So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.
Regular readers of Cerulean Sanctum know that I write pointed posts about the need for Christians to help each other, especially when it comes to finding a good job.
Tim Challies put out a call for a job for his brother, Andrew, who has a mild form of autism called Asperger’s Syndrome. Tim’s brother lives in the Chattanooga, TN, area and would like to find clerical or data entry positions. Details can be found at Challies.com.
I’ve never been one to understand the odd way we American Christians view the unemployed. I remember sharing with a group of men at a wealthy church my wife and I were visiting (with hopes of possibly joining) that I had lost my job and was looking for work. They stared me over for a few moments, then returned to chit-chatting, literally turning their backs on me as if I were no longer there. I will never forget that horrid sensation that I had suddenly become a non-entity to them.
Many people can tell these kinds of awful stories. In truth, those stories should never occur within the Body of Christ. When the Lord says that we are to love Him and love our neighbor as ourselves, there can be no truer love for a brother or sister in Christ than to help be their network when they are looking for a job.
After Pentecost, the first thing the nascent Church did was ensure that no one among them lacked for basic physical needs. As far as I see it, no need could be more basic than to have a decent job.
Which is why I’m continually perplexed at the American Church’s slighting of the unemployed. I’ve written many times here that we’re under this cursed bootstrapping nonsense that says that “God helps those who help themselves.” That’s the antithesis of the communion of saints, though.
If anything, the continued presence of the unemployed within our congregations is a damning statement about our inability to walk beside our brethren in their time of need. One brother (who recently did find work after nearly a year of searching) asked me for advice on his search. I advised him to ask the church leadership for permission to stand up before the congregation and discuss his need for work. He told me that if he asked for employment in front of his congregation, dozens of others would clamor to make the same request. To which I said, “So? Isn’t that supposed to be the way the Body functions?”
Well, isn’t it?
I’m concerned about the economic state of North America. Disparities between the rich and poor are growing, with the middle class sliding down the pay scale. I believe we’re on shaky ground, shakier as the subprime mortgage fiasco ripples out to touch all parts of our economy. Signs are there for another recession. I also believe we’re in a boom and bust cycle that will have longer busts and shorter booms as time goes on. You think the last recession was bad? Just wait.
If we’re not there for each other, working hard to meet the job needs of our fellow believers (especially those in our local congregations), aren’t we rejecting one of God’s major reasons for the Church to exist?
Honestly, I get really tired of witnessing the following:
If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?
Indeed, what good is that?
I get labeled as a dour guy sometimes. My problem as I see it is that I am hopeful that we’ll live up to our high calling. That we seem to have so little care to live up to that calling makes me sad. Yes, it’s a high calling, but it’s not an impossible one. Yet we act as if someone’s unemployment is as unmanageable as a tornado.
How big is your God? Mine’s pretty blasted enormous! And that universe-eclipsing Lord we serve is looking for people who believe He can rip up the mountains and toss them into the sea! A job? How hard is that to get?
Well, it may be very hard if no one cares to use the contacts and networks we’ve all built to guide someone to gainful employment. We can bury that network in the ground. We can say that we’re just too busy to get involved. But if that’s our attitude, then we shouldn’t be surprised when the Lord comes back and isn’t totally pleased with how we’ve managed the resources He gave us.
We all know we need to improve our community in our churches. Making sure we help people find work is one of the keys to that better community. Because if we in our plenty won’t actively labor to help those searching for jobs, who will help us when we’re the ones laid off?
20 thoughts on “Jobs, Networking, and the Church”
Interesting – I think there’s something of culture gap between what you describe and my experience here in the UK. I graduated from university in the summer, and I’m still looking for work. But my church has been very supportive – praying for me, telling me about promising jobs they’ve come across, giving advice and offering to give references and so on. I’m really thankful for that – it’s a tough time, but the support of church and friends helps me keep going.
I think it’s part of British culture generally being different, rather than any special effort on the part of the British church, though. The centre-ground of British politics is to the left of that of American politics, and we Brits seem to enjoy rooting for the underdog!
One of the things that made the USA great is the attitude that anything is possible if you work hard enough to see your dream to fruition. To that end, we became a society of bootstrappers and “self-made men.” Our society began to revolve around that idea until it became a defining concept of what it means to be an American.
Like any societal mythos, it has good and bad aspects. The good part put us on the moon in ten years time. The bad part crippled our ability to think like a community. Sadly, we tend to ignore the bad part.
