So Why Does It Matter?

This week, we’ve looked at the problem of the frantic, overscheduled, overworked lives we Americans face (“When the Truth Strikes Out” and “It’s Never Enough Until Your Heart Stops Beating“). I’ve blogged on this issue many times in the past (see the end of this post for related posts), but I don’t see it getting any better. If anything, the Church and parachurch organizations act as if nothing has changed. Yet we now…

…spend more time away from home performing our jobs.

…spend record amounts of time commuting or shuttling our kids here and there.

…have more time-pressed, dual-income families than ever before.

…work harder for less money, often necessitating multiple jobs.

…have no time for social groups that help maintain the fabric of our society.

…feel more guilty than ever that we can’t mirror the perfect family that well-meaning Christians tell us we must be.

Why should any of this matter, though? Why should Christians address the underlying causes for these problems?

As someone keenly aware of the state of disciplemaking in this country, I believe it matters because all these things work to undermine the Great Commission. Dude, it's like moving! Whoa!I believe these trends and changes in our society actively work against the Gospel.

I don’t know how far we must sink before Christian leaders in America wake up to the fact that most of their charges are one exhale away from spiritual death. Our collective hypnosis must end.

With so many distractions and so much rushing to and fro, how can any of us expect to develop a truly deep walk with Christ? When dad spends twelve hours a day away from home, how can he be expected to be a true spiritual leader in his home? By the time he eats dinner and tosses a ball with Junior for fifteen minutes, the day’s over. The weekend consists of doing all the things that didn’t get done during the weeknights. Sometimes prayer goes out the window. Bible study? Forget about it. Developing a rich community of faith with others? How? Who has the time?

Folks, these are serious problems that strike at the very health and mission of Christ’s Church in this country. Yes, many of them are of our own making from long past, but now they’re entrenched in our culture, and like ticks embedded in the skin, they’re not easy to remove without an infection resulting.

Jan at The View From Her asked why Christians are demanding more and more Christian movies and TV shows. Isn’t it all just preaching to the choir?

That question fits here because I feel that our discipleship in this country is so poor we’re failing to create disciples who can stand on their own two spiritual feet. They need constant propping up in order to walk the path of Christ. So instead of developing an inner life filled with the Spirit, they surround themselves with pleasant Christian messages they believe will strengthen them.

Unfortunately, that misguided belief resembles going into battle clad in pillows rather than armor. Yet in a frenzied environment packed to the gills with this activity and that, we flop to the couch with nothing left and turn on our sweet little Christian movie before we doze off.

Folks, it ain’t workin’.

The American Church won’t shake the censers of heaven with our prayers if we toss off prayer between bites of doughnut and sips of coffee listening to Christian radio during morning rush hour. We’re not going to build strong communities if we pull in from work at 7 PM, change clothes, and wolf down dinner, only to realize it’s 8 PM already and we missed yet another church-related event. Delusional people think they can pull that off.

Perhaps that’s our problem: we’ve lost touch with reality. Or perhaps we’ve got too much reality and have lost touch with the Lord, instead. Either way, we’re in trouble if we blithely soldier on without question.

Call your pastor up some night and ask him about this. Ask him what he thinks all this bustle and overwork might be doing to his flock. Then ask why it is that no one questions it all.

If all of us do this, then some outside chance exists that some leaders will start thinking beyond the rathole issues that distract us from true discipleship. Perhaps then we’ll see important Christian voices confronting these problems.

Previous posts on these issues:

by Dan Edelen

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29 Comments

  1. Posted May 3, 2007 at 2:02 am | Permalink

    To quote you (because I mess this up) “I feel that our discipleship in this country is so poor we’re failing to create disciples who can stand on their own two spiritual feet.” Yep. Definitely.

    And dare to stand on your own in some churches and think on your own and you will get smacked down like a junior high boxer. Ask me about the labels I’ve had placed on me lately.

    I remember a former acquaintance of mine saying “HA! Welcome to Ministry” when I was called a Jezebel the first time. Geesh.

    I’ve given up on “church” anymore and just want to live in the Kingdom.

    • Posted May 3, 2007 at 11:23 am | Permalink

      Ronni,

      Even though I’m somewhat of a contrarian, I’ve never had much of a problem finding fellowship, so I don’t understand why it comes so hard for you.

