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5/15/2006

THE 1% RULE

About 1% of Wikipedia's 25 million visitors each month contribute content to the site. Same rule may apply elsewhere as well. Any community, it's theorized, depending upon involvement and contribution by it's members can count on about 1% of it's members to actually pitch in and help out. Only 1% of us are contributors to a community. The rest are consumers.

What can raise this percentage? I have a theory and if you're in the 1% of SHLOG readers willing to contribute to the discussion here Id love to hear your thoughts on it:

Hardship. For Americans it has recently been hurricanes and planes aimed at our skylines that roused us from consumerism to consumerism PLUS contribution. In fact it was arguably Bush's announcement soon after 9/11 that our consumption of US goods would be a helpful contribution to our nation that transformed our escalated consumption into an odd form of activism.

For the early Church it was arguably the hardship of being in The Way under Roman rule and Jewish skepticism that put her at odds with society and forced members to live in sacrificial community or die as mere individuals. Persecution was not sought but was a result of following the ethics of Christ in a culture of conflicting ethics.

Membership in the Church in those days was a three year ordeal in itself, a hardship or sacrifice of sorts ending in a public declaration of war on the powers of darkness (renouncing evil). Members waged war on evil TOGETHER and not alone, with love in the form of socialistic possession sharing, caring for outcasts like orphans and widows, obeying certain regulations regarding food and clothing to avoid needless criticisms from within and without, self-sacrifice of all kinds and meeting together daily for food and prayer and celebration. Community was forged in the flames of hardship and sacrifice. Virtually every member contributed or left the community called The Way. The Way was narrow - being the church today minus the 99% who contribute virtually nothing - yet potent and convincingly odd. And it was possibly this oddity and potency that led to the thousands of conversions chronicled in the bible's book of Acts and to even more hardship in the form of persecution.

The Christian Church has always survived hardship. It's comfort that kills. What does this comfort look like today in the West?

  • Easy instant membership in the local church.
  • Low expectations of members by clergy. (Give 10% of your income and show up on Sunday)
  • No repercussions for failing to meet already low membership expectations.
  • No concept of local church being part of world wide Church - much of which is in tremendous need.
  • Consumerism, materialism, greed, temporal success encouraged and rewarded by the local church.
  • Abdication of responsibility to care for the poor, sick, orphaned and aging to Caesar. (Welfare etc)
  • Adoption of nation as home, resulting in much sacrifice and reverence for Caesar in exchange for his protection and care.
  • The ability to be anonymous in large congregations.
  • No actual persecution of Christians in the West. (Persecution is being pursued with intent to physically harm or kill)
  • Adoption of societal values, lifestyle, possessions, and morality as the church's.
  • In three words: conformity without peculiarity.

    And could it be that this lack of hardship, lack of sacrifice and societal friction, has made us a church in the West of 99% consumers and 1% contributors?

    Nancy Pearcey in Total Truth answers this way...

    "In every historical period, the religious groups that grow most rapidly are those that set believers at odds with the surrounding culture. As a general principle, the higher a group's tension with mainstream society, the higher its growth rate."

    "Religious organizations are stronger to the degree that they impose significant costs in terms of sacrifice and even stigma upon their members," write Finke and Stark in The Churching of America.

    So does a community of Christians experiencing friction with society at large or some other form of hardship elicit more contribution and devotion from it's members? Does this hardship and friction need to be created by the Church or does it come naturally from obedience to Christ's example or from something else? What do you think? And most importantly how can this trend away from contribution in the church be reversed in a nation like the United States founded on religious freedom, kept alive by consumption and preaching "cultural relevance" defined in practice as evangelism through cultural hijacking/sameness? Or are we doomed to be nothing more than a Wikipedia like community of takers and few givers?

    Time to hear from SHLOG's 1%.
  • 25 Comments:

    Blogger CB said...

    I most certainly think Christians must reject a few forms of consumerism that are just terrible.

    1. Did you know that The New York Times bestseller list does not list Christian books because they would be the best sellers 1-10? This is not to say that some Christian books are good and help us along the way. However, there are alot of people preaching alot of mess in Christ's name. We must be discerning in our consumption of these goods.

