At the center of our faith is a Man who though rich became poor for our sakes, who removed Himself from complete security in the Father to be butchered by sinful men, who gave up his rights in favor of those who deserved nothing. Any imitation of that will necessarily be incomprehensible to a modern suburbanite. To them it must seem radical or ridiculous. Why would we center our lives on the propagation of this message? Why would we tell our children that our default setting is go?
What if suburban kids were taught, like good princes are taught that they are born into extreme privilege for the good of many? What if, instead of uncomfortably avoiding the less-fortunate, we showed them how limiting our own lifestyles enables us to benefit the less fortunate?
This type of lifestyle may look radical in our world but it looked pretty normal in the 1st century among the Christians. Though technology may have advanced and become more productive over the years, this is not the case for Christianity. The qualifications for the “average Christian” have devolved to a point of apathy. We think there are now only a few ranking officials worthy of honor and dedication like the missionary.
The glory of the American suburbs is that within their mansions are a people with the greatest amount of expendable wealth that has ever graced this globe. The economic reality that produces suburbs should free their inhabitants to do radical things with their unprecedented margin, meaning you could trade 20K a year for 10 hours a week dedicated to serving in the ministries of your church.
The horror of the American suburbs is that, having met all our pri- mal needs (real needs, not needs with an Apple logo on them,) we have not turned with still-full hands to the world. Instead, like the rich man in Jesus’ parable, we have built bigger barns, so that we could go on meeting our primitive needs in a high-tech way. Has there ever in human history been a people who spent so much energy, money, and time on something so base as the satisfaction of their animal urges? We have eaten to the full and have not thought of the hungry. