Stop or Hit the Gas

The beauty of memes on social media is their  brevity. A world of truth can be shared in a few words. These  three below sum up the enduring lessons I and my family have learned in the last few years.  The brutality of our times is mirrored in what passes for Christianity. The real thing is mostly found away from nice real estate with the label “church” on the sign and various and sundry parachurch ministries.

The bigger something gets, the less humanity and kindness shows up and the less of Jesus you will find. Corruption sets in to the machine.  People get ground to bits in the gears and nobody cares.  The cowards hunker down and look away. Naked opportunism replaces sacrificial service and love is never the motivation, unless we’re talking about love of self.

It’s a choice to join the ambitious and the shiny people, or to show up in someone’s life who can’t do anything for you. It’s a choice to value people and remember those who are in pain or to hit the gas and pass them by  on the superhighway of Christian “ministry.”  But just remember that if you do hit the gas, you can’t know the Jesus who stopped when a suffering person called out. You are serving someone and something else.

struggle

worth

meme

15 thoughts on “Stop or Hit the Gas

  1. Wallace says:

    Well said, Ingrid. Not much above the ground in Evangelicalism is of any real value today. Even internet (Blog & Social Media) kingpins are bowing to the EIC many times in one way or another [I was informed of another departure from the “dedicated to the truth at any cost camp today]. Carol & I decided many years ago that we would do what was important and had true ministry value instead of doing surface-level & superfluously attention-grabbing stuff. Sure, we don’t get asked to do videos for the church to display talking about how we baked cookies so that the Batman Lives Easter production could be such a rousing success, but we know that the little things done out of the Evangelical spotlight actually serve a larger purpose.

    The quote about if you have to prove yourself to someone, it is the time to walk away is laser precise. Plus, God is the only One whose opinion matters and we cannot prove anything to Him because He already knows. Thanks for another terrific article.

  2. Ingrid says:

    Wallace, thanks for the comment. You and Carol are some of the truest Christians I know. It’s seen in so many ways. Thank you for showing that and showing UP, even your whole family driving from Madison to come to Will’s organ concert once! We are grateful.

  3. Denise says:

    Thank you again for writing another article that addresses issues we don’t hear about very much. There are so many personal ministries going on behind the scenes, and God sees each one. Who I am really serving, when my answer is concerned with image and performance. Will people think I’m lazy or un-Christian for saying “no” to participating in certain activities or programs? Will my salvation be questioned? My husband and I departed a particular church nearly 10 years ago, because we were exhausted from this very thing and felt that God was not present in any of this. Your articles are such a help and comfort, Ingrid.

  4. Ingrid says:

    Thank you for that, Denise. I’m glad anything I’ve written is a help. It’s not a church if participation in “programs” is the definition of membership. Might as well be the Y. You might be more “Christian” if you didn’t run to everything they offer. I remember one church I attended many years ago. I added up all the programs they offered and found I could be gone from home every day of the week. And it would have won me great accolades for my “commitment to Christ.” Who cares about burnout or that Sunday can become a marathon of exhaustion for families on this day of “rest.” Who cares that men are leaving for Saturday “men’s prayer breakfast” at Cracker Barrel or Perkins just as the mom with multiple children would like to spend time with her husband and father of the children. Prayer breakfast! LOLOL! How much praying actually gets done in between hotcakes, sausage and eggs while slurping coffee, I would like to know. I get prayer fasting, but prayer breakfasts? Sorry, I digress. Programs keep people in the door to keep existing to invite more people in to see the show, so that the staff can get paid and the real estate maintained so more people can come. That’s church in 2016.

    The broken-hearted, the sick, the ones who can’t contribute anything but their hurting selves, the ones who don’t know how they can repair their old van so the husband can get to work to support his family, the single parent with constant drama and sadness? The answer for these people is not more programs. It’s real Christians who step up and get to know these people and who can assess the needs and work together to provide what help they can. No, church, you don’t need the latest awesome video screen and sound system and karaoke machine, theater seats, recording studio for church talent, no. You need to start loving each other and getting real.

    Jesus didn’t forget the little people. It’s not about programs and busyness with programs. It’s extending a hand as the BODY of Christ. That’s what the term means. We’ve lost sight of that, haven’t we?

  5. grandma121400 says:

    Oh my word! Excellent, Ingrid, I have nothing to add but much to pray about

  6. Carolyn says:

    While all three memes made salient points, the third meme was the one that drove it home for me… because it is sadly so very true. In the church (and I mean the real church), many people treat you like they don’t care because they truly DO NOT CARE.

    Thanks also to Wallace, Denise, and Ingrid for your further insights in the comments. The “little things” done “behind the scenes” for Christ are what truly count… “loving each other and getting real”. If you give even a cup of water to a little one in His name, truly you shall not lose your reward.

  7. Ingrid says:

    I think it is possible for a bricks and mortar building with church on the sign to have love in it. I think it’s possible for a parachurch ministry to also operate with love among staff, the kind of love Christ commands us to have as his followers. It’s important to ask why it’s missing so often.

    I’ve mulled this over countless times, having seen the same model of loveless “audiences” that are called congregations in churches and having seen what a staff without love looks like in a parachurch ministry. It all flows from the top, I think. Leadership sets the tone. Obsession with busyness in programs and events is often the enemy of real relationships. Humans naturally seem to break down into cliques and comfort zones where anyone outside that social order is ignored. The sight of backs and the backs of heads. The roar of conversations you are never a part of. That is what creates a sense of “what is the point of this?” And “I can get a sermon online from the same pastor and avoid feeling alone every Sunday.”

    Small churches, big churches, it doesn’t seem to matter. The view is inward to your own little group rather than having an eye for newcomers and getting to know them and their families.

