Last Friday, after witnessing parking lots lacking the usual Black Friday crush of cars at local malls and shopping centers, I wondered if this holiday shopping season would disappoint retailers and further depress our struggling economy. I wrote “Still-in-the-Red Friday?” and closed my post by asking if the Church is ready for the economic issues coming our way.
If you’re a regular reader, you know that I take the position that God tabbed the Church to do the work of ministry. Yes, He may rain manna from heaven for the starving, but since the Church was established, His primary means to meet needs is for the Church to meet them. That’s the plan, folks. You can’t read the New Testament and miss that very important fact. (I’ve quoted all the relevant Scriptures in dozens of previous posts. We should all know them anyway.)
What does a Church look like that doesn’t read the signs of the times? What does a Church look like that isn’t prepared to continue to meet the needs of others when times are brutally hard?
I can’t remember quoting a comment in toto, but David Riggins wrote an epic in response to last Friday’s post. I think it encapsulates the issue perfectly:
Interesting the confusion regarding how the Church faces reality. When economic hardships come, people lose their jobs, and when they have no income, they lose their homes. With the current stupidity regarding credit and its uses, people will lose their jobs and homes at a rapid rate. Two million sub-prime ARM loans are up for adjustment in the next 8 months. Those upward adjustments will often add 30% to the current payment those people are paying. Most of those people won’t be able to afford the higher monthly payments, putting $600 billion in bad loans on the books of already tightly stretched lenders like Countrywide. The loan industry has already lost 100,000 jobs in the last six months.
Each of those jobs is responsible for an average of four other jobs in the private sector, from auto salespeople to the bagger at Kroger. With the continuing collapse of the housing sector, home builders will start to go under, following the example of Neumann Homes in Illinois, which filed for bankruptcy protection this month. As more and more sectors of our economy are affected, an estimated 3 million jobs could be lost. This isn’t about spending more to motivate the economy, this is about making sure that what you spend actually has an effect on our economy. What you spend at Wal-Mart, Target, Circuit City or Home Depot lines the pockets of businesses from China to Indonesia, but little of it stays here. The credit used to buy housing is a commodity that pays for the estimated $18 billion net income of the major trading houses on Wall Street, where bonuses are expected to be down 5% from the average $136,580 in 2006. And this is a “bad year. It trickles down, but nothing like it flows up.
All this can be directly attributed to a lack of action on the part of the Church. Our society is corrupt because the Church is corrupt. Greed has run rampant, not merely in the corridors of power and money, but in the desire of the the Church to be seen as relevant and growing. We have created cults centered on charismatic pastors and exciting music, and have abandoned our role.
Is the church ready to take care of the people in the body who will lose their jobs, their homes, their savings? Are we willing to take people into our homes when they’ve lost theirs? If we don’t, who will? Is the Church ready to feed the homeless, provide care for the widow and orphan? As the mortgage crisis wipes out retirement funds, will we take care of the elderly who now only have social security?
I know most church-goers would scoff as these concerns. These are, after all, the responsibility of the government.
Not according to God, they aren’t. And ultimately, it is God we will answer to. I know that, personally, I am not ready to do anything to help anyone. I also know that our church is certainly not ready, and beyond a food pantry for the holidays, has no plan for taking care of the needy, either within or without our congregation. As conditioned as I am to clarion call of independence, I would find it hard to take care of someone who didn’t plan for hardship. It’s only by the grace of God that my family made it through the jobless times we’ve faced. It certainly wasn’t through the help of the “body.
Soon, the entire country could be facing the same situation that Ohio is in, with unemployment up over 7%, but this time, the price of fuel will be triple what it was in the last recession, and that will affect the price of everything else. Are you ready? Is your church? This is about looking out for your neighbor, and making sure they have what they need. This is about making sure your Church body is focused on meeting the real needs of the body, not bottle feeding the 200 pound infants.
We need to grow up, and it seems that we are about to enter one of those times when we either grow, or wither on the vine and get pruned.
