texas gas costs $ 2.47/gallon. Four years ago it used to be $0.82!) and a harsh and cold weather you will expect high fuel consumption. Does any one want to move to Canada? Not me, I’d rather stand Texas’ hot summer.
4. America has an amazing highway system to distribute food/goods/any item you think of, so if fuel prices get even higher, then you’ll end up having more expensive items in the marketplace…unless you live in the west or east coast…I mean port cities.
5. Almost everybody in America has at least a car. When I lived in Columbia, SC, it was impossible for me to get groceries: you need a car to drive from downtown to the closest Walmart (min 20 minutes). Convenience stores are no longer convenient when you get your bread/bananas/drinks/milk, overpriced. I longed for a better public transportation, but hey, why would the city care for that if everybody owns a car? Needless to say I depended on some good friends who gave me rides to get my groceries -and I can tell you they were well-meaning but I felt ashamed of taking their time/space in the trunk/etc. I ended up buying a car…oh, yeah I couldn’t buy a $45k car so I get a decent used car ($6k) my mentor -a good Christian brother- got for me and I glad he cosigned my loan I am yet to payoff. Another brother wanted to donate his old car to me -though it was too junky I appreciated his willingness to do so. A friend of mine broke in tears at his son’s baptism when recalling the ways in which the men of the church have become fathers to his son -she was single mom- and even recalled the moment the pastor of our church donated his car to her. Interestingly, that car never failed her until she could get a more reliable one.
Now, don’t tell me to move to big cities like NYC or the like because they are just too noisy for me.
6. Research in alternative fuels is becoming increasingly important yet the technologies are still in its infancy and what is even worst is that those cars are way too expensive.
7. I can go on and on and on, but here is a final comment: Hardly anyone here -and I include myself- will raise a hand and say: Lord, send me overseas to the mission field: to make your name known among the nations. And living less like the true early church might be a consequence of that. Sure, many will say to me: well, that’s not my call. And that’s fine. Others will say: hey I stay here to make money so that I may support the missionary family overseas.
The bottom line is that there is much talk on this issue because we don’t want to step out of our comfort zones. It may seem stupid what I am going to tell you but who has ever try to take a cold shower? I am afraid that if we can’t give up hot water for a lifetime, we will not find answers to the bigger issues in this lifetime.
Concerning reading books that have problems:
People are reading Christian books and taking them at face value. We need to to ask hard questions of ALL Christian books. I gave the Frazee examples to highlight how a book can try to address tough issues, but fail in some regards. Not ALL regards, but some. I recommend those books because they do cause you to think. They address issues that not enough Christians are bothering to address even though they are highly important issues. Perhaps someone reading them will work through Frazee’s flaws and come up with something better. Not all great ideas are fully developed—other people can contribute.
This is one of the problems I see in many heretic hunting ministries. There are many issues the Church must confront to be the best it can be. Sometimes heretic hunters miss those issues. They then rail against folks who try to address those issues, but might do it in a half-baked or even truly heretical way.
But REAL biblical discernment is not afraid of analyzing even flawed works for ideas that are truly of God. Too many of the heretic hunters want to toss out everything a suspect writer writes, but that’s mentally deficient, too. It’s not true discernment to blanket condemn people’s works.
Now I’m not saying that Frazee is a heretic; don’t get me wrong. I think people need to discern the flaws in his ideas, but still engage those ideas. Can we improve them to be more viable? What are the assumptions that are right and what are the ones that are flawed?
Frazee sees the problem, but not all his solutions are bulletproof. They ARE idealistic, but that doesn’t mean that someone smarter than Frazee (or me) can’t make them realistic.
This “all or nothing” mentality I see in some sectors of the Church is truly disheartening to me. That kind of thinking only leads to stagnation and a bunker mentality that doesn’t resemble the Gospel at all.
Does any of this make sense?
1. I am all for extremely tough immigration laws. I am for a defensible border. I am also all for treating illegals with compassion and Christian care. Incongruous? Not for Christians. Still, the healthcare issue is huge and getting worse. Dealing with people who game the healthcare system is hurting everyone. We need to make it less encouraging for illegals to want to be here.
5. I’ve discussed in other posts that we need to rethink how we setup our communities. Check “The Best of Cerulean Sanctum” sidebar at the main link for the site.
