So how does one make a difference?

I was reading some comments, IM, and e-mail in response to my last post.  Instead of editing my post, I am going to offer up some further thoughts.

I grew up in the church and therefore Christmas productions.  It was a lot of rehearsals and time that I could have been playing road hockey and in the end I was glad when it was over but I also admit it was kind of fun.  It taught me some great truths, mostly about how important it was to learn my lines and sing in a choir (yes, I sang in a choir off and on into my teen years).  It also taught me that it was okay for people to yell at one another and cry if they were musical.  The community came, drank apple cider, and engaged for that season with our community.  For the most part it was people connected to the performers (either kids or adults) or people looking for a nostalgic Christmas experience or other Christians looking to soak up as much Christmas as possible over the holidays (Christmas-holics?)  I am sure there is some value in it and I am sure many people love it but come January, whatever changes in church attendance went back down to previous levels.  Even if you are part of a church where a bunch of people come twice a year (Christmas and Easter), whatever is being done at Christmas isn’t bringing them back very soon.

n5048876131_2834 Now what could be done with a couple thousand volunteer hours in the community?  Servant Evangelism has a plethora of ideas to do over the holidays locally.  Every day at work we have people asking for warm winter gear (thanks to all those who have donated).  Globally there is the Advent Conspiracy where churches have come together to raise money for fresh drinking water in Africa or as they put it, “Advent Conspiracy is an international movement restoring the scandal of Christmas by worshipping Jesus through compassion, not consumption”.   Other churches like Ginghamsburg have committed to confront with the crisis in Sudan.  As a worship event, instead of the big event, how about stealing an idea from Grace and give people a “time out” during Advent.

I am trashing Christmas traditions and maybe there is some value in dusting off the Maranatha Christmas books but if the aim is to be a missional community, I think there may be some better options.

christmas_ad1I had a couple of IM conversations with friends who commented on the past as saying that part of the problem is that in the suburbs, you don’t see that much need… especially in communities where the homeless problem is invisible and as one friend said, “People in my church don’t have very many friends who are not Christians.”  I wonder if this the result of the church doing what Dallas Willard talks about when we take people out of the regular communities and keep them in church communities.  Not only does the church deprive a community of ones redemptive potential but at the same time we lose touch of the community we live in. 

It got me thinking of the Christmas ads the Salvation Army runs.  Click on the ad for a full sized version.  Partly because I can see a crack house while typing this blog entry out and where I work, the need is pretty obvious for me.  Guys need warm winter clothes, many single parents who were on a losing strike at the University have very little for Christmas, there are even those who are trying to sleep outside in this weather (which makes the graphic there a little haunting to me).  Today in a meeting arose the need for more programs for people with full blown AIDS and of course low income housing is a big issue with occupancy rates as low as 1% in the city.

There are a lot of materialistic choices to be made this winter (I have even linked to some for you) but as I said before, there are a lot of things we can do that can make a big difference for others this winter.  Maybe my definition of “making a difference” is different than yours but I still think the church can do better than a Christmas cantata.

4 thoughts on “So how does one make a difference?”

  1. A few years ago I asked family and friends to not buy me any Christmas gifts. I asked everyone to take the money they would have spent on me and donate to a charity of their choice. I was not trying to be self-righteous, I am just flat out fed up with consumerism in my life. Most of my family and friends that get me gifts are Christians. All of these people are kind-hearted, yet they could not bring themselves to not spend money on me. Not one of them donated to a charity and they all still bought me a lot of materialistic gifts. They never thought twice about it. Even though I made my true desires known several times, they could not bring themselves to honor it. Maybe the reason is as simple as they couldn’t break with tradition. Maybe it made them uncomfortable. I don’t know why they struggled, but it deeply saddened me. I think this is the biggest problem we are are facing in our churches today. We have our church communities, church functions, and church outreaches, but many times it is just so we can feel better about ourselves and mingle with those we already feel comfortable with. If we get a few lost souls to join our group, then we point to that as the reason for why we do what we do. I think for the large part it is unintentional. Sadly, we think big for ourselves and small for God.

    In the business world we are constantly doing cost/benefit analysis. Maybe that is one of the few areas the church should function like a business. What is the cost of our events and how many lives can be positively changed? So much else can be done with our time, talent, and money.

    Sorry for the long post…

  2. Keith, good story.

    I assume the church doesn’t stray away from what it knows is because it has certain results doing one thing and no certainty doing another. The fear of change is often a lack of faith.

  3. The issue really isn’t about the cantata then. The cantata acts as a frame… highlighting the fact that if we don’t know anyone in need, we’re not living the gospel the other 364 days of the year.

    And come on… that’s just as frightening as most cantatas.

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