    2. Churches have to stop caring about filling the seats. Clergy, (I being one) must not preach "Gospel lite" but must preach about sacrifice, death to self, and serving the church. We don't need to go back to works salvation, but maybe a little "work out your salvation with fear and trembling." Could wake some of us up.

    I have to conclude that a lot of people go to my Church (by clergy I mean that I am the Youth Worship Leader) don't know or understand Christ. They know and understand that they need to be better fathers, mothers, employees. They think they need to live "Christian" lives.

    They've bought a lifestyle and left Jesus on street in many ways.

    In conclusion, no. Church, the way we know it, will always be a place for "the consumption of religous goods and services." We need a radical change

    5/15/2006  
    Blogger stephen said...

    I think that in the United States, the religious right (RR) may very well be hindering the church. A while back, I was struck by how haphazardly the church seems to support "Christian" politicians. They played the "Jesus card." By default, anyone who calls themselves a Christian, must be good for the country. And the Church.

    I think that the RR has played a role in creating what some may call a "lazy Church." We have practically been given all that we need. Yet, if that's the case, why don't we experience the rapid growth that the Church in other parts of the world experiences? Areas where people are persecuted for their faith? China is a prime example.

    I have found myself wishing that the Church in America would experience hardship. Because I think that when push comes to shove, we aren't going to grow without opposition. And the longer we lounge around in the recliner, the harder it is to get out of it.

    So obviously, the solution is to vote democrat (tongue planted firmly in cheek).

    5/15/2006  
    Anonymous jwise said...

    I think hardship raises awareness of the needs around us. But there are a couple problems that come with hardship. Either it lasts for a short amount of time, and the "givers" sink back into their typical routine, or the hardship lasts so long that the "givers" grow weary of giving, and with guilt, return to their typical routine.

    The problem is that I think there's still a lot of selfishness when responding to need. There are certainly SOME good intentions, but I've seen a lot of church members who will, in a heartbeat, drive down to Mississippi for a couple days to help because they get a great deal of praise and pats on the back for doing something so public and heroic. Meanwhile, those same people stand around in the foyer chatting about how much good they've done while telling Awana leaders they're not really into working with kids at their own church. The thankless jobs go unnoticed while the big publicity jobs are pounced on for a couple of weeks' time. (Disclaimer: This may just be my church, but I'm sure I'm not completely alone).

    What we really need is to make a lifestyle of finding other people's needs and meeting those needs... not because we'll get rewarded or a big pat on the back, but because we love others so much more than we love ourself. We need to, as a corporate Church, remind each other daily that it's far more important to meet the needs around us than it is to meet our own needs and desires.

    Hardship sometimes levels the playing field, and it certainly raises awareness of others' needs, but as long as meeting those needs remains a means to an end (e.g. being recognized as a great member of society), we miss the boat, and eventually tire (as soon as the news stations aren't showing our pictures anymore) and go back to comfort.

    Oh, and I'm honored to be in the 1% of SHLOG readers who can contribute :) Just have to be careful to go out and do the things we talk about on here.

    God bless.

    5/15/2006  
    Blogger Amy said...

    I think hardship brings sharply into focus the things in life that matter, and that is why it contributes to the growth of the church.

    As long as we live comfortable lives, we easily get distracted by the things that bring us comfort. Strip them away, and lasting eternal things are all that is left.

    Although we don't have physical harship so much in these United States, we do seem to have psychological hardship on the upswing. Perhaps because what really matters (love, etc) has dimmed in importance.

    5/15/2006  
    Anonymous jwise said...

    Shaun,

    The sad reality is that, though I express many of the same goals at my home church that you've been expressing (a holy church, one focused far more on meeting needs and saving souls than status quo and comfortable living), I'm always met with, "You're far too idealistic. We're all just human. Stop trying to rock the boat or you're just going to get hurt."

    It's such a defeated mindset, though. We forget that WE'RE the winners! We forget that we've already overcome the world because Jesus overcame the world. We forget that we've been given a spirit of power, not of timidity. We forget Jesus' commands to go and sin no more and that everything we do for the least is done for Him. We've bought a lie -- that we're powerless against the status quo, so we might as well curl up and wait for Jesus to come back.