6. No fuel is more prevalent and more easily stored and distilled than alcohol. Drag racers already run on alcohol. The E85 initiative is promising. The only thing holding us back is the oil companies because it’s far harder to monopolize alcohol.
7. The original Greek of Matt 28:19-20 is NOT in the imperative tense. Your English translation has translated it that way due more to historical precedents than to good translation. Instead of “Go therefore..!” it is more like “As you are going…” or “While you are going….” That’s lifestyle evangelism, not “jump on a plane and go to Calcutta” evangelism. In fact, the Center for US Missions is realizing it is better to bring foreign nationals here to train them than to send American missionaries overseas. The British/American missionary push of the past got a lot of things going. Now it is time for us to rethink how we do foreign missions. Some people are doing just that. Be Christ wherever you go, whether it be the States or not. That’s the whole point of the Great Commission.
I hope this helps.
Dan, a good post/rant/whatever. 😉
As I read through it, one major thought kept coming back to me: We American/Canadian Christians are too in love with our culture. I’ve never been a full-time pastor, but I’ve been “part-time” (he typed, laughingly) for about nine years. I know full well that fifty hour workweeks are the norm, but to be honest, fifty hours are no big deal. There is plenty of time for ministry/Bible study/learning if we choose to do it.
I’ve spent today making four trips of 12 miles or more. I still have one more to go. My job today is running my kids from place to place. Now, if we as a family wanted to, I could have cut two of those trips today. All we have to do is cut back on the kids’ activities. But we don’t. A family I know could live easily on the father’s income, but they want more and nicer things so Mom works full-time too.
The point is, we can make the choices to cut back in many cases. But we don’t. Because we can’t imagine sharing a home or not going out to eat 3-4 times each week or buying truckloads of Christmas gifts for the kids and grandkids.
The Christian life is to be a sacrifice, the way I’ve read about it. We’re supposed to “take up our cross daily” but most of us have no desire to touch the dirty thing.
Ooops. Forgot a couple of minor things.
I’ll usually not read anything by a writer who I know is way out in left field. I don’t read Benny Hinn and the like. If I’m going to devote myself to reading someone’s ideas, I want to make sure he’s standing on the right foundation. But I do like reading books from people I disagree with. Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz irritated me to no end, but it challenged my thinking and that’s what made it well worth my reading.
Oh, and the Indy Racing League is running their cars on 10% ethanol this year and will be running on 100% ethanol beginning next season.
As always, I learn much from your insights.
I believe the day is coming when Christians will create cooperative living situations. The dread of another Waco may be holding this entire notion hostage right now, but it’s quite likely to happen. I believe this will probably be the case when religious persecution reaches a zenith in this country. Before that? Not as long as Monster Materialism and the pervasive suspicion of others keep a stranglehold on us. No matter how loudly an individual protests that they are not materialistic, each one of us has limits as to what we are willing to live without. The limits simply vary from person to person.
I’d probably not read the books you suggest only because I jealously guard my reading time. And the to-read list is quite long. I appreciate you having taken the time, though.
In a word- yes it makes sense. However I think that there are enough thoughtful people raising these important issues while still not proposing extreme solutions. Unfortunately, many of them do not get beyond the blogs to the popular Christian bookstores. I see a rather straightforward solutions to this problem. Let me explain. I know from reading this blog that you are a writer and that you are working and have worked primarily in the genre of fiction. My question to you is why fiction? You have thought of many of these same problems that Frazee addresses but you come to different and, shall we say, more practical conclusions. Why don’t you write on these topics instead? I know that the deck may be stacked against success but how is that different than the problems you face with the fiction you write? Christians are being herded around like sheep by every bright idea some seminary grad can shape into a book. Is it not time for gifted writers and thoughtful Christians to bring much needed wisdom and balance to the debate? Do you think you need credentials? One word sir- baloney. The truth and the wisdom resides in the words and the ideas on the page not what is on your resume. Your blog has won you a following but it is read by a relative handful of Christian adherents. Your book could bring the light to the Church much more readily and certainly faster. Do you not often wonder to what end you and your family endure all these circumstances and hardships? Some are trained in seminaries, others on the front lines. I urge you to consider whether the Holy Spirit is teaching you lessons for the wayfarers. The comments that I read on your posts indicate that many are hurting and struggling with a fellowship that is deaf and blind.In the real world you are the image and the wisdom of God. It is a heavy burden- it is a cross to bear. Maybe it is yours.