Evangelicalism magnifies this concept by attributing failure to the individual rather than the community. A person does not have what he desires because he has somehow failed in his faith. This is the syncretism of the American Ideal with Christianity, and it is a diabolical lie that permeates large swaths of the Church in America. It has strong links to Protestantism that should never have been fostered in the first place, leading many conservative Protestants to believe that a person’s troubles are God-ordained and too bad for that person because obviously they did something wrong. Again, that’s a hellish lie that causes some Christians to develop hearts of stone when it comes to people in need.
You’re right in saying that the British still retain some modicum of community, even if British community suffers from class issues that are slightly less culturally pervasive in America. (Hey, no one culture is perfect, right?) I think that Britain still remembers the bombing runs of WWII, with Churchill still looming large over the British psyche, whether you Brits realize it or not. Here, 9/11 did that to some extent, but not in the way it solidified the British over the period of years. I think WWII had a strengthening effect on Britain’s idea that “we’re all in this together, and if one suffers we all do” in a way we Americans have yet to grasp.
At least that’s how I see it.
Your comment about how those folks who turned ther back on you….I wonder how many of them did things God’s way to get where they are in life and if its been a life layed down , then raised in power?
I have seen those reactions a fair amount in my own life and since I also tend to root for the underdog I think God does too. The others well…God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. Better to humble yourself or He is apt to do it for you. They don’t know it yet but many people who have lived charmed lives are apt to loose quite a bit when they start to follow Him..
I guess because I’m sensitive to the issue, people tell me a lot of their horror stories about work. That only compounds my resolve that we need to do something about the crazy way we think about work in America and the American Church. I’m tired of this issue being on so few Christians’ radar, considering how dominant work is in our lives.
I gotta say my experience here in Oz is similar to Caleb’s in the UK, as I write this my Aussie husband & our UK friend are disscussing the state of America right now….hmmm. Nationality aside, I always think about the story of the rich young ruler Jesus speaks to when I encounter attitudes like the ones you talk about. I also think there are many people in our churches who are going to get quite a shock on the day that Christ turns to them & says “away I never knew you”. I pray this man gets a job that goes beyond what he & his family could ever dream or expect for, all to God’s glory!
While I know that peopl are going to be shocked on Judgment Day, it is a shock I wish no one to experience, even the hard-hearted. My own sins of commission and omission are ever before me, so I know that I am not any better than most of those folks. We are all hard-hearted in our own unique way.
Dan, I feel sorry for you. Your trying to beat back the Americanizing of Xnty in this country is like “spitting into the wind”. Consumerism and commercialism has infiltrated everything. It’s like the Blob that creeps through the very cracks in the walls.
I almost think that nothing short of a complete “civilizational collapse”—along the lines of what is envisioned by James Howard Kuntsler—will be required to shake up things enough. I wish it wouldn’t come to that.
The other day I was listening to SRN news on the radio. It reported that at some xtian conference somewhere, Rick Warren said “the first reformation was about creeds, the second will be about needs.”
Yep, I thought to myself, that does sound like something Rick Warren would say. If a big time xtian “leader” thinks we’re in the middle of a “second reformation” here in America, then we are truely in pitiful condition.
Don’t feel sorry for me. If this call to arms is what God gave me to do, then I take joy in doing it.
Excellent post! I’ve never understood the response you describe here. The typical reaction to a jobless person essentially is, “I won’t recognize you as a human being until you get a job; but don’t for one second think I’m going to throw even a crumb your way to help you get there.” What is this–social Darwinism? Upper class anxiety about loosing an elevated position to the up-and-coming classes?
Too bad churches don’t switch from their violent video game recruitment strategies to job placement assistance of some kind. IMO, it would be far more effective (in recruiting loyal members), moral, and Christ-like. It might even help a church’s bottom line in the long-term–as if anyone is concerned about long-term effects.
I literally had one person back away from me like I had Ebola when I mentioned I was unemployed and looking for work. Strangest thing I ever saw. I’ve had some Christians tell me that my saying I was unemployed was a “negative confession” that only brought further negative situations down upon my head. OK…so let’s not talk about the fact I was looking for a job! 😉 How can I rephrase that positively.
