Wednesday, August 06, 2008

What If aliens....

This excerpt from Neil Cole's book "Search and Rescue" (see below) is too good and needs its own space....It is a great ice-breaker or opener for church board retreats or meetings that are going on in August.

"If aliens came and abducted all of the truck drivers at once in our country, our whole economy would soon unravel. You probably give little thought on a daily basis to truck drivers, except for the annoyance of having to get around a slow moving semi on the highway. But if they were suddenly gone, stores would close due to a lack of merchandise. People would lose jobs. Prices for the goods that in stock would triple. Families would soon go hungry because stores would not be able to stock their shelves. The influence of truck drivers on our life every day is very real, even if we don't give it much thought [Ron note: like the leaven in Jesus' parable, for example]. If suddenly all the garbage collection trucks broke down, everyone in town would soon know it. If all waiters and waitresses were suddenly sick and unable to work, many of us would go hungry. If teachers couldn't work, we would have a crisis on our hands.

"But if all the churches in your community suddenly disappeared, would the average person in your town even notice? If just your church closed its doors for good, would the people who live within a fifteen-mile radius even know about it?"

In the post below I criticize the tendency of Cole's books to focus on personal holiness to the detriment of the social self and social sins; I do that in part because I am also one of those frequent critics of liberal religious bodies penchant for "make-good" resolutions on this and that social ills and study issues, the flip side of the coin. But here in this section of the quote above, I want to give Cole credit for a wonderful example of how the smallness of the life transformation groups as being "kingdom-oriented" and the focus on the person in the group can have a social transformative effect.

Instead of pulpits preaching about social ills, instead of resolutions that take time and money and talent, all those things that probably make little difference and lead to the church's irrelevancy to most within 15 miles of it, what if, he wonders, LTGs helped bring back responsibility into the lives of men (and the women only groups would help I am sure with this through reducing enabling behaviors). He writes, "If the hearts of the fathers returned to their children, and if fathers were faithful to their chilren's mothers, street violence would subside, drug and sexual abuse would decrease, theft would drop, schools would improve, illiteracy would decrease, and dependency on the state's welfare system would diminish--releasing more tax revenue to address other problems. Sexually transmitted diseases would die down quickly. Unwanted teen pregnancy rates would drop significantly. The AIDS crisis would end. The abortion issue, one of the most divisive issues of our day, would be resolved, not because of political lobbying and picket signs, but because the hearts of fathers would be turned back to their children." And he uses the example of how Great Britain ended slavery not by a war but by the revival of God's people in a slow, struggling way. And so he says all of our issues where Jesus is calling us to be, such as environmental issues, poverty issues, genocide, terrorists are not too much for us because we are a part of the movement of the "kingdom" of God, and that always works in small ways. He closes with a paraphrase of Ghandi's be the change you seek to see in the world. Whatever form church takes for you, that needs to be its goal, and if it isn't working for you or your neighbors, then consider finding a different form. (see the post below).

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