      I guess if I were you I’d ask what it might be that puts me on the outside looking in. I think sometimes we so want to be seen as countercultural that we wind up in a fellowship of one. I’ve seen that quite often, but it’s a mistake to wear that as a badge of honor.

      Somwhere, there’s got to be a fit. It might take some soul-searching, but that fit is out there.

      • Posted May 3, 2007 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

        Dan, I fit great until the last year… lol. I’ve been in churches for up to 12 years at one point… so its not a matter of a fit. Heck I’m just finding that some churches are “believe our way or go away”… even when you agree with 99.999% of what they do. It’s sad.

        • francisco
          Posted May 3, 2007 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

          Ronni,
          Are you in pursuit of the perfect church?

    • eliyah
      Posted May 3, 2007 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

      Ronnie,

      Jesus was asked about “Why do the scriptures teach that first Elijah must come?” ….His answer “To restore all things”. The word RESTORE has two root meanings…..to separate the part from the whole…and to bring back to its former state.

      This is what is happening right now in the body of Christ. Many are sensing a HOLY DISSATISFACTION with the ‘church system’ and this is a divine work wrought by the Holy Spirit. The man-made church system is against our Father. It is the harlot that seduces the flock away from the pure love of our Lord….with all its programs, doctrines, denominations, ect.

      Consider yourself in excellent company that you are seen as one on the ‘outside looking in’ for our Lord was also an outsider….He even was crucified outside the camp. We are called to walk as He walked. As far as fellowship is concerned, ask our brothers & sisters in North Korea or China if they are in ‘sin’ because they have no other fellowship with other believers since they are the only ones….wherever 2 or more are gathered…..who do you think makes up the 2 in their situations?? Answer…..Jesus and them!

      Check out the second chp. of Revelation….and what Christ has to say about the Nicolatians. The Nicolatian spirit is rampant in the church system today….example….”You need to be under the covering of the pastor”, “you need to submit to your pastor and the elders ” ‘you need to , you need to do”….blah blah blah…… OH REALLY??!! I thought we had ONLY ONE HEAD and that is JESUS CHRIST/ YESHUA ?? I thought we all have the annointing of the Holy Spirit and are in no need for anyone to teach us???

      Shalom
      eliyah

  2. Posted May 3, 2007 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    I think part of the “problem” is that husbands and wives historically are overworked and underpaid. My English professor has told us so many stories in class…about how one (white) relative was sold into all-but-name slavery, how her family starved “back in the day” when the breadwinner was laid off after an on-the-work injury, how twelve people lived in a little shack, etc. You would not be able to tell from meeting her that she had had so many experiences that seem to be out of Upton Sinclair and Charles Dickens novels.

    We are living through some historical anomalies: the forty-hour work week with overtime pay for hourly workers; child labor laws; workers’ compensation; unemployment insurance; stability of banking systems and stock markets; cheap food, cheap energy, cheap transportation, cheap everything (when looked at individually and in America).

    Trying to eke out a hardscrabble living is the norm for most of the world and throughout most of history. What can be done about it now? What are the solutions? I think the only solutions available are those most people do not want to implement. We must live with less if we want to have more and better relationships with each other. (What I have observed, though, is that even if one downsizes, living frugally and cutting out frivolous wastes of time, so many other people are not willing to do that. So one is left alone on a livable budget, lots of time, and nothing to do. Everyone else is too busy to do anything.) If we cannot make do in this historical time of plenty (even if prices are rising), then what will become of us when truly hard times hit? And those times will come.

    The solutions remain mostly the same…and are ignored mostly the same as well.

    • Posted May 3, 2007 at 11:33 am | Permalink

      Michael,

      You’re right about everything you said. However, we’re at a place in history when we’re losing, not gaining. Americans work the longest hours by far in the industrialized world and that disparity is growing. Our sprawling nation makes for extended travel times that are growing longer. We’re losing overtime pay, with laws being written to strip overtime pay out (to favor employers asking for more hours). Cheap food and energy are becoming things of the past. My family pays about 40% more for food and energy than we did even two years ago. Our incomes are not matching these inflated prices. Almost everyone I know makes less money in real dollars than they did just a few years ago. This explains why we know almost no families who are single-income anymore when that was once the norm.