Regardless of how well retailers do this Christmas shopping season, the issue remains: Are we as a Church the five wise virgins or the five foolish ones? Are we the Church who by prophetic word hears of the famine to come and prepares for it (Acts 11:38-40)? Are we hearing from God during the fat years so we are prepared for the lean years?
And so what if the lean years don’t come in 2008 or 2080. The issue is Are we ready?
Leonard Ravenhill once said,
The Church today wants to be raptured from responsibility.
That’s a stunning thought on dozens of different levels. Perhaps it even explains why we are not preparing as we should.
What will happen in our churches when we have dozens of unemployed families without medical insurance? What happens when someone in one of those families undergoes a medical emergency and gets stuck with a huge medical bill? What are we doing to be the church known for supernatural healings should that become the only means by which most people receive medical treatment?
As David mentioned above, what happens when people lose homes should the economy go down the tubes? What will your church do? What do you have in place right now to address that issue? And if your church has nothing in place, why not?
What will happen to evangelism when we’re trying to keep our heads down at work to lessen the chances of being the one pink-slipped when the inevitable downsizings come? Are our churches ready to pick up the pieces when our frontline people take that kind of hit? Or will that be chalked up to “the cost of doing ministry” with us leaving those frontliners to struggle in the aftermath?
We went through a precursor the last recession, which many believed lasted almost five years. What if the next recession is eight years and far deeper? It may have been your neighbor who got whacked last time. Tough for him, right? What if it’s you this time? What happens when you turn to your brothers and sisters in Christ and they look the other way?
What happens when the lost, people without the hope we have in Christ and without membership in the Body of Christ, come to us desperate for help and direction? Do we toss them a Bible and say, “Be warm and filled,” because we didn’t take our own membership in the Body of Christ seriously enough to seek the Lord so we knew in advance how He would have us prepare?
I’m not fearmongering here. What I’m doing is asking why the American Church is oblivious to these issues. Rather than being proactive, we’re reactive—and long after the damage has been done. We can’t continue to be so unprepared.
It’s not enough to say, “God will provide,” when the means by which He’s chosen to provide is asleep at the switch.
I ask again, “Church, are we ready?”
17 thoughts on “Still-in-the-Red Friday? – Further Thoughts”
His Sublime Direness: “What will your church do?”
Answer: probably nothing. It will be business as usual.
Dan. Really. I accept it as a given, as sure as the sun’s rising, that America is headed for societal collapse, given all the innumerable reasons that various people have talked about—everything from our government’s financial profligacy, to the hollowing out of our industrial infrastructure, to our out-of-control illegal immigration disaster, to our imperial hegemonist overreach, to Peak Oil and the spiraling cost of energy, and to all the enumerated reasons that you have listed on your blog.
(Yes, things will be so bad that it will make James Howard Kuntsler look like a giddy Pollyanna. It’s gonna be blood in the streets.)
And truely, you do a most excellent job of listing all those innumerable reasons. I hand that to you. That’s why I call you “Dire Dan”.
But I can’t even get the pastors to do anything about the horrible music at my church. And you think that any of them are going to think in such far-sighted terms like what your getting at? No. It’s gonna be business as usual. Always. I found this to be true everywhere I have been. The Numero Uno priority is keeping the church machine well-oiled and running, and paying the mortgage on the big-box echo chamber we meet in. Nobody is thinking in terms of what to do when the party’s over and the U.S.A gets hit with The Great Depression II.
I may as well dig the hole now for them to bury me in.
Dan, I am not a survivalist; I just don’t have the survivalist skills that would allow me to head for the hills somewhere, eating bark and berries. I am just a bookish nobody for Heaven’s sake! So I expect that once America collapses, it spells my death sentence, whether by disease, starvation, or violence. I don’t even get to choose which Horseman of the Apocalypse does me in. Will it be the white horse, the red one, the black one, or the pale one?
“Our society is corrupt because the Church is corrupt.”
