Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I interrupt this broadcast...

...if you can call it an interruption, I've been so absent lately.

But I did want to chime in here about my thoughts on this past election cycle, and the current economic situation. And I know with that phrase I have an immediate rapt audience, because no one has tired of seeing campaign ads, getting campaign mailings, watching pre- and post-election coverage, etc. Right? No one's sick of that. Everybody is dying to get as much as they can, because we get fed so much pertinent, honest info that every piece makes us hungry for more!

Can I make a confession? I am hoping things get worse in this country. I look at the stock market reports daily, praying that they keep dropping. I hear about jobs being lost, and know many friends whose jobs may be in jeopardy or have already been eliminated, and I feel joy and anticipation.

Let me be clear. I empathize with those who worry about stability and loss of income and how to pay bills. God knows I've been there, and it's a horrible feeling. I get that financial difficulties are not fun for anyone, and that they can be a terrific strain on families and marriages. But while I understand the stress and desperation that financial hard times can bring, I still can't help my heart leaping when I see another corporation crash. I can't help but hope just a little that another Great Depression could come upon us.

Why, you ask? Because I love the church. And when I see this crisis, I see nothing but a situation that God may use to remind the church of what's truly important.

In the opulence and overabundance of stuff in the consumer culture of America, the church has by and large lost its way, throwing in its lot solidly with the American Dream. She has not needed God, has forgotten God, and has replaced His Gospel with a business model of church growth, emphasizing marketing strategies over loving truth and people. She fills out huge, well-decorated facilities and immense campuses with parking garages and coffee stands. She buys corporate jets and sets its ministers up in huge mansions. She talks about how to "increase attendance" and be "seeker-sensitive" in contexts where the words "increase sales" and "expand market share" could easily replace the monikers. The church has become a brand. She has forgotten why she was redeemed: to love God, and to love people, things which business models and marketing schemes are powerless to do. She is His bride, and has taken on wealth and popular appeal for lovers rather than her Husband.

Here, in the current climate, is a prime opportunity to see the collapse of this system. We, the church, will be forced again to cling to God and trust in His provision in this great time of need. Not only that, but we have the opportunity to show God's care and provision to those around us through sacrificial love and giving. This economic crisis could make us like the churches in Macedonia that Paul talks about in Second Corinthians, who "in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part" (2 Cor. 8:2, ESV). We could, as the Macedonians did, give according to and beyond our means to meet the needs of those suffering around us.

I would like for it not to take something as drastic as an economic collapse. I would like for the church to remember again what its purpose is, and to divorce itself from materialism and nationalism without the horrible suffering. But I think it's clear that's not how God works. It's through sufferings and hardships that He refines us, and He commands us to rejoice when we suffer, because we know that He is working to shape us more into the people - the church, His body - that we are supposed to be.

So I rejoice, and encourage you to do the same - not just because I say so, but also because we're commanded to delight and rejoice in suffering. I encourage you take delight in the situation we are in, to welcome it with open arms, to revel in it - not because we ought to be callous to the sufferings of those around us, but because we know that God will use it to His glory, and that through this time He will shape His church.

So I pray that the suffering does not stop until His work is complete. I do not fear any party's control of the government; I do not tremble or worry that our way of life or policies and laws we hold dear may change. This is God's work. He brings it; He guides; He will complete it. And may we rejoice in the work He will do.