      Several things work against Americans dealing with these realities. (See my response to Samuel Mbugua below). This only compounds the problems. Our switch to a global economy means our children will not have what we had, even as we do not have what our parents have. We’re not used to falling backward, are we?

      While some may say this sounds like sour grapes, if our means of dealing with these realities cannot help us overcome them, then we’re in a truly perilous time. I think we’re there, but we’re unwilling to face it. That kind of societal blindness has never been a trait of Americans. That it is now should bother us and make us work to find answers. We would, except we’re too busy to think and talk.

      • Posted May 3, 2007 at 11:46 am | Permalink

        I don’t know. My parents didn’t have a car until their 2nd year of marriage. They lived in a rat-hole of an apartment on my Dad’s salary as a teacher. It took them years to be able to afford a home, and they live on pensions and Social Security because there were no investment options when they were working.

        When I went to work, I made a bit more than minimum wage, but was able to buy a used car, rent a nice apartment by myself, and invest in 401(k)s and prepare for a retirement I couldn’t imagine (I didn’t, but I could have). A global economy might slow us down in the short run, but I don’t believe in the idea that if one person wins, someone else must lose. It’s defeatist, and elementarily wrong.

        • Posted May 3, 2007 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

          David,

          My parents had more than I do or any of my brothers. My dad was the last of a generation to have a job for life. He didn’t have to worry about downsizing (though that eventually did get him as times changed), nor moving his family all over the country every few years to chase jobs. His healthcare dollars paid 100% of our care. He had more free time, too.

          Despite that, I didn’t grow up as a child of privilege. There were many things we didn’t have or had to forgo. Still, every study today shows that we have less in real dollars (far less, in fact) than our parents did. Fewer of us will be able to afford a home because of the growing disparity in incomes we have in this country. The blow-up in the mortgage industry that just happened highlights this truth. Houses are growing in prices out of reach of people looking for a fixed-rate, 30-year mortgage. When my parents bought their house in 1972 (which was built for my folks and not simply an existing home they purchased), it cost what my Dad made for his yearly salary! You simply can’t say that about homes and salaries today, even if both couples work. Now factor in the assault on the middle class, and we’re in worse shape in general than our parents—by far.

          I also know for a fact that we’re in much more dire shape relationally than our parents. My parents entertained others in our home growing up ten times more than we do, and we’re considered pretty open about entertaining to some of the folks we know. In fact, most of the neighbors I knew growing up entertained more. Today, everyone lives in his or her own little island and the emphasis on having an open home is simply not there anymore. How can it be when people are so busy? Try getting five couples with kids together for an evening! My parents used to do that with no problems. It might take us an entire year to do that today. You start making getting together that difficult and our society loses its coherence. And that’s truly dire.

    • Heather
      Posted May 3, 2007 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

      Michael,

      So true about what happens when we make the hard choices and go counter-cultural in finances or how we spend our time. On an extremely tight budget? The things that will bust it are the expectations of your church and friends (and family, sometimes, too). You know, “kids, you’re only going to need $80 this weekend for the youth outing”, or “come on over for small group — only $20 for your books and bring some food each week”. Why is it so hard to THINK ahead and meet people where they are? I firmly believe these “solutions” we’re talking about are local, local, local. Solutions between husband and wife, between believer friends, between elders and their congregation.

      Heather

  3. Samuel Mbugua
    Posted May 3, 2007 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    I am wondering, how is it that in America, one has no time? When I was recently transiting through Taiwan on my way to America, the news reporters were discussing a labor union attempt to reduce the work week to 68 hours. In my own country, the working wage is based on a days work, which can be 12 to 16 hours, depending on the boss. An hourly wage is not available. When I was growing up, the women of my village spent hours every day simply washing clothes and preparing food. But they did all these things together, and not as individuals, and I wonder if this is a part of your problem in America. All the things you do, you do alone. You drive to work alone, you work alone, you even entertain yourselves alone in a dark theatre or living room. All this time wasted that could be spent in community! I do not believe that all the issues Americans deal with have to do with money. It is obvious to the world that you have more money than you know what to do with. But your culture is so introverted and self-centred, it is not an amazing thing you can not find time for others. And it is time with others that defines the Christian experience.

