The Place of Separation – a line in the sand!
I must say that yesterday’s post was very uncomfortable for me and though not intended personal, may have felt that way for anyone serving with me over the last 40 years! Why did I write it, perhaps spiritually compelled in this current series? From a prayerful and precious Manger Moment (see initial post), I was led toward an overwhelming awareness of where we are in the Body of Christ. It would be a difficult moment, if held accountable, to explain the gap between the profession of the Church and the condition of our nation.
For those End Times advocates, I would ask, have we allowed prophesy to become nothing more than justification for our failure, rather than the Divine caution intended, if we fail at delivering the Good News? Have we truly been salt & light in this nation?
Yesterday’s stinging rant was constructive only if we can now move toward the Crisis of Choice. I have not yet written that post, yet each day my devotions seems to further this series like trajectory . When I picked up on my annual progressive read through scripture this morning, I found the Lord’s rebuke of the church of Laodicea: “ I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!” 1
Last Sunday, I listened as my own pastor (a most difficult task I am sure) masterfully unpacked the language of the Lord’s Prayer, specifically around, “lead us not into temptation.” Here the lexicon tracts us back to the days of the Exodus, and a place called Massah. “And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the LORD saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”2 Taking one step further, the prayer can be interpreted, lead us not to a place of suspicion. They doubted Moses leadership, even after witnessing and walking through walls of water, as the Dead Sea opened up as dry land!
This is uncomfortable for me!
Life and leadership has its pitfalls and perils. How does one walk the sacred life journey with passion, recognizing their own warts and failures, while sharing responsibility for collective decisions made on their watch? Still, one must be sensitive and quick to move, so as not to miss moments for strategic corrective action; and yes, while living above cynicism and suspicion! Quite the task, this leadership (and follow-ship) thing!
As I reflect on the moment, where our nation is politically, socially and economically, the challenges are great. Yet it is in perilous times that leadership has its greatest opportunity.
As I ended my last post, much too long for a blog, hopefully my readers took the time to glance over the report cited. 3 Putnam’s “scissor graphs” make apparent the existing wealth gap and the growing socio-economic divide, often a consequence of housing. Unfortunately, many neighborhoods are left blighted as upwardly mobile individuals move out. Poverty then compounds its misery with issues of family structure, absentee fathering, etc., posing quite the dilemma for children trapped in this population; among which we find one third of our highest performers!
Though it is not the mission of the Church to remedy all social ills, its role is not simply to get people safely into the next world. Our mission is to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” Dr. Putnam’s book “Our Kids” and data from others seem to imply that we are at a crucial juncture in America.
Putnam’s recommendation is Universal Early Childhood Education. He proposes (with optimism) that we were at this same place in the late 1890’s! The wealthy could provide higher learning opportunities for their children, while the majority of the working class had little or no option. Out of that came the universal high school and an economic boon which followed. The risk of similar return on investment seems much better odds than business as usual, with an estimated 5 Trillion Dollar load that will follow, if we do nothing more than continue our “toxic charity.” Bam!
How does this relate to Church? I recall our own North Carolina Governor, James Hunt sharing with me personally, after being involved in his signature program, Smart Start. He was excited about the differences we were making in Forsyth County through a church collaborative with a local Family Resource Center. His thoughts, the best childcare in N.C. can be found in churches…and the worst childcare in NC can be found in churches. It depends on whether the funding and staffing are the result of a sense of call to missions, or as an income generator to subsidize existing facilities. Our own center, then serving 1000 indigent families eventually closed after the mild recession of 2001! Hello!
We can do better than this, for where there is true vision, there is provision! It will however, require new models, higher levels of community collaboration, perhaps even mergers of small competitive churches.
More often than not, we compete among ourselves, with church resources drained by the needs of ill-placed pastors or a few aged and often related families living in denial! Brick and mortar assets in most cases were originally intended for Kingdom Business. When the culture shifts, and the market changes, as with any business, new models are needed. Often in the marketplace, facilities are merged or “branches” liquidated for the sake of the greater good!
I dream of such a day for the Church!
To be continued…
1 Rev 3:15
2 Exodus 17:7