Being a Christian is about choosing Jesus and deciding to do something incredibly daring with your life.
The scriptures say that we should not fear those things which can destroy the body, but we are to fear that which can destroy the soul (Matt.10:28). While the ghettos may have their share of violence and crime, the suburbs are the home of the more subtle demonic forces—numbness, complacency, comfort—and it is these that can eat away at our souls.
From my desk at college, it looked like some time back we had stopped living Christianity and just started studying it.
If we were to set out to establish a religion in polar opposition to the Beatitudes Jesus taught, it would look strikingly similar to the pop Christianity that has taken over the airwaves of North America. Tony Campolo
I had it together. I used to be cool. And then I met Jesus and he wrecked my life. The more I read the gospel, the more it messed me up, turning everything I believed in, valued, and hoped for upside-down.
Tithes, tax-exempt donations, and short-term mission trips, while they accomplish some good, can also function as outlets that allow us to appease our consciences and still remain a safe distance from the poor.
Imagine the scene in a biological family: a father building a mansion while his children are going hungry. He’d be institutionalized or jailed. How much more preposterous should this be in our family of rebirth, in which we have been given new eyes to see others as brothers and sisters?
The pervasive myth is that as we grow larger, we can do more good. But there is little evidence that this is ever realized. My own research and experience would suggest that as congregations grow in terms of staff and property, their giving to causes outside of operating expenses decreases dramatically, especially money given directly to the poor.
Most good things begin with a little guilt, but they never end there.
I call it spiritual bulimia. Bulimia, of course, is a tragic eating disorder, largely linked to identity and image, where folks consume large amounts of food but vomit it up before it has a chance to digest. I developed the spiritual form of it where I did my devotions, read all the new Christian books and saw the Christian movies, and then vomited information up to friends, small groups, and pastors. But it had never had the chance to digest.
I learned about John Wesley, who said that if they didn’t kick him out of town after he spoke, he wondered if he had really preached the gospel. Wesley’s old saying, “If I should die with more than ten pounds in my pocket, may every man call me a liar and a thief”, for he would have betrayed the gospel. Then I watched as one of the Methodist congregations I attended built a $120,000 stained glass window. Wesley would not have been happy.
Church father Ignatius said that if our church is not marked by caring for the poor, the oppressed, and the hungry, then we are guilty of heresy.
The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world? Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Oh, priceless scholarship, what we do without you? Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament. Soren Kierkegaard
In our culture of seeker sensitivity and radical inclusivity, the great temptation is to compromise the cost of discipleship in order to draw a larger crowd.
God comforts the disturbed and disturbs the comfortable.
We have not shown the world another way of doing life. Christians pretty much live like everybody else; they just sprinkle a little Jesus in along the way.
We are trying to shout the gospel with our lives. Many spiritual seekers have not been able to hear the words of Christians because the lives of Christians have been making so much horrible noise.
Preach the gospel always. And when necessary, use words. St Francis of Assisi
It is a beautiful thing when folks in poverty are no longer just a mission project but become genuine friends and family with whom we laugh, cry, dream, and struggle.
When I fed the hungry, they called me a saint. When I asked why people are hungry, they called me a communist. Charity wins awards and applause, but joining the poor gets you killed. People do not get crucified for charity. People are crucified for living out a love that disrupts the social order that calls forth a new world. People are not crucified for helping poor people. People are crucified for joining them.
Today, the wealthiest 20% of the world’s population receives almost 83% of the world’s income, while the poorest 20% receives less than 2%.
We need converts in the best sense of the word, people who are marked by the renewing of their minds and imaginations, who no longer conform to the pattern that is destroying our world.
We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, but we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself. Dietrich Bonhoeffer
It is much more comfortable to depersonalize the poor so we don’t feel responsible for the catastrophic human failure that results in someone sleeping on the street while people have spare bedrooms in their homes.
When we get to heaven, we will be separated into those sheep and goats that Jesus talks about in Matthew 25 based on how we cared for the least among us. I’m just not convinced that Jesus is going to say, “When I was hungry, you gave a check to the United Way and they fed me”, or “When I was naked, you donated clothes to the Salvation Army and they clothed me.: Jesus is not seeking distant acts of charity. He seeks concrete acts of love: “you fed me…you visited me in prison…you welcomed me into your home…you clothed me.”
