Phase three in Jen Hatmaker's book 'Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity' is about the church caring for the oppressed, abandoned, and helpless. This is a really good chapter, and I'll likely break it up into a couple different posts, but..... it's pretty humblingly convicting too.
The tough stuff started right from the beginning for me. As Jen says on p. 89...
"A frustrating trait about God is how He expects us to act on conviction fairly quickly. Pretty much the second He convinces us to move, to change, to shift, we're supposed to. Despite how much we ponder it or talk about it, until we are obedient in word and deed, we're just here pretending to be there."
Um... yep. That was for me. One thing that seemed to happen to me over the years was an excessive desire for ...caution. Not the kind that prays for direction; not the kind that patiently discerns; but the kind where I knew it was God leading me and..... I was too afraid to take the step. Ghah. I've spent a lot of time pretending to be "there."
And, a beat I've been drumming for awhile, but have sort of lost zeal for... On p.92:
"What about the really broken people who can't or won't find their way to us? What about those too frozen in suffering to consider a nine-thirty or eleven o'clock service? And, also, what about the people who despise church and Christians and can't for the life of them figure out what is "good" about our good news? What about the spiritually hungry who keep leaving churches uninspired and unmoved? What if we need to go to them instead of hoping they'll come to us?"
Yes. I honestly think this is something I have on my heart. This is actually much of the reason I do many of the things I do. However, I'll be the first to admit that it's a slippery slope. It is not easy - I don't care what anybody says. In fact, I think this type of ministry is way more difficult than Sunday morning celebration type stuff. But... that's not an excuse. I'm afraid the church is just about out of excuses...
One final thought I took from the first couple sections of this phase is this (p.94):
"Remarkably, most outsiders are not anti-church (our gospel isn't provocative enough to incite backlash anymore); they simply dismiss the church as irrelevant to their real lives since it seems mostly irrelevant to the people who go there."
Bingo! I actually spend quite a bit of time discussing life, religion, politics, and things with some self-avowed atheists. The thing that frustrates me more than anything else, but also gives me hope, is that I don't think they're all that off in their beliefs. Unfortunately, the form of Christianity they have been exposed to isn't at all what I believe about our faith either. In other words, in many respects, I think they are right to be opposed to what they have come to believe about the Christian faith. It's just not what I would call the Christian faith though. So if they could actually see it...
Another comment on that last quote from p. 94. One thing I think Jane and I did right over the years of raising our children was our example towards the church and God. We always loved the church. It was never a burden or chore for us to "go" to church, or be in small groups, or Bible Studies, and the like. In fact, those things were just a natural part of our life, though, by no means the extent of our faith. Contrast that with kids who see and hear their parents grumble about "having to go to church"... and it's not hard to see where they start to take on that attitude themselves.
I think I will end there. As I said, this section packs a huge punch (at least to me). I want to chew on this for a bit. Good stuff. Tough stuff. Hope-filled stuff. Sort of.