Yes, it’s corrupt. To the core. Rotten and putrid. It stinks to High Heaven. We deserve to have our candlestick removed from its place. We are so disgustingly Laodicean we should vomit out our own guts.
The Third World should be sending us missionaries and not the other way around.
I have no answers. The catastrophe is inevitable. I’m down to just hoping for a miracle. Thanks for the encouragement.
I’m not to the fatalistic stage because I believe that enough people see what’s coming to make a difference. It may be bad, but I don’t think it will be apocalyptic just yet.
We can do things to meet the coming issues if we prepare now. Truthfully, we should have already been prepared, even more so when the subprime mortgage thing hit back in May/June.
But I concede that you are right that too many churches are concerned with stupid stuff. Too many churches have all their monies tied up in things that don’t last, especially their church buildings. My church has that same issue. Big building, big loan to pay off.
I don’t want to see our lampstand removed, though I believe we’re close to losing it. Our lack of humility and awareness of the depths of the problem are huge, paving the way for darkness.
But I don’t want to be dire. I don’t want to be stuck making comments about the darkness. What I want to see is the Church in America getting serious. I want to see what we can still do to prepare, to be a ready church that hasn’t raptured itself from responsibility. (This is one reason why I am not a pre-tribber. Pre-trib theology leads to the kind of short-term thinking that is a plague on the Church, violating nearly everything the Bible tells us we Christians should be doing. Paul himself warned the Church not to fall into that trap, yet we have.)
Actually, Dan, what I wrote was a little bit tongue-in-cheek, since I was partly trying to write in a manner more dire than yourself.
Howbeit, in my nugatory opinion, I doubt that blogging on this subject will make any substantial difference anywhere. Instead, you should start gathering allies and lobbying your denomination, for starters, if you want to make any kind of dent in the situation. I think you need to go beyond being merely literary and actually go out and do some rubber-on-the-road politicking.
By the way, Patrick J. Buchanan has a new book out entitled Day of Reckoning, where he also says, in effect, that our goose is cooked, unless X, Y, and Z happen. You might want to add it to your library once it hits the bookstores.
I believe that there are two 800 lb. gorillas in the living room of the Church that we choose to ignore while we spend all of our time dealing with Chiuhauas and guinea pigs like musical style, lighting, carpet, and the like consume our every waking moment. The gorillas are how we treat our bodies and how we handle our finances. Both are tied to stewardship. I have struggled, and continue, with both.
How many churches could survive if 10% of the tithing families suddenly were unemployed? I had a woman in my SS class ask for prayer because they did not know where the money for Christmas was going to come from. For the past several years they have used the money she recives for her student loans to buy gifts; this year the money doesn’t come until January. Anyone see a problem?
I wish this were an isolated problem. It stems from the long held belief that my perosnal journey is that, personal. Christ NEVER intended for His followers to go it alone. We are so afraid of accountability it is scary. We are broke, overweight, and have taught ourselves and a generation of children that we are entitled to anything we desire, just charge it.
The reason so many do not tithe is because they are living hand to mouth, how in the world will they then support their Brothers and Sisters in the midst of tragedy?
I have no sympahthy for the credit companies, they are the ones that print credit cards for dead people and pets every day. I fear for the families who, because not even the church would take the time to educate, have bought into the lie that they will always be in debt.
I offer this prayer for the Church: Lord Jesus, please help us to know You and Your ways; help us to minister as You would, with truth and love. Most of all, PLEASE COME QUICKLY!!
Tithing is an issue I’ll get into in another post soon, but suffice it to say, most people don’t tithe because they are selfish, not because they are are not meeting their normal (read: “not as a result of overconsumption and largesse”) obligations.
If you have no credit card debt and can’t pay your utility bills because of months of unemployment in a down economy, I have sympathy for you. If you’ve maxed out your credit cards spending wildly on things like vacations to Disneyworld, then my sympathy level drops to near zero. If you bought a house and the property taxes on your property skyrocketed to the point that you now can’t afford to live in your own home, then I have sympathy for you. If you knowingly bought a house beyond your means just to keep up with the Joneses, I’m less inclined to sympathize with your plight.
