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Heat dances from the asphalt, giving solid objects the illusion of swaying under July’s burning heat. Hydrangea bushes, all purple and pink, dot the landscape of homes and churches.
Driving down the road, I begin to count all the churches – One, Two, Three…Ten, Eleven. Eleven churches in a mile and a half drive, and something in my stomach tightens.
We have spent so much money, here in the Untied States on bricks and mortar. Each Sunday we dress in our best, drink coffee with those we love, hear a sermon, have a Sunday School lesson, and go home; and, the majority of these buildings are not used again for another week.
Is this the Christianity that Christ had in mind when he gave us the great commission? Or, has our Christianity morphed into something it was never meant to be?
Last summer I read Bonhoeffer’s: Preacher, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, and often my mind wanders back to some of the things for which Dietrich Bonhoeffer stood. He noted, that we as Christians have lost something in our religion. Christianity began as an eastern religion; and, we have westernized it to accommodate our life-style.
By pouring so much money into our building funds, and community areas, we have become a social church instead of a Christ-following Church. It seems that many of the churches in North America, instead of seeking Christ, and sharing Him with others have, in many ways, become self-seeking and self-serving. Frequently, a church can feel more like a social club than the Body of Christ.
We have been given so very much in gifts and financial blessings and we are spending so much on our comforts, while our inner city children perish, lacking education, regular meals, clothing to fit their changing bodies, and a safe place to sleep at night. Yet, we have huge buildings, making our presence known in the communities.
This is only the beginning of what many churches need to address.
Is Christianity in the world as a popularity contest with other religions?
But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. (Luke 12:48 NIV)
If we refuse the call, if we close our eyes, are we not provoking God’s anger toward our self-serving ways?
To be able to give, as we should, we need to have the right mindset, the right vision to see as God sees. The Sermon on the Mount, to me, is the Ten Commandments of the New Testament –it gives us the vision to see how to proceed in living and giving in the Christian walk. In the Sermon on the Mount, we are taught to forgive, to end anger, to seek God, to love others as if they were more important than ourselves. We, the Body of Christ, who should be full of gratitude — the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, sometimes look more like a den of ingrates — grabbing all they can.
The original ingrate was Satan. He had beauty, talent, and position; yet, it was not enough for his ravenous self-serving appetite – He wanted for more, for bigger, for the attention, more power. He was never thankful, never satisfied.
“Satan, he wanted more. More power, more glory. Ultimately, in his essence, Satan is an ingrate. And he sinks his venom into the heart of Eden. Satan’s sin becomes the first sin of all humanity: the sin of ingratitude. Adam and Eve are simply, painfully, ungrateful for what God gave.”
I have pondered Ann’s message. “Ungrateful for what God gave.” Being ungrateful, not saying “thank you, or I love you” back to God. Have we become a people who says, “more, and more, bigger and greater” only to be used for our own desires and not given to others as God has given to us?
There are many good things that our churches do in our communities, and in the world. But, I think it is time for us to step back and evaluate our choices and ask if we’re doing all that we should, or only doing that which is in our comfort zone, omitting what causes us to truly sacrifice?
Not long ago I saw a bumper sticker that read, “America Bless God”. And I have to ask myself, is the Church in North America really blessing God more than we are blessing ourselves?
How can we truly love Jesus more?
What specifically can we do today to answer the call to “Feed my Lambs”?