    • Posted May 3, 2007 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      I lived in lived rural Thailand for several years, and was amazed at how life slows to a crawl when TV, ready transportation, and fast food are simply not available. Your writing about how your village did things communally reminded me that I used wash my own clothes over a basin, usually with friends from the community. But it took me a good 6 months to slow down. During those 6 months I was restless, irritable, and bored out of my skull.

      I can’t see, though, how someone can live in this culture without it being a localized group effort. It’s not possible to attempt to live a communal existance without community. And to me, that is what we lack more than anything else.

      • Posted May 3, 2007 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

        David,

        Local economies spur community. We no longer have local economies in this country and that’s 90% of the problem. And yes, it takes a community to realize that they lack real community! A Catch-22, isn’t it? But if the Church here can’t do it, then I suspect no one can. That’s why we must be counterculture.

    • Posted May 3, 2007 at 11:55 am | Permalink

      Samuel,

      A few thoughts:

      1. Because America is a relatively new country founded in a continent that was largely uninhabited even four hundred years ago, everything here is spread out. That spread changes almost every social dynamic that exists in a culture. Older nations that developed in ancient times, did so along lines that better allowed for the mutual sharing of stress within a community than what we have in the United States. Folks not acquainted with the United States simply don’t understand this dynamic, nor how it pairs with the rise of industrialization. The United States grew up as a country to be one of the few nations on that experienced its greatest growth during industrialization. That changes everything. Folks from outside this country who come here immediately note that these forces have shaped our country in radically different ways than the rest of the world. When we compare the United States to other nations, we must find ways to compare like to like. That’s much harder to do than some realize.

      2. Yes, we do not have the community social values that most less developed countries possess. Because our country did not develop along the lines of a village mentality, but a pioneer one, we do not have in place the social structures that mitigate stress. This affects every aspect of how we live. It makes it extremely difficult for us to undo our history, but we may have to in order to survive as a nation into the next two hundred years.

      3. Folks in the United States work more hours than any other industrialized nation. Every study shows this.. While it is true that we do not work here seven days a week, fifteen hours a day like they are doing in China now, the newly industrialized Chinese will not bear that forever. To compare a bad situation with a worse one does not address the fundamental issue.

      4. The types of work we do in the United States are not typically the kinds of communal work that builds relationships. In fact. much of the work we do in the US works against relationship. Countries that will one day be doing the kind of work we do here are going to have a hard time when they see their traditional ways go out the window. Globalization ensures that will be the case, too. We have a competitive work environment that tends to pit people against each other, not with each other. We have an antagonistic employee/employer factor that did not exist even 30 years ago. This means everyone is out for himself or herself. Undoing that will be exceptionally hard.

      5. Because the United States, unlike much of the rest of the world (though this will change for the worse elsewhere), has abandoned local and regional economies, we have created a situation where it does not matter if one person in a community suffers. Our attitude of bootstrapping encourages this. In the rest of the world, too much disparity in wealth and “happiness” within a community causes unrest and a seeking of restitution to make that disparity less damaging. I was just reading how African tribal chieftans hold open courts to address these grievances in their tribes. That system does not work the same way here. Here, we tend to live at someone else’s expense. Because we do not see ourselves as a community, it doesn’t matter if we setup systems that encourage disparities. As a result, we’ve trashed the local and regional economies that ensured that others didn’t fall too far behind (because a local economy isn’t healthy if too much disparity exists). Folks from outside this country don’t understand that truth about us. Again, that changes the playing field. We must compare like with like.

      • Samuel Mbugua
        Posted May 4, 2007 at 8:37 am | Permalink

        How truthful Christ was when He encouraged not to worry about economies and how we were to live from day to day. To me, you sound as though all these changes must take place, and then we can be good Christians. I think the order of activity is in error. How can we focus on God and our relationship with one another, if we are spending all our time telling one another how to overcome the problems of our wallets! All the things we do, whether work or commuting to it, should be an act of worship. In this way, there is no divide between the time I spend with God, and the time I spend in the world. I do not see many differences between believers in my country of Kenya, and yours. We are all lured away from our faith by the troubles of this world. When Jesus spoke the parable of the sower, He described the word of God that fell among the thorns: “And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.” I think this describes perfectly the issue which you write about. While in my country, the seed might be more accurately decribed as falling amongst rocks, there is no root, and when cultural forces come against the Gospel, believers fall away. Kenya and nations like it are facing the industrial revolution in a period of a generation, rather than the gradual change the western nations faced more than a century ago. What you call pioneer life is merely the start of a village. A pioneer is only so until he settles. It is not a permanent way of life. but for many of the people in Kenya, and indeed much of Africa, nomadic life is that of a permanent pioneer, never settled and constantly moving. In what way am I, a Kikuyu farmer, able to relate to a nomadic Masaai herdsman? Only “Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”

        • Posted May 4, 2007 at 11:17 am | Permalink

          Samuel,

          You wrote:

          How can we focus on God and our relationship with one another, if we are spending all our time telling one another how to overcome the problems of our wallets!