I heard that Gandhi, when people asked him if he was a Christian, would often reply, “Ask the poor. They will tell you who the Christians are.”
It also becomes scandalous for the church to spend money on windows and buildings when some family members don’t even have water. Welcome to the dysfunctional family of Yahweh.
The best thing to do with the best things in life is to give them away.
I’m convinced that God did not mess up and make too many people and not enough stuff. Poverty was created not by God but by you and me, because we have not learned to love our neighbors as ourselves. Gandhi put it well when he said, “There is enough for everyone’s need, but there is not enough for everyone’s greed.”
God forgive us for all those we have lost because we made the gospel boring. I am convinced that if we lose kids to the culture of drugs and materialism, of violence and war, it’s because we don’t dare them, not because we don’t entertain them. It’s because we make the gospel too easy, not because we make it too difficult. Kids want to do something heroic with their lives, which is why they play video games and join the army. But what are they to do with a church that teaches them to tiptoe through life so they can arrive safely at death?
Growing up, I always thought that Christians were good upstanding citizens, but the more I get to know Jesus, the more trouble he seems to get me into.
To want to admire, instead of follow, Christ is not an invention of bad people; no it is more an invention of those who spinelessly want to keep themselves detached at a safe distance from Jesus. Soren Kierkegaard
Perhaps the most dangerous place for a Christian to be is in safety and comfort.
Christians should be troublemakers, creators of uncertainty, and agents of a dimension incompatible with society. Jacques Ellul
The gospel is good news for sick people and is disturbing for those who think they’ve got it all together.
Christianity can be built around isolating ourselves from evildoers and sinners, creating a community of religious piety and moral purity. That’s the Christianity I grew up with. Christianity can also be built around joining with the broken sinners and evildoers of our world crying out to God, groaning for grace. That’s the Christianity I have fallen in love with.
Christianity spreads most rapidly when we are killed at the hands of evildoers without retaliating. It’s the story of the growth of the church during the great persecutions. They wrote that for every one of them who was killed, there were ten converts. As the saying goes, “In the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the saints.” The paradox is that the church is healthiest during eras of persecution, and it gets sick during periods of comfort and ease and power.
Whenever people say, Christians are hypocrites, I say Duh, every time we come together we are confessing that we are hypocrites, weaklings in need of God and each other. We know that we cannot do life alone, and the good news is that we don’t have to. We are created for community. Rich Mullins
But amid all the church-growth tacticians and megachurch models. I want to suggest something a little different: God’s kingdom grows smaller and smaller as it takes over the world.
If the devil can’t steal your soul, he’ll just keep you busy doing meaningless church work.
Amid all the supersizing, I want to make a modest suggestion: our goal should be not to get larger and larger but to get smaller and smaller. I think of the kingdom of God as bubbling up from the bottom rather than trickling down from the top. Contrary to the pattern of the world, it is like a mustard seed. To enter it, we must become like a little child. God is indeed taking over the world, but it is happening through little acts of love.
I did a ton of research on tithes and offerings in Scripture, and discovered they are unmistakably intended to be used for redistributing resources to the poor and not to go toward buildings and staff for the church.
One of the underlying assumptions is that money from the offering or tithe belongs to the church. But the Scriptures consistently teach that the offering is God’s instrument of redistribution and that it belongs to the poor. Giving to the poor should not make it’s way into the budget; it is the budget.
So historically, church offerings were part of God’s economy of redistribution, and over 90% was to be given to the poor. We live in an age when we have nearly reversed what God set in place. An average of 85% of the church offering is used internally, primarily for staff and buildings and stuff to meet our own needs.
What’s crazy is that the US, less than 6% of the world’s population, consumes nearly half of the world’s resources, and that the average American consumes as much as 520 Ethiopians do, while obesity is declared a “national health crisis”.
Love without courage and wisdom is sentimentality, as with the ordinary church member. Courage without love and wisdom is foolhardiness, as with the ordinary soldier. Wisdom without love and courage is cowardice, as with the ordinary intellectual. But the one who has love, courage and wisdom moves the world. Ammon Hennacy
All around you, people will be tiptoeing through life, just to arrive at death safely. But dear children, do not tiptoe. Run, hop, skip, or dance, just don’t tiptoe.