    You're up against the same frustration I am, I think. You come at it from a song writer's standpoint (and perhaps a teacher as well). I'm a young, still-passionate teacher who wants to see Jesus' passion and compassion re-ignited. I don't really have an answer or a program. All I can do is remain insistent that Jesus CAN do what He said, and give my own life up for His demands. I'll let anyone come along with me if they want. Then I'm making disciples... I'll train them to obey everything Jesus commanded.

    Right now I'm teaching adults twice my age. I'm trying desperately to get them to use their wisdom and experience and train a couple teens or at least become available to answer questions. But again, I bang my head against the defeated. "Oh, we're just humans. We're so imperfect, NO ONE should follow us!"

    The problem, though, is, If people can't follow Jesus' Church, who can they follow? If Jesus really is the ONLY Way, how do we expect to save people except to take salvation to them?

    A lot of incoherent rambling. Wish I had more answers, but I'm learning a lot too. Just please don't give up. If the faithful fall by the wayside, the battle's over.

    Shaun, you said a few posts back that you thought the American church was waking up. What makes you say that? Is it just the 1% that you see? Or do you think the 1% is starting to spread?

    5/15/2006  
    Blogger Jeffrey J. Stables said...

    There is a two-pronged responsibility for the consumer mindset of the modern church:

    (1) The people--that's us. It's our fault for letting our economic and political comfort lull us into spiritual complacency. It's our fault for being so ADD and unable to "be still and know" that we can't imagine sitting through the 8-hour sermons of the great preachers of old. It's our fault for not studying Scripture on our own and finding out that ministry is not what our pastors do, it's what every Christian does. Ministry is the life of a Christian, whether it be used for God's fame or not. And it's our fault for not making ministry in our everyday lives, for not seeking out ways we can serve our church, for not going out of our way to rub shoulders with lost people. We can point fingers, but to paraphrase you, Shaun, "we're what's wrong with this world."

    (2) Pastors and teachers--the people we trust to disciple believers. (Not talking about evangelists here.) It's their fault for not teaching us from Scripture the responsibility of every Christian. It's their fault for not showing us that it is imperative that we seek out ministry opportunities. It's their fault for preaching to us and teaching us without fostering a desire in us to do the same for others. It's their fault for not building a church that makes disciples who will make disciples. It's their fault for being all too ready to make worldly alliances instead of being responsible and loyal to God's Word first. It's their fault for moving away from teaching Scripture and church history (how else would we know how we're supposed to function in the church?) to preaching social-speak and self-help sermons.

    Be careful not to advocate the pragmatism of creating friction with society purely for the sake of results. (I don't think that's what you think, Shaun, but your wording edges on that once in a while.) Finke and Stark seem to say that religious organizations can increase commitment by increasing the requisite sacrifices--that's what the Roman Catholic church started doing historically, and it took them way off-base theologically. I strongly believe, however, that if the two categories of people I mentioned above did what I said they're supposed to do, we'd have more friction than a sandpaper sled in summertime. The glory of our God always has its enemies, and we're most likely to step on their toes when His fame is most visible in us.

    We don't need to change our stance (unless we've taken a non-Scriptural stance), we just need to make sure our Christianity is not "safe"--it was never meant to be. If we don't have enemies, then there's a problem. Christ Himself told us we'll know that we are His because the world will treat us like they treated Him. If we're not being crucified, ostracized, and criticized daily by this fallen world, we just may have jumped in bed with the enemies of Christ.

    In other words, we don't need to seek out suffering to bring the American church back to full health. There's going to be plenty of persecution coming if we just really live what we say we believe--the responsibility for our impotence is our own. We simply cannot continue to avoid social friction: we should welcome it as Christ welcomed His death, for through it we become more like Him.

    (Hmm, I think I took a 2% share with my 1% comment. Looks like the statistic was wrong, after all...)

    5/15/2006  
    Blogger Shaun Groves said...

    Maybe it's something that happens in every generation. I'd love to hear from older wiser folks on this. But what I see is college students across the country nodding their heads when I say things like, "Jesus didn't give the poor and fearful and sick to the Democratic or Republican parties...He gave them to you, the Church. They're ours to save, to heal, to listen to, to love."

    They nod profusely as if to say, "YES! I want to do that!" And I have conversations with young people who want that more than an SUV and a house in the burbs. They say they do. But has every generation said they do and then graduated, got a mortgage and a minivan and stopped dreaming of the kingdom coming through them. I know it's harder once that mortgage comes along to risk and do anything that isn't about feeding me and mine. Ind fact, if I want cable, more house than I need, eating out - and I DO! - then it's next to impossible to do anything but work all do earning a "living."