          That’s my fundamental point.

          Radical changes to the underlying social and cultural fabric in the United States ARE having the effect you describe. And it’s not just our wallets. All these economic changes are having profound effects on every aspect of our lives, changing family structures, and changing how we do church.

          If I start a job that works eight hours a day, then cuts come at my company and now I must work eleven hours a day, then I must commute for another half hour or more, when I get home at 7:45 at night, how am I to get to my ministry group at my church at 6:30? I can’t. How do I spend time with my kids and be a good dad, a leader in my home, if I’m not in my home to be a dad and lead?

          God can send manna from heaven to feed the orphan and the widow. Instead, He created a Church to do that work. God’s answer to meeting the needs of the world is the Church. We address the problems. We meet the needs. We disciple. We evangelize. We feed the poor. We house the shelterless. If we do not do them, they do not get done.

          We in the Church must address these changes in our society that are hurting families. That’s why I raise these issues. They are real issues. We need Christians to start talking about them and seeking solutions. If we seek God, He will provide us with answers. But we’ll only seek him for those answers if we see the questions first.

        • eliyah
          Posted May 4, 2007 at 11:45 am | Permalink

          Samuel,

          The Spirit of Wisdom flows beautifully through you….blessings to you friend…

          Shalom,
          eliyah

    • eliyah
      Posted May 3, 2007 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

      Samuel,

      You make some wonderful and insightful points, and I thank you.

      I understand the points that Dan and others have made as well. This is multi-layered problem and yet I believe the solution is very CLEAR and SIMPLE.

      Samuel you concluded your post with “And it is time with others that defines the Christian experience”…this is where I respectfully disagree. As believers we have only ONE priority and that is to be CONFORMED into the image of Christ & to cooperate with all the processings of our Father so that we will be the INHERITANCE that He is worthy of.

      We have only ONE battle and that is to defeat the Adamic nature within, to behead the mind of Adam and put on the mind of Christ. To be crucified with Christ. Our Father is using all of the PRESSURE of our present day to BIRTH us into the glorious Kingdom Reign of Messiah. Instead of fighting this earthly realm and trying to change it …. surrender to the HIGH CALLING of God…of Sonship….and allow Him to have His way.

      Once this happens in the lives of the sons and daughters of our Father than all the other ‘stuff’ will get figured out.

      “Then the firstfruits, which we are, shall be holy, resulting in a world that shall become holy also. The principle of the kingdom of God is: †˜For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy’ (Rom. 11:16). Also, the kingdom of God †˜is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened’ (Mat. 13:33).

      “As the firstfruits of the kingdom of God, we are becoming holy. We are mixed into the lump of the world, and shall change the world even as we have been changed! Therefore, the entire lump, the whole world, shall become holy, just as we have been made holy, not by our own works of righteousness of which we might boast, but by the abundant and transforming grace of our God.” quote by Paul Mueller.

      Shalom,
      eliyah

  4. Becca
    Posted May 3, 2007 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    Thank you, thank you for your blog posts. I’m continually being challenged. Today’s post really hit me where I’ve been concerned, particularly for the young adults of the church. The older adults preach “be continually active in church” and the younger cry back “with what time?”

    I really believe that Satan uses busyness to keep us from true relationship with the Lord, thus weakening our effectiveness in all areas of life.

    I just wish I could get my computer to print the web page for my computer challenged friends.

    • Posted May 3, 2007 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

      Becca,

      I think real and unreal time constraints exist. We need to find ways to mitigate the impact of real time crunches and reduce (or eliminate altogether) the synthetic ones.

      When a power outage hit the neighborhood I grew up in, the beautiful June evening saw everyone come outside their homes and interact for hours. It was a joyous thing to behold. But when the power came back on, everyone ran to go back to their TVs, video games, DVDs, and computers. They fled to artificial time-wasters.

