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Reflections On a Morning Spent in Vulnerability

Since my early rising, now three conversations deep into the day, the "Word heard from the Lord" on December 28, 2008 seems with each passing year ever more on point!

"My Church Is in Foreclosure!"

Note the possessive pronoun, "My."

The Body of Christ is a sacred subject, one that because of her place in the heart of God, too often affords the Institutional Church escape, avoiding even constructive criticism. Note the word "constructive" as I am now churched, loyally for over 50 years!

Foreclosure to this Realtor is about returning a possession to its rightful owner when a "steward" has defaulted on a contractual agreement, this one signed in blood.

The Institutional church in America compared to the typical nonprofit standard of 14% or less, spends 82 percent on personnel, buildings and administration expenses. Those items consume of the average church’s budget, according a study (perhaps 2013 seems dated, but likely the percentages today quite similar) from the Evangelical Christian Credit Union.

You could argue about comparing a church’s expenses to a public charity’s expenses. But the enormous disparity is striking, especially to the public. It’s made worse by looking at how churches allocate funds to direct ministries. According to the ECCU study, churches use 3 percent of their budget for children’s and youth programs, and 2 percent for adult programs. Local and national benevolence receives 1 percent of the typical church budget."*

There are exceptions, amazing pastors and worship communities well treasured!

Why this topic this a.m.? The tears flowed this morning as I heard confessions of angst and silence among those loyal to the institution, yet in conflict with her message, all out of a compelling love for people.

In the midst of my morning, as often mysteriously happens my annual read had me at Mark 5. I burst into tears as I read:

[1] "And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes. [2] And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, [3] who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: [4] because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. [5] And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones."

That fifth verse crushed me to think that our society could be so filled with people who night and day struggle...crying and yes, some that I've personally known, literally cutting themselves, so numb that pain is their only evidence of life.

Yet many of us, well-heeled financially, live as far removed from pain as the numb do from any quality of life.

Although you and I may live in socio-economic gentrification, don't discount those who "have it all" but at nights have nothing or no one of significance in their life. They simply exist, though painfully disciplined for the appearance of full functionality throughout the day.

Some days more than others I realize just how much I live in privileged comfort, when Christ's remedy was that we "take up our cross" and in so doing comes the promise of Presence and power! I miss that at times.

I recalled during one of my morning conversations, life in my late 20's when as a new believer, I simply took what I heard preached at face value. At times

laying hands on the sick and seeing them recover, an elderly comatose gentleman who up immediately. In one amazing situation, another very elderly lady trapped by life support, with no promise of a better life, her husband desiring that she pass. After a brief prayer I recall the shrill noise of alarms as machines shut down! I slipped out of the ICU stunned!

Back then, I recall even going door to door sharing with boldness the grace I had experienced. In one case, I knocked on a door and the person stood trembling, myself unaware of what they were feeling. The Presence was that strong, the results that evening, epiphany like!

I'm much more sophisticated now, have even been a mayor, comfortable and distanced, though occasionally reminded of how seldom I see the miraculous, though the scriptures quoted are the same.

Perhaps, foreclosure symptoms in my own life?

I could only imagine the potential impact on our society, if the scores of American Christians, many a part of well resourced churches (though that is becoming more scarce, with fewer attending) held ourselves to the convictions of the Christ we "worship" on Sundays.

Imagine the impact possible if we fully possessed the power and Presence promised by way of scripture, more so than simply sharing about it within the safety of our sacred spaces.

Imagine the transformational possibilities upon the comfortable within those sacred spaces, if we shared boldly the things we now question. The methods once culturally effective, now less recieved by those needing the very love we all profess to know and enjoy.

We might be surprised by those silently tormented though attending, often staring in silence as we siing courses, or when we "drive by" their places of habitation on our way home. Whether they be beggers on street corners, or the mentality ill. Middle and high schoolers, youngsters suppressing suicide, struggling so with low self-esteem that thoughts of mass shootings are hinted at. In some cases, their parents oblivious or themselves dependant upon prescription drugs in order to cope with the pressure they carry throughout the week.

We as a society are not as far removed as we might suspect from the one Mark describes, bound with physical chains, living in "the tombs"...a fitting metaphor for some in our culture!

When I entertain conversations, I try to be positive. Today, I wept!

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