In his book, The Great Giveaway, David Fitch outlines a plan for churches to have benevolence committees who discern just how to help people in these tough situations. And some of it is tough love. Then again, some of it is not. This is the kind of area where we Christians should shine, but we don’t do this well at all.
You are right about the cult of the individual. The American Church is in love with the personal Jesus and has rejected the corporate Jesus. That’s to our shame. Jesus is for the Church and the Church is a corporate entity.
As far as praying Maranatha, we should be preparing should Maranatha not bring Jesus back immediately. That’s the wise Church. The foolish Church is caught unawares and unprepared should the bridegroom tarry.
I don’t think I’ve ever been quoted in toto before. In Kansas, but not in Toto.
The Ravenhill quote is indeed telling. About as telling as the parellel move towards the pre-trib view of the rapture. We seek to avoid what is required of us: Our life. So one wonders, as I often do: Does my fruit offer proof of my salvation? Or, as the minister in Blazing Saddles asked: “…are we just jerking off?”
There is an interesting story in the local paper today about a special girl reaching her 16th birthday. Her mother refused to have an abortion when her doctors told her that this gift from God would be born deformed and monstrous. She battled to have the child cared for after her birth, and today she lives in what some would consider squalid conditions because of the medical bills and lack of income. Her prayer is that “Extreme Home Makeovers” will come and redo their home.
Why not the church? Where is the body? Why do hopes rest with a TV show and not with God’s hands and feet?
Are we so tired of doing good?
You tell me stories like that one about the mother and it breaks my heart. Remember that old song, “Let Me Live,” that made the rounds in churches so long ago? The anti-abortion groups loved that song. Loved it. Children’s choir and all. Tugged at the heartstrings.
But the mom you mention is the result of “letting me live,” yet where is her support now? Where are all those weepy-eyed callers who phoned their Christian radio stations and begged them to play “Let Me Live” one more time? Better yet, where is their money to help this mother? Hmm, perhaps it went to the Christian radio station’s last beg-a-thon. 🙁
I’ll be honest here and say that I think a few people ARE tired of doing good. And those are good people, not sluggards. They’re tired because the rest of the crew isn’t picking up the slack. Those tired good people are sick of the 20/80 rule, a rule I think is rapidly becoming the 5/95 rule, especially when it comes to looking out for one’s neighbor.
C’mon, Christians! Let’s wake up!
BTW, David, I forgot to italicize the “in toto” as any good editor would have done. That has since been corrected so as not to leave the impression that your comment was eaten by Dorothy’s dog with the results being left behind for flying monkeys to hurl at each other.
Not that that would not make an amusing sight. 🙂
As long as it doesn’t hit the fan…
Every REAL prophet (not the Third Wave crowd who say everything will be hunky dory wonderful) has prophesied very difficult economic times ahead for us here in America. One thing that puzzles me is why most churches do not have deacons as described in the book of Acts. I am not talking about churches that misname their elders and call them deacons. Deacons do not rule the church – elders do and should be called elders. But deacons help the poor and needy in the church and beyond if they are able. My church has one of the best deacon organizational structures I’ve ever seen, and are awash in money to help people (and the money does go to help out members). But if a huge economic depression hits, we probably wouldn’t be ready either….:(
Pretty interesting post and ensuing comments. Part of my job is to evaluate whether our church helps people who need assistance. We always give food from our food pantry to anyone in need but don’t always help people with financial problems. Some of the reasons that we don’t help them is:
+ poor financial stewardship on their part
+ their refusal to volunteer at church
+ lack of church attendance
+ not willing to cooperate with financial coaches
+ other integrity/ethics types of issues
That said, I have to say that we are always generous when these conditions are different. We love to help people but do not want to get in the Lord’s way when He is disciplining them.
