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Sunday, February 21, 2016

Ministerial Alliance Meeting--Thoughts about Sacrifice

February 10th the Ellis County Ministerial Alliance meeting was held at Unite's Common Grounds Coffee House and Free Store.  It was a busy start--my wife, Tella, and I were cleaning the place up and getting it ready early.  The One advisory board met first and chatted about the publication while we prepared.  I was excited, because I had four unique guests at the event.  Pat, who is opening Breathe Coffee House on Main Street, was there.  Much of what he plans to do there will work with much of what we are already doing, and some of his plans will involve a lot of the churches that attend the ECMA, so I was very glad that he could make it.  Dave, the station manager at KPRD was also in attendance.  Since he's looking to network more with local communities and since many of them could take advantage of his public service announcements, I was very glad to see him again.  Also in attendance were two Mormon missionaries who had originally shown up at our doorstep asking to chat about Jesus.  Considering my what my life was about, I couldn't really say no to an opportunity to chat about Jesus.  As I got to know the two of them, I found out that they were interested in Aikido (they now take a morning class at our school), and that they need more community service hours but don't have good connections to local community service opportunities.  Since many of the nonprofits at the ECMA are always hard up for volunteers, I figured that it would be good for them to be in attendance to announce their availability to help out.

The meeting went very well--it was long and would be boring to relay everything involved.  One of the more interesting things, though, was brought up when a task force that the ECMA had created to look at options for First Call for Help asked to have its mission clarified.  They wanted to know if they were looking for ways to help everyone in the community with the resources they had or if they were looking at how to best use the resources they had.  These are two very different questions, of course.  One of the local chaplains began discussing how we could help everyone with the resources we had--including having the pastors present see how many landlords were in their congregations who could live out a Christian walk by offering emergency housing assistance with vacant apartments (since one of the issues discussed was emergency housing and the lack of it here in Ellis County--and our inability to help the situation with such limited finances).  His argument was interesting, because, in truth, the committee attempting to help everyone with their limited financial resources was bound to fail.  However, if the body of Christ as a whole--not just the Christian leaders on that committee with that donated money--were to address this problem seriously, we could possibly come up with legitimate solutions.  The amount of work, time, and effort involved in such an approach would be huge, but it could actually succeed at handling some of the problems.  Unfortunately, the committee was told that its job was just to figure out how best to use the resources they had.  While this makes more administrative sense (answering a finite question with finite options is a tangible goal), it also fails to address the continuing needs in the community.  At first, I had felt some interest in joining the committee--once I realized that was their only goal (figuring out how to allocate resources), I became quickly disinterested.  I also only have a very finite amount of time to invest--and others are quite capable of handling questions of resource allocation.  If the question, however, was how to help people more fully, though it would have taken more time--I wold have been interested in joining to help that group.

The reason I mention this is that it is part of a trend I see in Christian ministries in the U.S.  Often we have highly active ministry leaders who are paid money to help allocate other money to help people.  The money they are given is insufficient to the needs, and the work is more than they can do.  To fix that problem, they seek more money.  Instead of congregants getting motivated to step in and spend their life sacrificially for the cause of Christ by directly helping out, they are encouraged to spend more of their money donating so that ministry workers can better help.  What ultimately happens is that the few trying to do the work of the many get burnt out and cannot help the situation.  The only good solution is for the few to rouse the many to the good works we are called to do--unfortunately, the very way we are set up in our society of being busy and constant engagement means that it is much harder to rouse people to invest their time and not just their money.  However, I feel that we as Christian leaders have to encourage others to invest their time--Christ was fairly clear that we need to surrender our lives to gain true life; we have to give up more than just some money--we have to give it all up to follow Him--including our time.  It's not an easy proposition, but I feel that we need to move towards it if we have any hope of being the actual body of Christ that we are called to be....

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