I second your plea to Dan
Same question: why do you engage in fiction? Perhaps it is an strategy to make yourself known among the publishers and then you’d surprise us with a compilation of your posts regarding this issues. God has blessed you with such intellect. It is a gift man! use it to minister to us who are sick of hearing PDL & Assoc. ‘s receipes.
As Pilgrim noted, you recommend those books but are able to see flaws in their application. Which is not bad at all, you are applying discernment. And we thank you for sharing with us…In a nutshell: Perhaps you have to speak like Francis Schaeffer did. “How shall then we live?”
Hey, Dan. I recommend Rod Dreher’s new book, entitled “Crunchy Cons”.
It’s a pretty quick read and interesting, although Rod missed his luck by not interviewing you for inclusion in his book.
I showed my wife Rod’s “Crunchy Con Manifesto”. She found out that she’s been a Crunchy Con all these years and didn’t even know it.
I agree that there are people who are trying to bring in every dime they can so they can have timeshares in FL and a TV in every room. On the other hand, I know just as many people who are cut back to the bone and there’s no more fat to cut.
A lot of humility and lack of “this is mine” goes into cooperative living. I think that’s where we need to start looking, but we’ll have to leave a lot of ourselves behind at the foot of the cross!
You might find this interesting…
For me to write nonfiction in the Christian market, I must be:
1. A nationally recognized pastor.
2. A nationally recognized teacher.
3. A name in the Emerging Church.
4. A PhD.
5. A Christian celebrity.
6. Possibly all of the above.
For me to write for the fiction market, I must be:
1. A good writer.
See the difference? Here’s how it’s even better: I can put the same ideas I want to espouse in a nonfiction title in my fiction title!
Fiction affords me any platform I want. Studies have even shown that a platform in a narrative (fiction) is better retained than as just straight facts (nonfiction.)
Lastly, all the growth in the Christian book market last year was primarily in fiction.
Now factor all those realities together. That will tell you why I’m not in nonfiction right now.
While I do try to tackle topics not always discussed in Christian circles, publishers need a name. There has been one guy, Real Live Preacher, who was able to assemble his blog into a book, but the novelty of that has already worn off. I’m still a nobody in the eyes of publishers. Sadly, you do have to have some kind of credentials you can provide in order to get a nonfiction title published today. The Christian book market is like a Dickens novel: It is the best of times; it is the worst of times.
A few Christian novelists have won enough audience to convince their publishers to let them take a shot at nonfiction. Still, it’s all about credentials. I had an award-winning Christian nonfiction author tell my I should turn my business series from last summer into a nonfiction title. If I do go nonfiction some day, that will be where I start.
Thanks for having confidence in my writing.
The day I heard that the Crunchy Cons book was published, I put a hold in for it at my library. The book is so hot they can’t get it. That’s the first time that’s ever happened.
I had always teetered that way, but having seen what I saw in California, I recognized the tsunami and knew I had to do something or get crushed by what is heading our way. Not sure if I can outrun it, but I’m going to try. Being Crunchy is the first step in that direction!
not to mention you can always look at a certain popular non-chrisitian fiction book (with it’s movie coming out soon)..
something about a Code. And a painter?
A lot os people have read that and seem to have taken it’s ideas to heart (not particularly a good idea).
Perhaps Dan’s writing might have the same kind of effect.
A good piece of writing. Just a short thought. Years ago my Dad, a Pastor, sent me a short letter encouraging me never to trust in any “pat” answers. It was wisdom. Every Christians walk will be uniquely their own, and corporate Bodies are only able to address individual matters in general. So it is not the corporate Body that will ever have the answers we need, but only a deep interpersonally relationship with Jesus alone. We can give mercy to our church systems, for they will always be outdated. It is only the individual in their own situation that can know. By the time that information becomes generally known, the people are in a new situation. I think this is as God intended. He never wants any Body, local or otherwise, to have my answers. Only Him.