      We need to fix that kind of thinking.

      But the real time-wasters I wrote about do exist and they consume more and more of our time. We need to fix that, too. Our lack of community means that many of us must replicate certain functions to keep our islands running. If we were to rethink how we live in community, much of this duplication would fall away and free us for better things.

      But unless we find a way to combat our obsession with media and entertainment, I fear nothing will change because we won’t have the time to change it.

  5. Posted May 3, 2007 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Dan,

    “But unless we find a way to combat our obsession with media and entertainment, I fear nothing will change because we won’t have the time to change it.”

    A huge, McCovey Cove homerun! And I don’t have a clue as to how to we can solve it. Any ideas?

  6. Heather
    Posted May 3, 2007 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    Dan,

    Thanks for asking these questions and stirring the pot. I do believe, however, that the majority of local churches have bought into this culture of overwork/busyness in the past generation and are not helping solve the problem but — unintentionally or intentionally at times — contributing to it.

    You mentioned getting home late from another night of work and realizing that we missed another church activity, and we can’t build strong community that way. What if that dad or mom rushes home early and MAKES the activity? How many scenarios pop into your head in which community has been built that evening? It has been our experience that either:
    a) the believer then feels like they have “served the Lord” that week by attending to their church duties; or
    b) they see it as just another part of their busy life that changes nothing
    c) they are edified but at the expense of their family relationships or responsibilities

    The feeling I get from church leaders all over is that they feel the need or actually think it is right to compete with American culture for people, on culture’s terms. Hey! Instead of bowling night with the guys from work, come to Christian bowling night! (and by the way, it’s $8 per person, and could someone coordinate this with the bowling alley and make the calls to get people to come?). There is no room for real discipleship in this, and there is no time for discipleship on Sunday mornings anymore. We have to get off the merry go round (tilt-o-whirl?) sometime.

    Heather in Ohio

  7. Posted May 4, 2007 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    Dan, this may seem elementary, but are our needs not met through Christ? Are we not possessors of all things in Christ? Is God unable to give us the time, space, and provision we need? I have seen it in my life and the lives of my brothers and sisters in Christ. We can answer the question: “What would you do if you had a million dollars (or all the money in the world)?” We have more than a million dollars in Christ. We have more than all the money in the world. We have everything money can and cannot buy in Jesus Christ.

    This confession bothers me simply because it seems like I do not have everything I “need” at the moment. Then beyond what I need, what do I want? Am I wrong in wanting this or that? Do I want too much? Does God provide for my wants as well, and if not, will He take away those wants so I will not want what I want?

    At the foundational level, we have no political and economic solutions. We can identify problems until Jesus Christ returns, but the solution is the same: Jesus Christ. More of Him. He will provide the solutions to the political and economic (and social and cultural and psychological and environmental and artistic) problems. Outcomes of the solution will differ situation to situation, person to person, just as Jesus healed one person with a different method than He healed another person.

    I hesitate to say most of us need a step-by-step explanation of what to do to appropriate what we need and what we want (and what we need to do to alleviate the desire to want what we do not need and should not have). How do we seek first the kingdom of God? How do we seek first His righteousness? How? I know the canned answers: We “need” to pray more, read the Bible more, fellowship with other believers more, and witness more. But these are surface answers to me. If I seek first the kingdom of God, how do I pray? How do I read the Bible? How do I fellowship? How do I witness? If I must become as a little child, how do I do that?

    I see the obvious answer in the Word of God, the answer that answers anyone, here in America or in the poorest regions of the Earth. I want to know how to appropriate that answer, though. I do not want to waste more of my life toiling away at thankless and unfulfilling jobs for a pittance. I do not want to waste time praying if I am not answered. I do not want to read the Bible if I will not find the answer. I do not want to fellowship with people who do not know the answer. I do not want to witness to others if I do not know the answer.

    I want more than pie in the sky in the sweet by and by. I need less than a house with a yard, a wife, children, reliable cars, tasty food, stylish clothing, and a rewarding career. But I want that and more.

    • eliyah
      Posted May 4, 2007 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      Michael,

      I loved what you wrote…..beautiful, real, and raw….I heard the Spirit of Truth through you…..thank you.

