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01 September 2008

Rethinking Ways of Giving and Loving...

Do you ever get the feeling that sitting in a reasonably comfortable seat or pew at a church service and putting money into an offering plate might actually encourage people to be lazy in how they give? The Cooperative Program has been a literal Godsend to missionaries across the world, and there are numerous charitable organizations to which church fellowships of many denominations give liberally. A side-effect or our typical method of giving (impacting the giving individuals), I'm afraid, may be that the average churchgoer doesn't see the need to get "into the trenches," either in personal giving or in physical effort.

Yesterday a group of people, primarily teens but a few adults, went to a nearby gas station and gave away gas to people as long as money was available. It was a nice little chunk of change, but as I understand it, it went quickly, as you might imagine.

The group's purpose? To show that they care about people and that they want to give freely. They didn't specifically invite people to their church fellowship unless the conversation went that way itself, but most of them were wearing shirts that said "Be the Church." This was to discourage the idea that the group might be essentially bribing people to go to their church fellowship.

I can think of several arguments as to why this might appear to be a token gesture or why it's a generally silly thing to do. However, efforts like this are some of the "crazy" things that I believe aren't such wild ideas for Christ-followers. The churched crowd in America, as a whole, is ridiculously well-off financially (pulling from my current read, Francis Chan's "Crazy Love," 53% of the world's population earns $2 or less per day). As Jesus directly said, this makes it as difficult for them -- rich people -- to enter the kingdom of Heaven as it is for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. That's "impossible," but it happened with Zacchaeus -- things that are impossible with man are possible with God.

Got any ideas of tangible ways that we as Christ-followers -- the Church -- can visibly show that we love one another and that we love people around us who are not Christ-followers? Not necessarily just "new" ideas, but ways that you or your church fellowship are actively doing this...?

Bear in mind that first, we have to love people; then we can genuinely show it. Otherwise it's going to be a hollow, gratutious gesture. Jesus didn't say that the world would know that His disciples are, indeed, His disciples by how many people they witness to or how well they propagate disciples (although that was also His command); Jesus said that the world would know this by how much we love one another. We've got to get it straight within the Church before we can get it straight outside.

Addendum: For the sake of clarity, I am not encouraging anyone to begin to give less, or to discontinue giving (either in money or commitment), through their local church. Don't think that I needed to say that, but thought I'd better.


Leroy said...

A "new" way we as Christians can give and love...get to know your neighbors. Don't close your garage door even before you get out of your car. Don't just stay inside your privacy fence. Too often we are too busy to visit and just want to go inside and rest. True, there are those days. But seven days of the week?

Jan said...

Just do something for someone just because.....and maybe most of all, love your brothers and sisters in Christ. That's how Jesus said the world would know we are his disciples. Radical, huh?

Christy said...

Be in the Word so that when the Holy Spirit speaks, you recognize His voice. And WHEN He tells you to act - DO IT THEN! For instance, you see someone standing in the rain at a bus stop, for some reason you feel the need to stop and give them your umbrella - just DO it. Or some homeless guy is holding up a sign "Will work for food". Go buy him a hamburger or something. It's really not that complicated. The main thing that holds us back, in my opinion, is our 'precious time' we think we don't have.

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