Hope this hasn’t been “pat.” I just have found it to be true, and most of my life experiences have been outside the range of the local Body to help. I love my local church, but do not expect from them what is impossible in Spirit for them to do. When I was younger, I did not give much mercy in this area. But I see God’s wisdom now. He is really a wonderful friend, and if He lets me walk in darkness for awhile, He will eventually bring light, and then I can truly see. Everything else is just hole-plugging for a short while. He is the only answer, everytime.
Blessing you for your thoughtful comments.
Based on some Christian fiction I have attempted to read, you don’t have to be a good writer to get published.
On the positive side, you skills should move you to the front of the pack.
I read this quote in today’s issue of The Richmond Times-Dispatch on page C10 of the business section:
“People such as Knechtly, who at 47 has spent half his life putting in 55-hour workweeks as a sales and marketing executive.
“He was used to the 50 or 60 office e-mails that were the first thing to greet him after the receptionist, the 20 or so phone calls that absolutely required his response, the 30 people who would run in and out of his office throughout the day.
“‘It’s a lot of long hours,’ he said. ‘I don’t think anybody signs up to work 55 or 60 hours a week. Things suffer. You don’t get to know your neighbors very well. You don’t know your town very well. You get to a point where you’re not having fun at work anymore.'”
On the other hand, I know just as many people who are cut back to the bone and there’s no more fat to cut.
Dan, I know plenty of those people too. I also know that most all of them could always get a smaller house or make other major cuts they are unwilling to make. I can’t say as I blame them, as I’d have the same trouble. However sometimes some of that meat we don’t want to part with turns out to be fat just the same.
There’s always a balance. I think the Church needs to up our part of the balance. We’re the Body of Christ on Earth because it’s through us these things are supposed to get done. Can God feed the widows and orphans by supernatural means that doesn’t include the Church? Yes. Does He choose to do it that way? Not usually. He wants us to do it.
I know so many people like Knechtly. Everything he said is true.
I’ve had excellent writers say good things about my fiction, both in the Christian and secular markets.
You’re right. But I don’t think most people know what to do with diminishing income. You buy a smaller house and then three years later you can’t afford that one, either. I know a lot of people who budgeted exactly right and did everything smart, but then they started getting laid off, then are offered worse-paying jobs (or else their employers cut back their pay because of business setbacks), and on and on. Then what?
It’s a downward spiral. You can’t plan for that or budget for it. Everything in our society is geared for increasing your pay every year, not the opposite. People don’t know what to do when that’s not the way it is. You get a job, anticipate rising in the company, but then the doors come off for a million different business reasons.
Again, how do you plan? Your company has always had everyone work 40 hours plus 10 overtime. Then they announce that they will no longer be giving people overtime. That hurts. Then they cut back your regular hours, too, sometimes below what is needed to maintain health benefits. How much buffer do you have built-in? And what do you do when you not only lose the buffer, but fall below the buffer PLUS what the buffer originally was? Welcome to Hurtsville, population You.
Whatever happened to Acts 2:44-45?
Dan, thanks for an excellent post. You are so right about the disconnects and the need for Christian change agents. I live in the Washington, DC area, and we are blessed with some godly Christian leaders and some solid Bible-preaching churches. In spite of that, I don’t see the church making much of an impact in the national seat of government.
I can’t speak for California, but in the county where I live and work, the housing prices have gone out of sight and the real estate taxes have doubled in the last five years. In addition, the Virginia state government appears poised to enact its second massive tax increase in two years, and the spendthrift streak is bipartisan. Also, on Thursday the gas station up the street from where I live raised the price of regular 10 cents a gallon to $2.65. Illegal immigration is also having a significant imapct around here. The local economy is currently considered strong, but it’s not going to stay that way if these trends keep up.
I often complain to myself and to the Lord that all I need is a cool million conservatively invested at five percent (or even three or four percent) so I could “retire” and live reasonably well on thirty to fifty thousand a year so I can attend to more spiritual matters.
But then I realize, no matter how quiet I try to keep my financial worth, once word gets out that the guy who does not work at church is worth a million dollars, I will be asked for loans, gifts, cosignings, investment capital, and all other many of financial backing that would cut into the principal; and tensions could mount if I explain that I cannot lend or give the money that bears the interest that constitutes my yearly income; thus, I could become persona non grata, miser and gentleman farmer who will not condescend to men of low degree. Alas…
You want radical solutions? Try this.