      Shalom,
      eliyah

    • Posted May 4, 2007 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

      Michael,

      God meets some needs directly. Other times He uses the Church. I believe that the issues I raise are those the Church must confront.

      When a person needs healing, the Scriptures tell us to assemble elders. We need to assemble the elders on these issues.

      I know Christians who have lost their homes. They did not live profligate lives. Instead, when the time of trial came, their churches did not help them. I believe this angers the Lord. These are the kinds of needs He desires that we in the Church meet. When we do not meet them, we should not expect anyone else to jump in for us. We need to do the work. The first thing the Church did after Pentecost was to see that no one in the Church lacked. We must do the same.

      The Bible tells us that we don’t have to beseech God to know whether we should do something or not. As the indwelling Spirit guides and the Scriptures speak, we should know what to do. We’re not doing that in this country, though. We tend to overspiritualize basic needs. This makes us like the men who passed by the robbed man on the side of the road. We must instead be like the Samaritan who saw the need and met it.

      • Posted May 4, 2007 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

        I do not look at it as overspiritualizing basic needs. Asking the Church to come into agreement about anything is a spiritual matter. Pentecost was a deeply spiritual event. Then the sharing of all things followed.

        The second and third times in Acts in which the Church “had all things in common” (Acts 4:31 KJV) came after a beggar asked Peter and John for alms and was healed. This was followed by persecution, a powerful prayer meeting, an earthquake, the filling of the Holy Spirit, and the speaking of God’s Word. This also introduced Barnabas.

        The fourth time benevolence is mentioned involves Ananias and Sapphira. Their dissimulation resulted in supernatural death.

        The fifth time benevolence is brought up, the Hebrews and Grecians are throwing it down because of how their widows’ tables are being waited. So the apostles asked for deeply spiritual men to be set over the matter. This resulted in many chief priests coming to the faith, because they cared for the widows in the Temple. They likely knew already that Jesus Christ was and is the Messiah, but if the Church could not handle day-to-day feedings of widows, then why should they believe? This introduced us to Stephen, who was stoned before Saul.

        The sixth time benevolence is mentioned, the almsgiver Tabitha is raised from the dead.

        The seventh time alms is mentioned, Peter preaches to Cornelius, and Cornelius is saved with signs and wonders following.

        The eighth time benevolence is brought up, prophets come from Jerusalem to Antioch, prophesying about global famine. So Barnabas and Saul are appointed to send relief to the Church in Jerusalem, touching off the most famous missionary journeys of all.

        The only times almsgiving preoccurs the spiritual in Acts: when a beggar asks for alms and is healed; when a couple lie about their alms and die; when church politics get out of control (and to be sure, it was the distribution of food to the widows, not a lack of donated food, that irked the Church); when a woman is dead and is resurrected; and when an unsaved man comes to saving faith in Jesus Christ.

        So…I do not think I overspiritualize basic needs. Just having the Church dole out all things in common may help sustain revival and, lacking revival, may make for touching newspaper articles, but it will not lead to revival.

        • Posted May 4, 2007 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

          Michael,

          I don’t think we’re disagreeing here, only in in slightly different places as to degree.

          I do not share your belief that kindness and generosity do not lead to revival. It may not lead to a sweeping 3,000 person a day salvation kind of revival, but it does revive every single person touched by the benevolence. I can tell you name after name of people who came to Christ or were revived because the Church met their physical need. My old church based most of their ministry off that idea and it worked.

          But that’s not the point of my post. It’s not all vertical. One of the main reasons we have a vertical relationship with God is to have a horizontal relationship with others. The modern Evangelical mindset of “a personal Jesus” has corrupted our understanding of community and what it means to be the Body.

          Body health matters to the Body and to God. This blog exists to address that issue of Body health. I just returned from a small group meeting that had everyone nodding when we started asking if our busyness was interfering with our ability to be active and dedicated disciples. That’s what this post is about.

  8. Posted May 4, 2007 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    I think you have the idea, Michael. I would tend to go with what Dan wrote: “Or perhaps we’ve got too much reality and have lost touch with the Lord, instead.” Samuel makes a point with the parable of the sower, as well. We are surrounded by the thorns of our life, and we are paying too much attention to the thorns.

  9. Posted May 7, 2007 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Wasn’t there a great Abba song… Money, money, money….

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