Friday, June 5, 2009

The Currency of Christianity

Faith, like money, is an intangible concept that only exists in the mind. Currency, however, is the very real, tangible, (and more importantly), exchange-able embodiment of the concept of money. It is currency that carry in our wallets and change purses, but it is the value of that currency that we spend... money.

Understanding that... let me move on...

The church, and in my opinion our faith as a whole, faces an unparalleled and unprecedented problem. Never before has the rot of festering infection eaten away at the core of our faith than it is today. We are surrounded by buildings, images, movies, music, and every other form of consumer-driven Christianity, and yet with all of these things in place. The message of Christ is being drowned out by pluralism and relativism and the impact of the church is being (or maybe has been) relegated to government help programs and para-church ministries.

If faith is the "money" of Christianity,
than where is the currency?

Where is the real, tangible, and exchange-able embodiment of our faith?

A lot of it has been out-sourced. Neil Cole in his book Organic Leadership, illustrates this point excellently. Many of the para-church ministries that exist are parasitic in nature because they draw from the same sources of life as the church (ie, leaders, finances, etc.) but do not give anything back to the church.

To gain a better understanding of what the true "currency" of Christianity should be, all we need to do look back at the first generation of the Faith, and glean from their attitude (and more importantly) their actions.

When you take a good look at the way the early church "spread the wealth" of the faith, there are a few things that I believe are key elements to their success and impact.

1. Conviction

Like it or not, we all know what OXYCLEAN and SHAM-WOW are. This is not because they are ground-breaking, life-altering products, but because every time Billy Mays speaks, I am instantly drawn in thinking "wow" (and does his voice hurt after yelling so much?). Conviction is a tool of communication, but it also goes beyond that to a point that one's whole life and choices can be centered around a conviction. THIS is the type of conviction that the disciples and early church had. Many of them gave their lives for the cause of Christ. You can not deny or downplay the impact that someone with that kind of conviction can and did have on those they met.

2. Action

Time and time again, as you read through the gospel accounts and the book of acts, we see the the disciples and the early church putting their faith into action. Whether is be healings, casting out demons, or feeding the widows, the early churches faith was felt by their surrounding community. As I have already stated, the existance of para-church organizatiosn and government help programs have taken up a lot of the duties of the church. But they haven't cornered the market on helping people. (Anyone who looks around can see that!) We must be diligently on the look out for ways to assit, encourage, serve, and provide for those in need. This is the best and most powerful form of currency that we have.

3. Compassion

I believe that both the conviction and action of the early church was fueled by a limitless compassion. One taught to them by Christ Himself... to see people as sheep without a shepherd. This compassion led them to get outside of themselves and their day to day lives and begin to become part of something bigger. We say that we do this today, but our practices don't always echo our principles. Many churches today toute in mission and purpose statements having compassion for the lost, broken, needly, etc... but only reach them with event-based evangelism, and only then to grow their church. Christ-like compassion is seeing the need and filling it, regardless of the outcome. The "come here you lucky people, you get to come to our church" mentality has ham-strung the evanglism of the modern day church, and in come cases worked against it.

If we are to take back the ground that has been lost in the past, and once again rise up as a modern, living, and active body of believers, we must regain the spirit and heart of the early church and begin to use the same currency that they did.

Conviction, Compassion, and Action do not cost us anything,
but they can win us everything.

Lord, please help us to live lives of conviction. Help us to see with the compassion of Christ. Guide us to the people, places, and problems that you want us to intercede in. Give us the boldness to do what you have called us to do. Father, please send workers into Your harvest. In Christ's name... Amen.


Tim Knighton said...

We have become a culture that is driven by the tangible. We think that if it doesn't cost anything then it's not worth anything and can get us nowhere. Great post Bill, keep it up.

Melanie said...

I think too many Christians seem so self righteous because they truly believe that they themselves have paid something to live a "righteous" lifestyle. I've heard comments like, "salvation is free, but there is a cost to be paid." The cost has been paid. Jesus paid it on Calvary.

The fact of the matter is, regardless of religious beliefs, beliefs themselves require sacrifice. It costs something to be principled in anything. For people who choose not to participate in welfare programs, it costs the free hand out. For people who choose to ride their bikes to "save the planet", it costs time and energy. Anything worth anything costs.

Being a Christian doesn't cost you anymore than being a law abiding citizen. The only thing you are really giving up is sin. Is that such a loss?

Sorry, about the soap box speech.