It's just after 4:00AM and alot is on my mind after being rudely awakened by our cat who decided to jump on me and take a stroll a few minutes ago. As I awoke, my usual process of vivid dreaming was brought to an abrupt halt. My mind must have been creating images and scenery based upon a discussion I had with a friend earlier tonight. We talked about the challenges of reaching out to the homeless, disabled and the hurting. By that, I mean truly reaching out to them and putting hands and feet to our "good intentions" (which I do too little of I might add).
If you read this blog regularly, then you know that this is new territory for me, but it would seem that God is speedily allowing me to cover a lot of ground quickly. As I lay there in bed, becoming more and more awake with each passing moment, thoughts of what the church as a whole is doing about this issue began to flood in. I was quickly becoming angry at what we, "the church" are doing (or rather not doing) in order to care for those less fortunate that are all around us. Although I've been somewhat discouraged and dismayed with many church practices over the years, I've never remotely been where I seem to be headed over the last few weeks and months. After all, I was one of the guys that always noticed great staging and lighting at mega–churches. I'd "ooh and ah" with the best of them over fantastic buildings and state of the art facilities. Even not long ago, when I was a youth pastor, I'd constantly do all that I could to improve on our youth room as the measly budget would allow. I'd upgrade the A/V equipment and get new seating. Perhaps if I paint the walls and get a nice stage put in, the kids will flood in from the streets. It's really quite funny now, looking back at that mentality because I'm seemingly becoming so anti–program which, if you knew me, could not be further from the way I've lived the majority of my life.
What I'm getting at is this. Why does the majority of the organized church do nothing more than fund an inside job that caters to our every need and desire? Of course in many cases we say that it's all to create a comfortable environment for the un–churched, but is that really the goal? And even if it is, do we really believe that plasma screens in the lobby will pull it off? A laundry list could ensue, but I'll briefly give a few examples for the sake of wasting your valuable time: Thousands of dollars are spent for beautiful new choir robes to entertain the crowds eyes. Perhaps a great new sign out front will get people in the door and the tithes back up. If we spend money hand over fist to get on television each week, then people will surely see all of the great things we have to offer. Bigger buildings, million dollar sound systems, plush seating and big screens for all! All the while, homeless are freezing to death on Saturday night unbeknownst to anyone in the entire congregation.
Of course this is not all–inclusive and I do realize that there are churches that use their resources for actual ministry beyond sending off a check to denominational missionaries each month. My wife and I have recently discovered a church doing just that, so I do know that this church does exist. But take a good look around you, a church is never more than a few miles from wherever you are and, in most cases, within it's walls is sitting a vast wasteland of earthly treasure. Let's sell the sound equipment on ebay, trade in the high dollar seating for some thrift store fold–outs and burn the choir robes and hymnals for heat.
Lord, have mercy on us, we truly do have much to learn.