All of that said, I have to wonder why anyone would think that a local church should be responsible to meet all of the needs of people who come across hard times.. seems that it is more of a kingdom issue than a local church one. Possibly a crisis, like the one you describe, would cause local churches to get out of their selfish boxes and work together with other churches to meet the needs of the community.. but it would probably take a crisis and a miracle for that to happen.
I could see that happening like during the depression. I suspect during katrina that happened with local churches and or denominations combining efforts.
Generally I feel good about it,…in severe distress the church would pull together.
Because of America’s history in fighting for religious freedom etc I think over the centuries though we have gotten soft as a people. Extreme hardship in this country won’t go over well.
Shortly after I got saved in 1978 I attended my first “FISHNET” gathering and I will never forget the sign that was posted on the fairgrounds as you were leaving. It said “YOU ARE NOW ENTERING THE MISSION FIELD”. I was also told to just practice “living like a missionary”. Live modestly. Provide for family first then church and society as needed.
I think more than unprepared, our churches have developed an attitude, wherein we assume there will always be someone else to do it. I can safely say that several of the families in my church are prepared to jump in, when the inevitable problems rise — I have watched them in action already, diving in to help others in an extravagant way. However, the major portion of my congregation, responds with much talk and assumption. Talk about what could and should be done, with the assumption that someone else will handle things.
Like you Dan, I do see many folks coming to the understanding of the church’s rightful role in response to the inevitable, and I do think in many cases, needs will be met. The tragedy will come, in the many who will be lost, because the response of the church will be to search for excuses rather than lead the way to Christ.
I have a question for you.
What do you think it means “in one hour Babylon will fall’ ?
I am not asking for a response from the carnal mind either…as to say it represents America, Iraq, New York City, ect….
Seriously, what does that mean to you?
Yes, Babylon will fall in all, the Harlot will be destroyed, and the overcomers will be seated on the Throne with Christ.
I rejoice that the DAY has come for the harlot to be exposed for who she is, for the true BRIDE will be seen and admired in the saints that have shared in the sufferings of the CHRIST, for they will also share in being GLORIFIED with Him.
The buildings are on the broad path of destruction, and all those who have ignored the TRUMPET to ‘come out of her my people’ will go through the fire of refining until all that cannot be shaken remains.
My Father’s KINGDOM has come, it is His day, and those who have prepared are already taking care of those who have not. This will be how his Bride is recoginized… for out of her abundant store will she bring forth the hidden manna that will feed and nourish (spiritually & physically) all those in the desolate wilderness.
The situation to me seems to be very complicated and the obstacles to good stewardship myriad. For example, we often complain about churches being locked into mortgages, freezing funds that could otherwise be spent on outreach. However, given the way our financial and economic system is set up, our collective lifestyles and laws, a church cannot do anything but build unless they change their organizational pattern (i.e. home churches). For example, a church may be located in a paid-for building, but if the congregation starts to grow, it may have to move to keep from violating fire codes. And a pastor can only preach so many times a day or run into exhaustion. I previously went to a church where the senior pastor was preaching four times each Sunday, a 7 am, 9:30 and 11 at one location and 8:30 at another location. Now the 7,000-member church is buying a larger space.
Moreover, churches are only representations of the collective lifestyles of the members. If the members are used to having large screen tv’s and speaker systems at home, will they expect less at church? However, members of a storefront church in a low-income neighborhood will likely have different standards.
I think that many churches can and do help but the scale of the problems in the US are so large, they actually transcend our borders. Quite matter of factly, the bible states that during the End Times, the challenges will be so great that God will actually have to shorten the tribulation so as not to risk losing the whole Church! That is very sobering and lets us know that we still to a large extent rely on God’s grace. One final thought: A while ago I was reflecting on the Israelites/Jews in the Old Testament and how much of what was written about them was during a period of blessing/obedience and how much was during a time of correction/chastening. It seems to me that God’s chosen was actually being chastened for disobedience more than it was being congratulated on its obedience. And the New Testament only covers a very short period (including acts of benevolence in Acts) during all of the Church’s 2,000 year history. It seems like since then every generation thought it was going to hell in a handbasket. Just a thought.