    Thing is, these college students at this point, without a house and a family yet, are excited - it seems - about living differently than we are, than their parents are.

    Will that fade as they age? I hope not. But this interaction every weekend with the emerging generations of the American Church keeps me encouraged.

    SG

    5/15/2006  
    Blogger Shaun Groves said...

    Stables, thanks for the comment. I made a few small changes in the post to make it clear that friction is NOT sought out by the Church but simply happens as the result of us being what we're supposed to be. (In theory)

    SG

    5/15/2006  
    Blogger anonwriter said...

    I think the Church needs to not concentrate so much on its relationship to culture. Whether we are relevant, not relevant, appealing, not appealing - it doesn't matter. If we focused on God and His kingdom first and foremost and live it out, especially by helping the poor, widows, and orphans, then everything else will fall into place where it needs to go. If Christians are busy helping the poor and living out what we were called to do, that would speak a lot louder than books countering every contrary piece of culture such as the Da Vinci Code or evolution, etc.

    Not that I am living this out (I think I fall into Shaun's description of the eager but actionless college student), but those are my thoughts.

    5/15/2006  
    Anonymous jwise said...

    Shaun,

    It's a horribly depressing thought to think that generation after generation starts out enthusiastic about the Kingdom and then fizzles in defeat. I know a few baby boomers and grandparents who remain eternally optimistic and encouraging. Perhaps those people are the ones who were "good soil", where all the others have the Word stolen away or get choked out by the cares of life (going back to the parable of the sower). I want to believe that most of an entire generation was stolen by the "American Dream", and we're just now waking up in repentance. But I'm cautious to go that far so fast...

    5/15/2006  
    Blogger Shaun Groves said...

    I'm hopeful.

    I want to spend more of my life fanning their zeal than criticizing those who lack it. How to do that....?

    5/15/2006  
    Anonymous jwise said...

    I was the critic type early on.. through college, anyway. I've since learned that encouragement and "doing" are far more effective. I'm not hopeful that the previous generation is lost -- I'm hoping that the Spirit is waking people up now. :) Not sure I made that very clear!

    5/15/2006  
    Blogger Chaotic Hammer said...

    Shaun - Good stuff here, from you and the commenters.

    I guess I am that older person who you are wondering about. Not necessarily wiser, but older. At age 17, I had a very real and very radical transformation, where I fully accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I was not content to settle for a quick prayer and business as usual. I had eagerly sought the Truth, and having found it, was intent on giving my life to the Lord, for His use and purposes.

    I raged against the Church I saw, thinking "Look, can't you people see? You're all just sitting around having a big bless-me club, while the world is going to hell in a handbasket!"

    My heart was in the right place, but I was completely lacking in life experiences, and really lacked true understanding of what makes "the world of grownups" function the way it does.

    What has happened in the 24 years since that time? What has brought me to the place I am today? Well it could fill a book or two, but the bottom line is that I guess I failed. Me and my generation that could see the truth, experienced what you describe -- the cares of life setting in, the allure of living life, getting married, having kids; and then the heavy responsibilities that naturally follow.

    Once you've taken on the responsibility of caring for other souls who are in your direct charge (i.e. wife and kids), then the desire to save the world has a tendency to wane somewhat. And I don't mean to be misunderstood -- being a parent and spouse is among God's highest callings, and greatest gifts. It's not necessarily the "lesser" of two choices, if we're supposing that the options are only "having a family and living life" or "serving the Lord and going wherever He says". I realize that's a false dichotomy.

    But I have not forgotten the zeal of my youth. I still get excited when I hear young people of today expressing the very same sentiments I did. The Lord has blessed me greatly, and the love and appreciation I have for Him is much deeper and more mature than it was when I first believed.

    One of my best friends from that time, who I hung out with for a several years when we first became Christians, was a fellow-believer in that message of change. We spent countless hours studying the Bible together, and praying together, and shared the same zeal and passion for the Lord. Today, he is a missionary in El Salvador. He has a wife and seven kids there with him. He has made tremendous sacrifices, leaving a cozy church he was pastoring in Arkansas to go, because he believed God was calling him to do that. He has planted four new churches down there, each time raising up and discipling local people to become the pastors and teachers. He and his family have touched thousands of lives, and made a huge impact for the Kingdom of God, in a very dark and oppressed place.

