“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Observations

I wanted to start this series by making some basic observations. I apologize in advance for the rambling style in this post -- these are just thoughts and ideas that I wanted to put down before I started working to put together this series.

I recently spent a week in Las Vegas, attending a conference, and I was struck by a couple of things; as I traveled, I noticed that the people who are 'service-oriented' are almost invisible to the common traveler. These are the people who empty the trash, sweep the floors, pick up our mess, etc., and I found myself asking this question -- Would these people be invisible to our Lord and Savior? Have we, as Christians, become blind, or worse, callous in our day-to-day interactions with others?

I am not saying that none of these people are Christians, I have no way of knowing that, but I was simply struck by the fact that there is a sub-culture of 'invisible' people within US society. And with that observation, I wondered, "How well do we reach those around us who are 'invisible' in our community?" I am often struck by the fact that churches have outreach programs to the 'distant' inner-city, or maybe to some exotic foreign land, but I have found that is more uncommon to have an outreach within the communities that we find ourselves.

My church is in a community that has more than its share of drug abuse, and poverty, and yet when I have been part of conversations about reaching the community, I have been surprised by many pastors who don't have 'time' to reach the community, instead they are busy sending missionaries to distant lands! Now, with that being said, there are several wonderful pastors who have a heart for this community, but many often have more 'important' items on their plates.

The people within our community who are the nearest to us often become invisible, or only visible when they become a nuisance. I fear that when it comes to working with the poor, the hungry, the homeless, we are more eager to give them a coin and send them on their way, rather than bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ to them along with taking care of their physical needs. More often the church sends money to someone else and lets THEM interact with these folks! We should do much more than simply tossing these people a bone: now I will tell you that this is a lot more work than giving them $20 and a pat on the back -- but the church needs to have compassion more than it needs a program for the poor!

I fear that the church dehumanizes the dispossessed, unintentionally at times, but nonetheless it has the same effect. I remember taking a youth group down to a homeless shelter to feed the homeless folks -- these youth were from a predominately affluent part of town. I will never forget one of the youth saying to me, after we had returned to 'Pleasantville':

"This, (Pleasantville), is not real -- there is a world that exists outside of it!" She then followed that up with this one: "Those people looked just like us"; you see, in her Pleasantville experience, she only knew the homeless by the stories on the news, which dehumanized the people, or made them simply pitiful victims, but not flesh and blood people with emotions, and feelings, and desires etc.

Has the church removed itself from the hurt and dirty work of dealing with the less fortunate -- have we gotten to the place where we 'hire' others to help the dispossessed?

As I go through this series, and ponder what our response should be, as Christians, to the question of hunger, and poverty, I want to ask myself some hard questions. Here are a few I want to ponder:

1. Are Christians more apt to 'send money' to needy organizations, as opposed to actually rolling up their sleeves to get involved? Why is that?

2. What should community services look like? What should the division be between feeding the hungry and proclaiming the Good News to them? Can we become TOO social; to the neglect of their spiritual needs, or vice-versa, can we become completely focused on the Gospel to the exclusion of the physical needs?

3. How could we, as Christians, do a better job of helping the body of Christ? Let me give you an example -- when there is a church that makes in excess of 100K per Service/Sunday in offerings, do they have any responsible to the community around them? And what should that responsibility be?

4. What things could the church do to be a force for positive change in society, as opposed to a boat being shoved around by political, and societal forces?

These are just a few things running around in my head -- they may change, or you may find them to be too simplistic, or even superfluous -- I would ask that you interact with me, and help me out -- I am looking in to these things -- I don't have the definitive answers to them.

5 comments:

Alan Knox said...

Ray,

These are questions that need to be asked. I'm looking forward to reading more of what you write in these areas. For too long I've been too comfortable living in my little church bubble. God is moving me out of that bubble. While this is not a "comfortable" journey, it is one that I need to take.

-Alan

Even So... said...

I'll try to interact, and yes, this will be difficult but necessary...I am really interested in your thoughts...

Ray said...

Thanks guys -- I appreciate the feedback... Hopefully I will post something before too long...

Dan Edelen said...

Ray,

We don't even have to go as far as those who remove waste and clean. For many of us, the people who live two houses down from us are strangers, nearly invisible. That's how bad it's gotten in some places in our country.

Blessings.

Ray said...

Dan,

Sorry I didn't get back to you -- I agree; we simply are not community focused at all anymore... Technology and individualism has really isolated us...

Ray