November 17, 2009
In our travels, for many weeks now, one theme has emerged large in our conversations with church leaders.
The challenges of economic belt-tightening.
It seems that no community is exempt from the pressures being faced all over the country due to the economic downturn.
Pressures indeed.....salaries cut, offerings down (in many situations, not all), ministry support being reassessed, people moving to get jobs, businesses closing, retirements postponed, cars driven longer, community programs trimmed or shut down, restaurants with lots of space, parks in disrepair.
It seems like it is everywhere you look.
It is a sober and anxious time and one that calls for reflection and response.
And that is where I begin to gather faith...in the fact that this is not an isolated thing.
Everyone around us is feeling what we are feeling.
It is not your church that is somehow singled out...it is all of us.
We are not alone.
And most of all...we are not alone, because God is with us.
He specializes in showing up when things are difficult...and we feel so dependent on Him.
It is in these times when He especially seems to delight to put His fingerprints all over our lives.
God IS with us.
This season is not surprising Him.
In fact, I am convinced more and more that He has a specific intention in mind in what is happening all around us.
In Acts 11, the same chapter that says believers were
"scattered by persecution" and
"severe famine was about to devastate the country"
these words also are found:
"for the first time they were called Christians" and
"the community grew large and strong in the Master." (from the Message).
God does not drop in and out - with us in the good times, and away in other places in the bad times - His secure pledge to us is this: "I will never leave you or forsake you."
He is with you right now as you read and think about these words...and with me as I write them.
So our challenge is to pray,
"Lord, show me Your presence,
and what I can do to respond to this crisis,
and how my life in the midst of these times can show others who are living in great anxiety what a difference it makes to know you as my Friend."
And here are a few of my ideas - hopefully to prime your pump and tune you in a bit more to what the Spirit of God might say to you and your circle of believers as you listen to Him:
Five Community ideas...
1. How about a more purposeful sharing of meals together? Not asking the cooks among you to wear out, but perhaps building a rotation that frees cooks up from some nights each week and brings believers (and non-believers?) into a more purposeful (and money-saving) relationship.
2. How about sharing tools? appliances? and building/repairing energies?
3. How about sharing living spaces? (Wow, do you remember the community movement of the 70's? We had community houses - with a total of about 30 living there - as a part of our church and it really was used of God.)
4. How about pooling care-giving to children, and the elderly?
5. How about establishing a resources response team to oversee the development of all of this within the church? And a way for all to communicate easily....so that the responses can become more timely and effective?
God, thank You that You are with us. And You have a plan for these times.
May each of the communities You have placed us in become stronger in these days...not faithless and fearful.
May many look and see tangible evidence of Jesus' people standing in practical and loving strength in the midst of challenging times.
And may this kind of response bring many to want in on this Family, and trust You with their whole life.
Could this time be a setup?
For instance, just one chapter in Romans offers