Friday, September 11, 2009

A Simple Question / A Long Response

Every day I, along with many in our church, answer study questions from "Search The Scriptures" edited by Alan Stibbs. The question of a few days ago: "If we have found in Christ the Bread of Life, and men around us are perishing, what spiritual lesson can we draw from verses 54-57?" This study is taken from Genesis 41 and the story of Joseph providing for the needs of Egypt during a time of famine. You will find my response below:

As I write the response to this question America is facing some very difficult times (by American standards). Will the world come to us for nourishment? Is the church seen as a source? It is true that whenever times like this hit, the phones in the office ring off the hook due to people calling us and asking if we will pay their utilities or purchase gas for their cars. Yet, we have yet to have a call from someone seeking to fix the real problem. Whenever we have told people to come to church and see us afterwards for help they never come. If we tell them that we have work that they can do to earn some extra cash – they never show up. Not once has a widow of good report whose family is unable to provide for her needs asked for help. Never has an orphan called us. Nevertheless, from time to time, we will have funds with which we can help and we do. Should we? Inevitably, after helping an individual, we will get three or four calls from others asking for help. The word spreads as it did in the days of Joseph. Is the right word spreading? Why isn’t the word of the real hope that we have spreading?

Meeting the needs of the desperate as Joseph did in Egypt is one of the most difficult tasks for the church today. Note that in the case of Joseph the entire government of Egypt was behind the effort. The church does not have that today. It should also be noted that this government effort was not a handout but had strings attached. Can you imagine the riots in the seven years of plenty that would have taken place as Egyptians were barely getting by while the government was storing up food. The ‘tax’ levied during the years of plenty was enormous! It was a ‘capital gains tax’ of the highest order! Were it not for the military might of Egypt there would have been a revolution.

Today churches struggle to pay their own bills. In the five years that I have been pastor here at The StoreHouse I have not had a single member of the church come to us for help. This must mean that the church truly does help where it counts for those that align themselves with the community of believers. It is not the case that the church only seeks people that are well off – not here at The StoreHouse anyway!

The task before us is to find ways for the world (The Pharoahs) to recognize the work of the Holy Spirit in the church. Perhaps we need to begin asking those that call us – “What makes you think that your answer is here?” Maybe if we probe their response deep enough it will lead them to join us and truly set their lives in order. Ultimately, the people that showed up during the seven years of famine had sacrificed during the seven years of plenty by setting aside something for the tough times. Is the church, is our society, teaching those lessons today. Is not that what tithing is all about? What should be the response of the church to individuals that have turned their backs on the concept of setting aside for the tough times to come? Do we reward their behavior with a ‘no strings attached’ handout?

I realize that this simple question was never intended to evoke this long of a response, but I just can’t help myself. This is one of the greatest struggles that I have in ministry. When does the help we offer actually help? Do we truly have what people need? If we do, then why are they asking for the wrong things? Does the real problem have something to do with the church not providing them with the right questions?

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Overwhelmed. That word, ‘overwhelmed’, keeps reverberating throughout my brain. I feel overwhelmed as I write this morning. Most of the time when someone tells us that they are overwhelmed; we feel sorry for them. There is no need to feel sorry for me this morning. I am not overwhelmed with stress today. What God is doing in this place overwhelms me. Last night (Wednesday) I could not sleep. I had to get out of bed, go into my living room, and pray. There was a need to call out the names of some of the young men and women that had earlier that night sat before me in the Against The Grain dome. Somebody needed to speak their names in the throne room of the Heavenly Father.

Not by problems and pitfalls
Not by headaches and heartbreak

Overwhelmed by potential, by possibilities, by His presence
Overwhelmed by healing, by heaven, by harvest

Overwhelmed by His grace
Overwhelmed by His gifts
Overwhelmed by His glory

Overwhelmed by His people
Overwhelmed by His peace
Overwhelmed by His patience

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

It's About The Gumballs

Call me crazy, but everywhere that I go I see gumballs! You might go as far as to say that I am obsessed with gumballs. I rarely chew gum and hardly ever buy any, yet, everytime I go to a public place I see gumballs. There is actually nothing more important to me than gumballs. Please allow me to explain.

I am a missionary at heart. Leaving West Africa did not mean that I left the mission field, it merely meant that I woke up in a different field that was surrounded by green grass and cornfields rather than the red earth of Africa. West Africa was replaced by West/Central Indiana. There are 44,000 people in my mission field of Putnam County and by my estimation nearly 30,000 of them cannot be found in a church anywhere in the county on any given Sunday morning. This revelation so impacted my heart that I had to find some way to share it with others. I needed a way to visually remind the members of my congregation of our mission. I purchased two six foot tall plastic tubes with a diameter of six inches. The two tubes were mounted onto a display and 28,579 gumballs were poured into them. That display has stood on the platform of our church now for over three years. Those gumballs serve as a reminder to us every Sunday of what God has called each and everyone of us to do.

Since the first Sunday morning that our congregation filled those tubes, I have seen gumballs everywhere that go! Missio Dei for my life is to remind the church of the reason we are all still here -- gumballs!