Anything to Separate

There are a lot of things nowadays that separate us from what we should be attached to. We seem to detach ourselves from any kind of responsibility and justify it (of course) in our heads like the same outcome is still happening.

For instance, we no longer really need to study deep into the Scriptures ourselves anymore, because that is our ‘teachers’ job. Churches all over the place have poured money into a teaching pastor, which in my opinion is great if you can afford it. Most churches simply just depend on the senior pastor to put together a message along with everything else they are doing that week. The downside is that the congregation is more at risk to be lazy and simply expect the teaching pastor to do all the hard work. Many of us now want to go to church to get fed from this pastor and subconsciously we begin to rely on the pastor for teaching instead of our own study or our surrounding community. We then have congregations that are the result of one man’s theology instead of a community working it out together.

We’ve separated ourselves from studying the Scriptures.

Another example that I’ve noticed is how we deal with the poor. Shane Claiborne in his book The Irresistible Revolution points this out, and I don’t have the book in front of me so the quote will be off a bit. Essentially though what he said was

I’m convinced that when we see Jesus he won’t say “I was hungry and you gave money to the United Way and the United Way fed me” or “I was naked and you gave your old clothing to the Salvation Army and they clothed me.”

As you can see, we’ve put a wedge between us and the poor. How many of us actually are in constant contact with the poor. Something that Jesus obviously assumed we would have when he said the poor would always be with us. Now we pay organizations and ministries to do our work for us. We don’t even have to feed the poor or clothe them anymore, we just pay money and get out of the job.

We’ve separated ourselves from loving the poor.

The list goes on. We refuse to take responsibility. We refuse to get our hands dirty. We refuse to believe that we have even done this. We want to think the poor is more than an afterthought that we throw money at, we want to think that studying the Scriptures is more important to us than simply just showing up on Sunday morning. But is it?

4 Comments

  • Hi Nathan,

    Thanks for the post. It got me thinking that the problem may not be the role of teaching pastor – after all, that is clearly taught in Ephesians 4:11 “he gave [to the church] the pastors and teachers…” I would suggest the problem you have identified might be caused by teacher-pastors that fail “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…” (Eph 4:12). Certainly part of that equipping is teaching how to read and interpret the Sciptures.
    Of course, there could be a lot of other causes, too – not the least of which is the overall decline in evangelicalism which has shifted a heart religion into a passive consumerism.

  • Nathan,

    Damn. That’s a challenge. I can quote all the quotes and read all the books but when it comes down to it, can I really make time for the poor? Do I want to? I know that I want to…but I want it to be easy. I want to just go to them and for their (making an “us and them” distinction”) reaction to be an open embrace and for me to love on them with no hostility being returned. I don’t want to work at it. Obviously I know this is not the way it will be (or maybe it is but I’ve never tried it). I know we have a choice to Love….enter “marriage” stage right. One of my fears I think is attempting to cut through the barriers that people put up to protect themselves from further hurt (not just poor people). May God deliver me from my selfish ways and may I liberate myself with God’s wisdom. Thanks for posting. I hope I’ll keep this in my mind for more than five minutes from now as that’s the classic scenario. Jump on a bandwagon, get passionate, let it die and fall by the wayside. That would describe most media headlines.

    Dave

  • Hi Nathan,

    I think those are some excellent questions, taking our faith (whatever it is) seriously, takes work, and as Dave wrote – selflessness.

    But it doesn’t always seem easy, although I find, once Its often the idea of working at my faith, rather than the work itself, that puts me off.

    In Gassho

    Gareth

  • Nathan,

    Great topic! This week, my whole church is expected to have finished reading Shane Claiborne’s book, Irresistible Revolution. I don’t know what we are going to do with it yet, but as for me, reading the book has given me a hunger and thirst for righteousness that I have never had before. What got me is the survey he made where he asked people to describe what Jesus was like. Most people noted that he spent time with the poor. The next question was “Do you spend time with the poor?” Almost none said yes. Do we really want to know “WWJD”?

    So I have tried to fellowship with my friends in the church about taking “us” to “them”. I have come across a lot of negative attitudes toward the book because of the (seemingly) radical political overtones of his economic message (such as “the kingdom of God is not a trickle-down economy” and “we have traded the kingdom of God for the American dream”), but mainly people just don’t like the idea of selling all their stuff and living “by faith” as opposed to “making” a living. Talk like that makes people uncomfortable.

    As one who gets a regular paycheck, I understand this. But I had to ask, how can any group carry out a sustained ministry to the poor if they keep liquidating all their assets? So I set out to get the story straight — from the book of Acts and Luke. What I found agreed with Shane’s view that there are “wanderers” and “sysmpathizers”; those in the kingdom that need economic support and those that need to give it. Remember that the early church did not have a “going out of business” sale; they “gave to anyone as he had need.” It was from “time to time” that people would sell houses and lands and lay the money at the apostles’ feet (talk about trust!). The one person mentioned by name who did this was Barnabas — a wanderer for God. In Luke, when Jesus sends out the 72, they could have taken sandals and money and a little extra stuff with them — but Jesus said no. He said to first find a “worthy” house of sympathizers and stay there the whole time untill he arrived in that town. (Jesus knew they could do more with less — how backwards is that?)

    Obviously, we can’t all be wanderers, but we can’t all be sympathizers either — especially from afar, as we suburban Americans have been so proud to do. Instead of going and growing, we see churches nesting and splitting. Here is Shane’s point, as I see it: be prepared to throw anything away that doesn’t serve the Lord Jesus the way He served us, even if it is your house or your job or your whole way of life — and embrace whatever comes next.

    The real problem with making this happen is that we now need to practice what we have been preaching all this time; we need relationship, accountability, unity, community, and (I think) real Spirit-led leadership in order to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the poor — or to anyone else.

    Yesterday, I walked around my town in 104 degree heat, looking for the “poor”. I found some modest trailers and large families, most with shiny new SUVs (in much better shape than my old car) and thought “where would Jesus go?” Any ideas?

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