Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Are We Missing The Point?

Lately I've been wondering if we, as believers in Jesus, are really missing the point. I've been seeing alot of coverage of Oprah Winfrey's funding of a $40 million dollar school for South African girls who have been sexually abused, neglected, orphaned, etc. Also, I've seen coverage of Hollywood star Angelina Jolie adopting orphans from impoverished countries and trying to educate people on the great need of orphans in third-world nations. These are two people who would definitely be considered "outside of the fold" in Christian circles, yet here are two persons who are giving of themselves to help others in need. Meanwhile, many in the Body of Christ are too busy debating theology, sharpening apologetic skills and preaching to people to actually be Jesus to hurting people.

Sometimes I wonder just how important having all of our "doctrinal duckies" in a row really is. While much of the thrust of the contemporary church is on understanding, mentally assenting to and defending the right doctrinal positions, the thrust of Jesus' ministry (both then and now) seems to be more focused on helping and healing hurting people. In speaking of this, James said

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27 (NIV)
Pure religion...not characterized by having it all together doctrinally speaking, but rather determined by our actions toward our local and worldwide neighbors. At times, we have interpreted the phrase "and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world" to mean "don't cuss, don't drink, don't chew and don't run with those who do". But, could it be that not allowing ourselves to be polluted by the world rather means refusing to play the worlds game of "loving those who love you", and instead choosing to give to those who can't give back and choosing to love those who would even be considered our enemies? Have we really bought into the pollution of the world while seemingly refusing to give into it?

Tonight, while thousands of children have been orphaned because of the AIDS pandemic in Africa, while many more are suffering from malnutrition and disease, and while thousands of people don't know where their next meal is going to come from, we American Christians are preoccupied trying to prove pre-trib, mid-trib or post-trib; Calvinism or Arminianism; etc. Are we missing the point?


Anonymous said...

Very well said, Ray.

Erica said...

I couldn't agree more!!! At the end of the day, it's not about how many people I won over to my way of thinking is it?

Mom & Dad said...

I wholeheartedly agree. We spend so much of our time trying to dot every "i" and cross every "t" and building bigger and better, along with trying to interpret the scripture to suit our own needs and make us feel good, that we neglect to minister to the millions in the world who are starving not only for food, clothes and shelter, but for love and compassion. Great job! Mom

Anonymous said...

Brother Raborn,

Are we missing the point?

Yes! A thousand times, yes!

I am so with you on this one; theology/doctrine/orthodoxy etc. ad infinitum, ad nauseum has its place but not, never, no way, no how to the exclusion of orthopraxy.

If our faith in no way affects how we respond to needy people, it in my estimation is no faith at all.

James 2:14-17!!

A sobering, necessary post for the American church.

**Sorry if my comment is a little passionate...this is something that really hits close to home for me! I am going to link this post!**

Raborn Johnson said...

Thanks! Good to talk to you again!

Absolutely correct! We are called to make disciples of Jesus. We are not called to clone ourselves or to make disciples of ourselves. Unfortunately, I don't think that the Church sees that this is what we are actually doing. Instead, we clone ourselves in the name of conforming others into the image of Jesus. Thanks for stopping by...you are always welcome anywhere I go;)

Mom & Dad
True that! Thanks for your encouragement:)

Thanks for the link! Actually, your posts of late have contributed to my thinking on this subject, and for that I am truly grateful!

I am so with you on this one; theology/doctrine/orthodoxy etc. ad infinitum, ad nauseum has its place but not, never, no way, no how to the exclusion of orthopraxy.

I agree! Compared to the weight of living as Jesus in this world I would say that doctrine is fairly insignificant. I think that the world in general refuses to embrace the love of Jesus, not because they have never heard of it, but rather, because many of them have never seen it.

Anonymous said...

You are so right when you say:

"Meanwhile, many in the Body of Christ are too busy debating theology, sharpening apologetic skills and preaching to people to actually be Jesus to hurting people. "

Very edifying post, Ray!

Anonymous said...

In a word...yes.

Excellent post...

Be blessed.

RC said...

interesting post...

now the follow up question is clear...

what are you going to do about it?

Raborn Johnson said...

Heather & Brandon
Thanks for stopping by and for your encouragement!

Thanks for reading!

what are you going to do about it?

Interesting question. My answer was becoming to explanatory, so I would like to answer this in the form of a post rather than here in the comments section. Look for it tonight as I won't be home from work until then. Thanks for keeping me accountable;)

Meanwhile...I would like to open this question to everyone...be thinking about it and write your response here, in the comments section of the post tonight or as a post on your own blogs. Thanks everyone for the conversation!

ded said...

You are accurate in your assessment.
I think about it this way: (pardon the length of my comment)
Western culture which has developed co-actively and cooperately with Western religion, and thereby the American church, is very focused on the natural, material world. Renaissance, Exploration, Imperialism, Romanticism, Naturalism, Rationalism, and other -isms of the last 600 years bear this out. The focus is all on the development of the material human existence, and the church has loped along hand in hand because of what it could gain from earthly political power and wealth!! The result is a practice of Christianity which judges all things outwardly.

Ultimately, American Christians have come to expect that what is preached, done in ministry to the lost, the oppressed, the poor, manifested in the lives of believers, etc. must be verifiable in material numbers or substantiated with documents or at least covered by the local newspaper. Numbers saved, numbers helped, numbers ministered to, costs we need to pray for, credibility of the pastors qualifications, degrees which verify preparedness for ministry in music or counseling, reasoning for purchasing the next tech development, and on and on. Then with confidence we can use the countable outcomes or documentation as solid evidence of God's working through us.

The problem with such an assumption of the validity of material outcomes is the missed truth of living in communion with the in-dwelling Spirit of Christ. He guides, comforts and strengthens; we sense this leading and reach out with love, understanding and compassion. The chips fall where they may.

In contrast, we establish our material presence in the name of God, (buildings, ministries, boards, etc. and all the legal documentation required by the government; we choose the outward works we will support; we manifest a righteousness evidenced by our natural, material impact; and we claim credit in the eyes of both God and our fellow man.

Long gone from our mindset is that we, as believers, devote ourselves to growing into a mature love--the immaterial part of us--then we are tapped by God to particpate in the move of the Spirit in His timing. We do not seek to be lovers of God and humans. Rather, we pursue the material because accounting in the natural allows verifiable evidence of the move of the Spirit.

Were our churches known for their profound depth of love rather than the the cost of the building and the numbers attending, who would be glorified?

Where there is faith, there will be works, there is no doubt. Therefore we erect and tabulate thus enabling us to quantify faith.

We are rich in the material and naked and poor in the spiritual.

What shall we do RC asks?

I would suggest wrestle with God until He determines to wound our ability to move in our own strength. Accept all wounding!! Pursue knowing the in-dwelling reality of Christ. Make choices which help one learn how to abide in the Spirit. Accomplish everything on one's heart from this place of abiding. It will all be just, true and full of the fruit of the Spirit.

That's for starters!! 8^)

ded said...

Oh well. I typed a short essay and never made my point connected to "Missing the Point."

Because we are so poor in spirit, so lacking in undertanding in spiritual things, which is a function of our very natural, materialistic take on the world, American Christians endlessly argue doctrine with one another.