    The only part I've been able to play in what he has done, apart from praying for them, is sending them money (I also plan to visit them as he's invited me to, but I feel very small and insignificant planning to visit there for only a week or two). And I don't mean to get all self-righteous and on a high horse about this -- but it's really sad how difficult it is for him to find funding to do the work he's doing there. He has to make trips here to the States every several months, and travel to many churches preaching and teaching, to continually remind this hard-of-hearing American church that he's there, and that it takes resources to do what he's doing.

    They make do pretty much on a shoestring and a prayer, and it hurts me to know that while he's down there taking part in a mighty storming against hell for the Kingdom of God, God's most materially blessed flock is sitting up here trying to choose between the Navigator and the Escalade...

    Sorry, this has gotten too long, and gotten to be a rant more than anything. I'm as disgusted with myself as I am "the American church", and I always look at my own life before ranting about others, because I fear hypocrisy. I can honestly say in good conscience that I'm looking for increasingly effective ways to serve the Lord from my current position, and trying to effect real changes in lives around me.

    I would hope that it encourages you, Shaun, to hear that you've been a genuine agent for change in my life. Seriously. The questions you ask, the challenges you pose, the heart you have for the Lord, that is willing to be shaped and molded by Him, really is making a difference.

    There is no time for pats on the back and atta-boys, because there is work to do. But you're made out of the same clay I am, and so I know that it helps to get feedback that lets you know that what you're doing is being effectual. It is. So keep seeking, keep asking the questions, keep poking and prodding and exploring and being ready to go where the Lord says to go. Thanks.

    5/15/2006  
    Anonymous Lu said...

    Wow. In the time I dropped in on this conversation to the time I was ready to write a comment, the comments had gone from 3 to 12! And they'll probably go up as I write this (I'm currently at work focused on a project, so I keep getting interrupted by work -- imagine!).

    Regarding hardship, my answer is no. I don't think hardship causes "contribution". I do think it compels the true follower of Jesus to cry out to Him for help; to rely on Him for everything; to realize, as Jesus put it, "apart from [Him] we can do nothing." (John 15:5)

    When we truly connect with the heart of God in that manner, when we realize how dependent we really are on Him, when we allow Him to meet our needs, that's when we give to others. It comes naturally out of the overflow we get daily from God. It comes out of a grateful heart. It comes from a heart connected to the heart of God. when our hearts beat to the same rhythm, we begin to see the world as He sees it. Not as a place that needs to be "converted" or a "culture to be reached" -- nor will we look at life as something for us to grab and get all we can. What we'll see is a world filled with hurting, dying people desperately in need of all that only God can provide. That is when we will move from just consumerism to really Living; to giving our lives away so that even just one person will know the depth and intimacy of love we know.

    The problem is, most of us don't Live. We are "saved" and now we're working on "saving" others. We don't actually connect with God, nonetheless stay connected. We brush by Him in a quiet time or worshipful moment and think its enough on which to take care of the world. It's not. It was never meant to. We weren't created to live on brushes and touches. We were made to live in intimacy.

    I was reminded this morning of this passage:

    The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. 2 Chron 16:9

    Its so much easier to sit in church and listen and lift our hands and sing and thank God we still have our homes and cars and families and careers!! So much easier than opening our souls up to God. So much easier than intimacy with Him; letting Him into the deepest, darkest, most tender places of our souls and allowing Him freedom to kneed those parts of us, to transform them or weed them out completely.

    That's why we are consumers. We fear intimacy. Hard times will not change that fear. They can, if we let them, drive us to our knees before Jesus with the words, I can't! Help me!!" But that's as far as they can go. Only intimacy can take us the rest of the way.

    PS -- in the time I've written my comment, chaotic hammer slipped in and commented. Man, I hear and understand you bro! It is sooo easy to be sucked into the common things of life and forget about "the world at large".

    Yet I am learning that it is exactly in the common things of life that Life/Intimacy with Jesus happens. And if I listen for Him, He is talking to me and pointing out things I can be doing to show His love (aka, in church-speak, fulfill His purposes and advance His Kingdom) to the hurting around me.