An Almighty God knows each and every situation you have mentioned better than you do. And ask yourself if you truly believe that nothing happens to a child of God by chance. If you truly believe that, then looking to the church for radical answers is the wrong place to be looking. Are you saying that God does not know how to use each and every situation for the good of those that love Him and are called according to His purpases?
Look at the early church, and how they formed a widows table, and they also pooled all their money together. But they still ended up needing more, as Paul was collecting for them on his missionary journeys. And then, the Lord allowed the christians to be scattered. The effect of that was to spread His gospel. All this oppression is nothing new in history. It has all happened before.
From your Blog, it seems as though you seem to look at all this tough oppression as a problem. Yes it’s a problem for us, but I assure you that God sees it as an opportunity.
It remains for us as christians to allow the suffering to draw us closer to relying on God, rather than our own machinations. That is the radical solution…to draw close to reliance upon God, seeing how you have no other choice, unless you want to pull away from Him.
Each tough situation, is a test, to draw out our faith, to cause us to desparately pray, to be broken over the sin in our lives, to repent, and be renewed in our faith. It is high time we began to seriously pray about our jobs, our lives, and everything we may affect. It is high time we begin to view the jobs the Lord has provided for us as our ministries. Not just our neighborhood.
Compare yourselves to Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abed-nego. Now those guys changed the world around them with God’s help. America should be a piece of cake for God.
Dan, check out today’s Blondie comic.
Acts 2:44-45 is a great goal, but society in this country chokes at the thought. Something about being burned too many times.
I heard this morning about a couple who are being evicted from their home. Husband and wife both work full-time. Teenage daughter has had some medical issues and a lot of expense. I won’t get to talk to any of their family until tomorrow, so I don’t know any more than that, but as it was presented to me that couple burns through money as fast as it comes in, yet their bills remain unpaid.
I hope to set them up with someone to do some financial counseling, but I cannot see any one family or any one congregation being able to meet all their needs. Nor do I know what to do if much of the problem is of their own making. Does it help to give them more money to spend on unnecessary purchases? Will making a mortgage payment or two teach them anything about financial responsibility? All tough questions.
I can’t get over Dagwood having a flat panel LCD monitor on his desk!
There are two schools of thought on this. One says “leave it all to God” and the other says “leave it all to the Church.” Both carry portions of the truth.
The problem for the “leave it all to God” side is that we’re called the Body of Christ for a reason.
The problem for the “leave it all to the Church” side is that “without Him we can do nothing.”
Once again, the reality is somewhere in the middle. God intends the Church to do His will. He has chosen to work through the Church. If we throw it all back on Him, then we are being disobedient.
I don’t have to pray about anything God tells me to do. If I see a need, He’s already told me to fill it. But the Church, especially in America, has fallen into this weird groove of endlessly discussing things, but never doing them. Or a situation turns into a “Somebody Else’s Problem” problem and nothing gets done. Too often there’s a kind of “sovereignty fatalism” that says that “God’s gonna do what God’s gonna do whether I do what He commands or not.” Frankly, I think that’s one of the most devilish excuses Christians use to sit back and justify their not doing anything.
I wish we would err on the side of just doing it than on the other.
I never watch Oprah. I hardly watch any TV at all, perhaps an hour a week, if that. But I turned on the TV to record something, only to see an ad for Oprah telling that she was going to have experts on who would reveal how to trim “secret” fat from one’s finances. So I wound up taping that show.
I was stunned. She had on two couples and two experts who helped them trim. This is what they cut out:
1. A TV in every room with cable for each TV.
2. Furniture bought on loans or from rental stores.
3. Fast food for every meal.
4. Weekly manicures and pedicures.
5. A dozen different kinds of extra-curricular activities for the kids that cost money.
6. Three car payments in a household with only two drivers.
7. And on and on.
I watched this and had to ask myself what planet those people live on. Honestly, and I’m just going to say this, What special kind of moron do you have to be to not see all this as a huge waste of money? Here I am trying to figure out how to maximize all the coupons I clip for groceries while these dingbats are paying $400 a month in cable TV bills! Frankly, those people should be in jail if they’re $250,000 in debt (not counting their home)and can’t pay their bills. I walked away from that show with not one idea that was helpful to my family because we’re just not that stupid!