    I also think that GOD puts the sense of concern for others in our hearts, and if a church has become little less than a sermon factory (oh, we have this great expositor pastor), or worse, a social club, there is little care in hearts. Prayer accomplishes this, because you can’t draw near to God in gratitude and not have concern for someone else.

    If church leadership canceled all programs and events for one month and told members, “We are going to spend this entire month doing an internal critique, in prayer, over those in our church who are in needs of various kinds and we’re going to ask God how we can show the love of Jesus in actions, not just words,” I think it would be the start of something. You can’t show Jesus if you don’t have him. And in the end, I think that’s what this is all about. Loveless churches are Jesus-in-name-only churches. I don’t care how “correct” your doctrine is. If you don’t care about people, you don’t have what matters most. And THAT, friends, is the real reason I believe young people are leaving the church. They don’t see a reality in our lives that backs up what we’re saying we believe. Sobering thoughts for all of us.

    P.S. When my dad died 16 weeks ago, someone from an area church took it on themselves to text and call me several times. They are still doing so. I can’t tell you what that act of kindness meant to me. She checks up every so often, and we are so grateful. She doesn’t go to my “church”, she lives on the other side of town. I have never met her, except through Facebook and through the radio program I once did that she listened to. All the people I once knew in “ministry”, nobody checked, nobody cared. But Christine did. And Donna did. And two dear people in Indiana did, who sent actual cards to our home. The so-called Christians we knew all our lives? Staff who had known me since childhood? Never heard from any of ’em. No love, we were and are total discards. That’s why this topic is close to my heart. I’ve seen the fraud, I’ve seen what a disaster a loveless ministry can be. That’s why when I write to a few here at the blog who also have experienced this. And it makes me want to reach out, even today, to someone who is lonely and hurting.

    P.P.S. I was thinking of what I wrote about how it is possible to have love on staff at Christian ministries. When we left to move to South Carolina, my husband, Tom, said good-bye to the pit orchestra at a musical at a facility where he has played for 30 years. He worked part time on the side in music to help support our (then) 5 kids in braces, Christian school tuition, etc. That night, the percussionist who has known Tom all of those 30 years in the city and worked with him as a music professional, put his arm around Tom in front of the orchestra, and in tears, thanked Tom for his great paying, his work ethic and other things that Mike appreciated about him for three decades. Tom has never forgotten that kindness. The man putting his arm around Tom in kindness and appreciation was on the other side politically, regarding religion, (he is an atheist), and otherwise has little in common with him. But he showed love. When we left the family-run ministry where we had spent so many years, and where I grew up, nobody said good-bye. There was no thank-you. There was no small gathering to wish us well. Nobody gave a rip that we had left. Tom had left gifts over the years for other staffers going through hard times anonymously through the years, including one family with a disabled son, had donated every single month to the ministry generously. We were treated like garbage. This is what I’m talking about. The same thing happened when we finally stumbled away from that place the final time. Nobody cared. To this day, nobody cares. Christians? What Jesus is that again?

    I saw this from another person who does not share my Christian faith. She gave our family a large gift when she knew we had had to walk away from our jobs of over 2 decades and had to walk away overnight things were so bad. She has shown far more love than the Christians we worked with for so long, they showed us none. What Jesus is that again?

  8. Carolyn says:

    Ingrid, my husband and I understand lovelessness in the church all too well. Your last comment, amen and amen.

  9. Carol says:

    Well said, Ingrid. My husband and I are in our fifth church since we were married almost 35 years ago. I really appreciate your blog and your readers. You have been through the olive press and the oil that has come out is now the Balm of the Lord for the comfort and healing for others. May the Lord continue to Bless you. Love, Carol

  10. Ingrid says:

    Thank you, Carol. Every time I start to shut the blog down after neglecting it for a while, something comes up and I end up writing another post. I’m glad any of it is a blessing.

  11. Carol says:

    You’re so welcome, Ingrid. Many have been blessed by your being sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit and obedient in allowing Him to use you as His instrument of help and healing as He leads. II Corinthians 1:3-7

  12. Ron Whited says:

    Ingrid, I for one hope that you never shut this blog down. Having my own blog I understand the work involved,and also the positive impact it can have. Your blog is but one of a handful that I can truthfully say I look forward to because it is a source of encouragement to me.
    Regarding the topic of the post it resonates with my wife and child as well because the three of us have been abandoned along the side of the road by every person and minister we’ve known. This is the price to pay for speaking out against the liberal,backslidden church and refusing to kneel at the altar of compromise. How we long to find a true shepherd instead of these hirelings that care only for themselves,their titles,and their denomination.

  13. Ingrid says:

    Ron – thank you for those words. I know exactly what you mean about longing to find a true shepherd. I am writing a (book length) story about the subject actually. It’s fiction, but no, it’s not fiction at all. The characters are fiction, but the reality of churches and pastoral care today is apocalyptic. People are getting hurt by it all over the place. Small and meaningful is out, big is in. Finding a shepherd of a local congregation who actually has a pastor’s heart is becoming an impossible task. I stood in a hospital hallway while someone close to me went into eternity, and I stood there without the spiritual benefit of a clergyman to even say a prayer or bring a scripture verse. It hit me that millions of believers are going it alone like this, which raises the question, what is the point of clergy if they won’t even answer messages? If their congregations are so big they can’t care about one? What symposium, what conference is more important than hurting people? The insane busyness of ministry now is just part of the problem. My story addresses this point: the entire purpose of “church” and ministry to people, and pastoral care has been lost in this American nightmare. People are dying without spiritual comfort, the sick are not a flashy ministry op. There’s no glory in comforting people in pain. No glory. And that’s the problem summed up. Thank you, Ron, for making this small blog worthwhile. I have more to say.

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