    He wakes me with laughter (no easy task---I'm soooo not a morning person!!) so I can bring a some laughter and joy to the barrista whipping up my Chai latte. He whispers His love to me so I can love on a co-worker having a bad day. He blesses me with a new car so I can entice my neighbor to ride with me in my new-car-smelling car to Maggie Moos for some ice cream and time to talk about life...

    I used to be a missionary overseas. I discovered while there that all I was doing was the same thing I was doing here in the US: being a conduit of Jesus' love to whomever He put in my path that day.

    We CAN do this. We CAN make a difference every day, despite the consumerism around us. All we need is intimacy with God. HE will focus our eyes on what He wants us to see and where He whom He wants us to drench with His love today.

    5/15/2006  
    Blogger The Cachinnator said...

    Hardship? Yes, and leadership. Hardship without leadership will probably lead to serious scattering and fizzling. I think effective leadership is something we can be active about, leading people to more awareness of the world around them; leading people to sacrifice through word and deed; leading people away from the relevant and into the timeless.

    BTW - I provided the initial Wikipedia definition for Psycho Hose Beast. Roll that up and smoke it, Shloggy Lama!

    5/15/2006  
    Blogger Mustard Packet Pelter said...

    Your ?:So does a community of Christians experiencing friction with society at large or some other form of hardship elicit more contribution and devotion from it's members?
    My Answer:I think we've become a society of Chrisitians who are scared of offending people. So those who find friction back off quickly. So to put it quite frankly...no.
    Your ?:Does this hardship and friction need to be created by the Church or does it come naturally from obedience to Christ's example or from something else?
    My Answer: I think we could do with more friction. Our big problem is getting to comfortable. If the church really dug her heels in and created some friction it'd pop a few comfort bubbles. I think it would be a good thing.
    Your ?:What do you think?
    My Answer: That's what I think.
    Your ?:How can this trend away from contribution in the church be reversed in a nation like the United States founded on religious freedom, kept alive by consumption and preaching "cultural relevance" defined in practice as evangelism through cultural hijacking/sameness?
    My Answer: Well, for starters I think we should be honest with the up coming generations. We should stop fighting with our fellow Christian's and really focus on the problems that aren't over seas but across the street. I think there are times when we get so caught up in helping the people "over there" that we forget that there's the drunk guy across the street from our church or home that's dying from AIDS who doesn't know Jesus but what do we care for him for it's his own fault and besides our money's goin to Africa where it's needed for the children who do have AIDS and can't help it.
    Your ?:Or are we doomed to be nothing more than a Wikipedia like community of takers and few givers?
    My Answer: There are always gonna be sorry apples in a bunch..BUT we're human. We're not perfect if we were we wouldn't be having this discussion. Not that that's and excuse for us it shouldn't be, but sometimes we do use it as an excuse that we are never going to amount to Holiness. That is what we all should be striving for correct? To be Holy as our Father in Heaven is Holy. But it's a LOOOONG LOOOOONG LOOOOOOOOOOOOONG Journey and we've still got a-ways to go.

    5/15/2006  
    Blogger operamama said...

    Small miracles of christianity happen every day. Saving the world in a less overt way. The kind of things that you can't gage with a percentage; like when Shaun's mother spoke kindly to the lady in the grocery store. That can only be seen by God, and THAT is true christianity. We shouldn't be so discouraged. God knows more than we do.

    5/15/2006  
    Blogger Rachel said...

    Alluding to some of the "rocking the boat" themes that I have noticed in earlier comments, the church of America is largely unwilling to change becuase they're afraid to reach out because it might detract from their comfort. We, as the church, have ourselves so wrapped up in material things that our church budgets seem heavily weighted in favor of operational costs and painfully thin in outreach funds. What would happen if those were reversed, or at least evened out?

    On the topic of hardships...if we were to truly face persecution or hardship (the kind that doesn't relent, at least), I believe it would change the face of the American church as we know it. Though I count it a blessing that we have the freedom to worship and serve our God in this country, I can't deny that it has been distorted by our tendency to latch onto comfort. And in turn, the majority of American churches have developed into ineffective and/or imbalanced ministries. Apathy is a plague that has slowly worked its way into our body.