Have you heard about the debacle in Cincinnati concerning the Freedom Center (Underground Railroad Museum)? It was opened to national fanfare and was feted by every black celebrity known to man, but eighteen months later and it’s $2.5 million in the red! What the…? How do you forecast so badly and mishandled funds to stupendously that you lost $140,000 a month? Oprah was here then. She could probably singlehandedly keep it afloat off the interest from her billions. How silly, though!
Don’t even get me going on government waste!
I was thinking more about what you wrote and a story came to mind. It’s graphic, but it says something that is in keeping with my post.
A minister I once knew told me of another pastor who was a friend of his. This younger pastor had a newer couple in his church who left home to tend to the woman’s ailing parents for the weekend.
While the parents were gone, their nineteen year old son decided to blow his head off with a shotgun in the living room of their house. This news got back to the pastor. After clearing it with police, this pastor went over to the family’s house and cleaned the blood and brain matter off the walls, floors, and furniture. By the time he was done, it was hard to tell what had occurred there hours before.
He didn’t have to do that, did he? In the midst of this family’s tragedy, his service mitigated the pain so that the parents of this poor young man did not have to walk into their house and find pieces of their son adhered to the wall.
That pastor didn’t allow the disconnect between how low service can be and the words of Christ’s love he had spoken to that couple in his church. He could have done nothing. He could have let them see the results of the horror. Would that have benefitted this couple spiritually if they had come home to the mess?
Yes, all things work together for good for those who are in Christ Jesus. But it’s work. And sometimes human beings chosen by God are called to make that work happen. Just like this pastor was.
Amen to that Dan ï¿½ that is, Christian charity is real work. I have many many many painful situations in my life. And every last one of them, is the evidence of Godï¿½s incredible mercy in my life in spite of my sinfulness. Suffering does many things for us. It forces us to ask God, why He is not answering our prayers, even though He promised, ï¿½seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be openedï¿½ï¿½. He knows how to give good gifts to His children.
I tell you it is tough for America to come to brokenness. America says ï¿½why do I need to desperately pray, when I have my job, and my car, and my health insurance?ï¿½. America is not relying upon God. It is because their lifestyles do not agree with Godï¿½s wishes. They are too busy being politically correct. Too busy accepting the status quo of complacency. Too busy being choked with the cares of this world.
I am just as guilty of this as the next American. But no more do I want to continue to be like that. I want God to do whatever is necessary in my life to bring me into His will, to put my focus directly on the Lord Jesus Christ. Because when He returns, will He find faith on the earth?
What do you want to see more, Christians able to make a decent wage, or Christians on their knees before the Lord in brokenness and repentance. What do you think the Lord wants more? What do you think He wants to find when He returns? What is actually better?
Yes I believe we should help one another ï¿½ I want to help my brother ï¿½ but even more important we must pray to try to see what the Lordï¿½s will is in any painful situation. That is not turning your head away. Just having been through an incredibly painful situation, I want to share with you this thought. —— In prayer and intercession, you put the person or the circumstance that impinges on you before God, until you are moved by Godï¿½s attitude towards that person or circumstance. Itï¿½s easy to become overtaken with sympathy in any painful situation. But I say that you donï¿½t just go and make the 1st logical assumption in an effort to relieve the pain, because your ways are not necessarily Godï¿½s ways.
By the way, I am not saying the same thing as Jobï¿½s comforters (i.e. that it is because of personal sin). Because in any painful situation, God may want to use it to reach others besides just the person who is in the situation. Thatï¿½s what He did with Job. Remember, he allowed Satan to take the lives of Jobï¿½s children. What a tragedy. Job was forced to ask God ï¿½why me?ï¿½.
I know this kind of talk is unsettling, but brother, it is high time we Americans turned to God in brokenness, and start asking Him why these things are happening to us. If we desperately pray as Job did, the answers will come and we will find that we have a newly revived vision of Godï¿½s will for our lives. Thatï¿½s the radical solution He promised.
Thank you. I’m not headed for the pulpit, but I needed that.