Thursday, December 8, 2011

Crying at a Concert

Day 21: A quote or Bible verse you try to live by.

Now that I'm finally back to blogging (it seems like it has been an eternity), I'd like to share one of my favorite verses in the Bible, James 1:27, which says:
"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."
Let me share a story with you I don't think I've ever shared on this blog before.

About a year ago, I attended a Christian concert at a fairly large church in my city.  This church had recently made some huge renovations, apparently spending millions of dollars on building upgrades, including a huge circle-shaped auditorium created solely for concerts and performances.  While looking around, I was informed that the two huge screens on each side of the room cost half a million dollars... each.  The church had an indoor arcade, skateboarding arena, multiple basketball courts... I couldn't believe my eyes.

About halfway through the concert, they began to play a video.  It was for Compassion International and it contained typical tear-jerking scenes: African kids standing in the streets of their slums, ankle-deep in sludge and dressed in nothing but rags and flies.  Heartbreaking video footage, a couple of Christian celebrities asking the audience to sponsor a child... if you've ever been to a big Christian concert, you've probably seen something like this before.

Anything Africa tends to fill my heart with fire, but I rarely cry when I see those videos.  (Okay, I might tear up a little now and then.)  However, as I sat there and watched the Compassion video, I immediately began to cry.  Pretty obviously crying too (tears rolling down my cheeks, sniffling, lip quivering kind of crying).  My mom turned around and gave me a look like, "What on earth are you crying for?"

The reason I cried was because I was disgusted.  My heart felt like it had been snapped in half.  In that moment, I felt horribly embarrassed and was glad no one from the slums of Africa was there to see what was happening.

On two half-a-million dollar screens played a video sharing statistics about poverty and starvation.  The video was asking the audience to donate $35 dollars a month, but imagine how many children could be helped if they'd sacrificed one of their luxurious screens... or their arcade... or their Wiis... or their skate plex.

And you can say, "It's their business.  It's their church."  But we're the church.  Every one of us.  We are the body of Christ and as a member of this body, I'm calling a problem out into the open.  We're so focused on prosperity and the American dream... and serving the poor comes second.  How is that anywhere near what the Lord has called us to be?

I've been told that the reason all of these huge attractions have been put into churches is to attract more unbelievers, and I do believe we should keep our churches looking nice out of respect for the Lord.  But what I keep hearing, in a nutshell, is... as long as we focus on the things of the world--material possessions, the American Dream--we'll get more members?  Sure, if we act like the world, the world will eagerly embrace us.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.

We've kind of forgotten that part.  I wish I could plaster James 1:27 on the walls of every church to remind everyone (including myself) about what God intends for us and calls for us to do.  He has called us to help the needy.  His heart is with the hurting and the suffering.

After visiting that church, a song came to mind.  It's by Todd Agnew and it's called "My Jesus."  Let me share a few lines with you:
I want to be like my Jesus.  Not a posterchild for American prosperity, but like my Jesus. You see, I'm tired of living for success and popularity. I want to be like my Jesus.
It's Christmas time.  It's easy to become absorbed in gift-giving and possessions.  I'm not saying that getting and receiving gifts are wrong.  They make special memories and they are a nice part of Christmas, as long as they aren't put first.  Let's make sure to give some of our time volunteering this Christmas season without expecting anything in return.  Let's give a portion of our--or actually, the Lord's-- money to the poor.

Let's follow James 1:27.  No more forgetting.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, yes, a million times yes.

    A church by my house built an extravagant youth/teen center about 5 years ago. A good friend of mine was speaking with the youth pastor recently and asked him if it had worked. The youth pastor said that it really didn't. There was a spike in attendance for about six months, but they have not seen any sustained increase, and no increase of youth attending church on Sundays.

    I was raised in a non Christian family, and when I first became
    a believer at 16, I visited all of the local churches. The first three I visited were the three large churches with tons of appealing material attractions. They were fine, but it wasn't until I visited a tiny, old school church in my neighborhood that I was overwhelmed with love from everyone I encountered and truly experienced the Holy Spirit during the service. I am not implying that those other churches were bad or unloving or didn't have the Holy Spirit, but that I personally found that even though I was drawn to them initially, it wasn't sustainable.