Great post. This is only one of a number of things that I’ll never understand about the church in the U.S. It’s pathetic, really. (I’m speaking very generally here, there are some fine and loving churches)
If true persecution comes to the church here, let’s see how many are scattered. If you can’t help or encourage a brother in need, are you going to stand up to a government that forbids you to meet in the name of the Lord Jesus? And Amen to Amy’s comment above regarding the Judgment.
Ah, but what can we expect? Jesus Himself asked, when He returns, will He find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:8)
I scoffed when I heard that the underground Chinese church was praying for persecution to come to the American Church so we will wake up. Now I’m not scoffing. When the dross is removed, the gold can be forged. Let’s pray that none of us winds up dross.
Great post! As the coordinator for the local food bank, I see many examples of the same treatment you describe, Dan. And have held more conversations than I care to recall with folks who were registering for food, that told me not to let their pastor or other church members know they were signing up, because they were reluctant to face the coldness that would follow.
I think as long as the Prosperity Gospel pervades the airwaves, we will have this, because so many people are led to believe that being needy is somehow evidence of God’s punishment or at the very least evidence that they are somehow unworthy to be counted among the triumphant.
Several months ago, I had a FB client begin to weep during our one on one. When prodded for the reason, she replied, everyone here looks me in the eye, since I have been on hard times, no-one at my church will do that. They just look the other way. How shameful we Christians can act when we turn the other cheek in this manner.
I pray that we can start living without fear of what other people think. I believe that shuts down so many people. In fact, I believe fear is the number one reason why we don’t grow or act as we should. And more often than not, our fear is the fear of what others may think of us.
Who cares what others think if we are walking in the pathway of godliness? How I wish more of us lived out that “who cares what others think” type of discipleship.
The ever present voices of the “other people” are often the source of our greatest barriers to discipleship. Outside of the box is the only way we can minister in a world that seeks redemption through an attitude of “out of sight, out of mind”
Thank you for being willing to challenge each of us, and to serve the Lord as you do. You are indeed a great blessing to each of us, and I daily thank God for you and your ministry!
I am from the UK and although the problem you describe may not be as prevalent here in the UK it is still (unfortunately) alive and all too well here.
Here it tends more to be individuals as oposed to whole congregations.
Long term sickness is another area that seems to cause problems for otherwise Godly people. I speak here from my own experience of being seriously ill/recovering for the last 5 years.
Keep up the good work Dan and may the good Lord bless and keep you
We’re on the same wavelength. Long-term sickness DOES cause others to fall into a malaise of caring. In that case, it’s fear of one’s own mortality and the sheer amount of emotional energy it takes to consistently support those who are ill over years.
Our church has a young man named Patrick who suffered a massive head injury on the job. He’s trapped in his own damaged body now, but we continue to pray for healing. It’s been tough on the church, but people have not abandoned Pat’s family. Pat nearly died about a dozen times since his injury (the hospital, on receiving him after the accident, said he was a lost cause), but he’s very gradually improving. That’s a joy to see and we need to be satisfied with even tiny gains.
Yes, this business you describe IS a sad indictment of those who do it. What to do? How about those who ARE gainfully employed begin to noise about that we are willing and available for those who might need help in finding work…AND confronting (in grace, to be sure) those in leadership who would have this swept under the carpet. I know of one hispanic church in a large city (not in California) whose leadership used this very issue to reach out into the community of unchurched and struggling ‘hermanos”. They held clinics, broadly publicised, for things like “we’ll help you get your driving license”, “we’ll help you learn english”, “we’ll help you get your Green Card”, “now you’ve got your Green Card, we’ll help you get work or start a business”, “we’ll help you in your marriage and family life”. The impact they’ve made on the local hispanic community in a few short years is astounding…the one on one times they’ve had with struggling people, doubly so being of a foreign culture, and the growth they’ve seen in their church (and now, a new plant as well) has been heartening. No, they’re not preaching the “social gospel”, nor a prosperity lie. They preach Christ crucified….whilst reaching out with practical help to those in need. Every one of them has come through that trial, coming to this country from Latin America and stumbling about to find their way, so they act from their own experience. Far more effective than fussing over inane things like music styles, children’s church, colour of the carpet in the foyer. They are relevant in very needful, practical ways…..and do you suppose those whom they help are able to trust them when they are also relevant in regards the deeper, eternal aspects of life? While members and shepherds in other churches shun their own sheep for having struggles? Which sort are BEING salt, light, balm? dan, this is spot on.