    As you have commented, Shaun, it is easy for college students like myself to look at the world with wide-eyed excitement, wanting to abandon all and make a difference for God. But then we get to the point where we have a degree, want to start a family, or want to "settle down." I find myself alternately having a firey passion to get out of the country and reach out to third world countries...and then equally yearning to settle down and gain some sort of consistency in my life. I feel that both of these are God given desires, and only He knows how they will weave together.

    I have no (concise) answer to all these questions, since I am also learning daily in this subject...but it s most definitely healthy to examine and discuss these things and, most importantly, to act on what God reveals to us as truth.

    Rock on Shaun. :)

    5/15/2006  
    Anonymous brian said...

    i'm not super-wise, but i think a lot of it has to do with a lack of love. when we truly love God, we are truly loving people. and when we are truly loving people, we are so in love with them that we can't stop ourselves from reaching out to them, helping them, and being intentional with them.

    its a fairly simple answer to a giant question that i believe is probably a problem that has to be backed into, because its deep, dang deep.

    we are a church that says we love people, but we don't. and unfortunately, like john says in 1st John, when we aren't loving people, we aren't loving God. so it kinda sucks. basically we have lost our passion, lost ourselves in complacency. and now we've are terrified to 'rock the boat'. we don't want to offend anyone, because its hard to love them then. but when we look at it from a loving them first perspective, it becomes so much easier. because we love them, therefore we want to spend more time with them, or invest in them. when someone knows we love them and want to spend time with them, its much easier to talk about things that may cause friction, because we are coming to them in a friend approach, not a Christian coming out of the church that so many people have been left with a bad taste in their mouth.

    we can change our world if we would be vulnerable and love people. show them the church that’s isn't a building for 'country club' meetings. but instead show them the body of people so dedicated to Christ that they can't contain their love and passion for others.

    like i said, i haven't quite got this down, but it's a few thoughts. (i should really be studying for finals, dang it!)

    5/16/2006  
    Anonymous Ryan G. said...

    Sorry I'm not writing a longer post but...


    Keep fanning Shaun.

    5/16/2006  
    Blogger Redneck Neighbor said...

    I've been one of the 99% on here.

    I do not attend church regulalry or believe in one particular religions interpretations of spirituality. I would love to find a church where I feel like I fit in and I could really be excited about Christ. Every church I've attended has talked about being active in the community and helping our fellow man, but in every church there always seemed to be the same few that handled everything. Some I truly feel wanted to help, some wanted the recognition, and some got lost in the "doing" and they forgot what they were trying to accomplish in the first place. When I think of a church and Christ I want the whole truth. Good and bad...Yes I want to hear that God is great and that we are all God's children. That we should love our neighbors and seek peace. However I also want to hear about Christ's strength to stand up to adversity and defeat evil. I want to be told what will happen to me for sinning. I don't want a watered down version just so you may not offend me. If there are no consequences then why bother. I want to ne told that there is a battle being fought everyday. That we are in constant battle not only with our own thoughts and bodies but with Satan himself. I feel that most churches have lost sight of that battle and what it will mean to conquer it. Maybe it's because I'm still a relatively young male with too much testosterone but I don't want to sit around being told how great God is but never witnessing it or fighting for it.

    5/16/2006  
    Blogger Chaotic Hammer said...

    Lu - Thanks for all that, a lot of wisdom in your comments. Amen and amen. Intimacy with the Lord is definitely at the heart of living the life He has called us to, and must undergird any other endeavors that we embark on for Him. Out of that intimacy with Him, will naturally flow a love for other people; and in my experience, if we don't draw back or stifle the desires that He gives us, that is where the Holy Spirit gives us opportunities and compels us to act.

    I'd like to clarify a couple of things from my previous comment, because I was very short for time and posted quickly in a stream-of-consciousness way...

    When I mentioned my friend in El Salvador, doing missionary work, I should note that there is definitely a ripe missions field right here around us. There is a bit of a mystery sometimes attached to the idea that "being an overseas missionary" is something different than effecting change right where you are. While it is a noble thing to do, it's not necessarily "better" than doing the Lord's work right where you are. If somebody is trying to make that choice between going elsewhere or staying here, you should definitely be obedient to the Lord and His calling, but realize that He can and will use you wherever you are and wherever you go.

