I read a quote last night in the book I'm reading (The Hole in Our Gospel, p.199) that I cannot get out of my head. I'm sharing it with anyone and everyone I've talked with today, starting at my 6am run with my sweet friend who let me vent for our first two miles!
Here it is, then let's chat:
Our Christian habit is to bewail the world's deteriorating standards with an air of rather self-righteous dismay. We criticize its violence, dishonesty, immorality, disregard for human life, and materialistic greed. "The world is going down the drain," we say with a shrug. But whose fault is it? Who is to blame? Let me put it like this. If the house is dark when nightfall comes, there is no sense in blaming the house; that is what happens when the sun goes down. The question to ask is "Where is the light?" Similarly, if the meat goes bad and becomes inedible, there is no sense in blaming the meat; that is what happens when bacteria are left alone to bread. The question to ask is "Where is the salt?" Just so, if society deteriorates and its standards decline until it becomes like a dark night or a stinking fish, there is no sense in blaming society; that is what happens when fallen men and women are left to themselves, and human selfishness is unchecked. The question to ask is "Where is the Church? Why are the salt and light of Jesus Christ not permeating and changing our society?" It is sheer hypocrisy on our part to raise our eyebrows, shrug our shoulders, or wring our hands. The Lord Jesus told us to be the world's salt and light. If therefore darkness and rottenness abound, it is largely our fault and we must accept the blame. -- John Stott (emphasis mine).
It reminds me of a question my non-Christian friend asked me a couple of years ago -- she asked "If the government isn't going to help the poor and the needy, who is?" I actually paused after she asked me that and thought about my answer. After too much time, I answered with hesitation, "The Church?" Can you believe it? I didn't even believe my own answer.
I wish she would ask me that question again. I would have way more conviction and understanding in my answer. I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that it is the church's responsibility, calling, and may I say privilege to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the poor, the widows, the orphans, and disadvantaged...to anyone and everyone who does not have a relationship with Jesus. To anyone that has never been told or shown the saving grace and power of forgiveness in our Savior. Simply put, to our neighbors.
Over the past few months God has been opening my eyes and convicting my heart of the issues of the world and our city. I can say with confidence that I am well aware of the problem. I got it! With each chapter that I read in The Hole in Our Gospel or outreach event I participate in, the problem is evident. People are in great need and WE are the ones the with answer. We ARE the solution. But HOW do we get involved and make a difference? How can we start to climb this endless mountain of perceived hopelessness? The problem is clear. The answer? Not so much.
Have you heard of Skye Jethani? He was on WMBI this morning and he had an answer that my hungry soul has been searching for. Or at least he articulated what I think I've been trying to say. His response to the Church's involvement in our society was something like this. If you want to listen to the interview in its entirety, click here.
The Church is responding in one of two ways: The Church has and is losing cultural power and prominence. One side of the Church is sort of responding by throwing a tantrum. It's demanding that the culture still respect what the Bible says, Christian theology, and morality, without question. And when the culture doesn't respect it, when they want the Ten Commandments posted in public, or they don't agree with our ideas about sexuality or marriage, it just becomes a culture war. The other side of the Church, as seen sometimes it the younger generation of Christians, recognize that we are not going to win these battles simply by out powering or out scaring people, or getting people to the polls. Instead we need to influence more persuasively from the bottom up. By engaging in the culture, by engaging in the arts, engaging in politics and business, and education. And allow the Spirit of Christ in us and the callings and vocations in the world to work from the bottom up. And recognize that we no longer have a privileged position. And that's OK because Christ is still building His church, the Gospel will still go forward, and we don't have to be afraid and posture in our culture from a position of fear and anger. -- Skye Jethani (emphasis mine).
The question that I heard Skye asking is "How is the Church involved with our culture starting at the bottom?" Are we getting involved with local efforts to make a positive impact for the Gospel? Are we going out into the community and inviting people to church? Are we offering our time and gifts to minister to the poor and helpless? Are we offering ideas to our churches on how they can better outreach to the community?
I'm asking myself these same questions and trusting God to lead the way. I feel like I've been saying this for some time and it won't be much longer before I start to reveal what it is God has been showing me and what could be next for the women of TMC. I ask that you pray with me...allow our hearts and hands to be open to what it is God has in store for us. And let's be sure we are asking the right questions.
Taking a deep breath,