    I think at least part of the reason that people see a lot of fruit in overseas work is because there is something about human nature that makes us settle into a rut when we stay in the same place too long. Both consciously and subconsciously, we tend to seek ease and comfort and familiarity, but over time that breeds hardness of heart and leads to a slow drift toward indifference. So by uprooting from our "comfort zone" and being placed in a new situation where we are there specifically to represent Jesus to others, we are not being held back by the ruts and familiarities that encumber us so easily. Also, it is true that people who do not have every single material need met with the snap of their fingers, who live in poverty and hardship, are often more open to hearing the Gospel with a child-like heart -- again because of human nature. When you are satisfied, full, and comfortable, and can surround yourself with whatever your heart desires, you can easily think, "I don't need any God, I have all I need right here and now."

    Also, when I was ranting about how the American church is lazy and comfortable, I should note that anyone and everyone can just sit around and belly-ache about "the way things should be" or "what we should be doing". It's a very generalized and sweeping realization, and doesn't actually bring about any changes. In fact, it's more likely to put people on the defensive, than it is to inspire them to change. But I am personally experiencing, and seeing others who are experiencing, a deep and genuine desire to allow the Lord to change us.

    From my perspective, things really are being shaken up, and something truly different is moving people right now. The exciting news is that we're not talking about a manufactured or man-made change; it's not the latest book-selling trend, or a rah-rah pep rally thing, like those meetings where they want you to sell more Tupperware. It's the Lord, really moving and changing hearts and lives, and drawing us into increasing intimacy with Him, and calling His people into a deeper walk. There's a growing dissatisfaction with "religion", and many of the old ways of doing things are dying out - both literally and figuratively. I'm seeing this in the lives of everyone I'm in contact with, and even though this is only on a small scale, I'm hopeful that the same thing is happening on a larger scale also.

    And since I've hogged way too much of my 1% share, I'm going to stop right here.

    5/16/2006  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Along with what everyone else said, I would like to add that most Christians somehow miss out on their true identity in Christ and believe they have nothing to offer. They can't see the beautiful child God has created in them. If more people better understood God, they would see that whether in hardship, or in the everyday, they have something immensely important to contribute.

    5/16/2006  
    Anonymous c long said...

    peculiarity...I think your answer lies there. God calls us to be peculiar, strangers, aliens in this world. I think there is more conflict within the church between those who are content running the church according to the ways of the world and those who desire to operate according to the Acts church of old than there is between the church and the world.

    If the church were to truly operate according to the Way, I believe it wouldn't be conflict you would see but awe and wonder. The world around Jesus stood in awe of Him. It was the organized religion of the day that stood in conflict with Him, and I suppose that would be the same today. Dare to operate according to the Way and I dare say you would be chastised by religious leaders all around you.

    There are many pastors out there that are watering down the Word for fear of stepping on toes when what the world around them is looking for is someone offering strong truth and clear boundaries and someone to dare to tell them of the consequences of their actions(we didn't learn much in "time out" and are ready for more).

    There are others who dare to offer a dangerous message in a safe place surrounded by those who will dare to love the unlovable. It's not ALL wrong out there. I wonder what percentage of churches are speaking hard truth in love and backing it up with action.

    So what do we do. Join together. Don't assume that where you are is where you always should remain. Look for a church offering truth and sharing Christ's love routinely with the world around them. This post just makes me wonder what the effective change upon the world would be if the 1% all joined together to put it all in practice. It may even birth another 1% in the absence of those who always had done the doing.

    Keep us digging, Shaun. The renewing of this mind happens regularly here. Sometimes, I'm too worn from the day for the mental jog. But, I'm always grateful to you for putting the mirror up before me.

    Carolyn

    5/16/2006  
    Blogger Mark said...

    Ok, I admit I haven't read through everything carefully. But a couple thoughts.

    When all is well, we get selfished and focused on us. When general hard times come, we do tend to focus on others.

    I think there is a lot of dead wood in the church. It's a reflection of the American culture. Everyone is out for themselves (selfishness again). They don't want to contribute. THey just want to take. If that's our society, why wouldn't the church reflect that.

    Recognizing the problem is still the first step toward fixing it, right?

    5/17/2006  

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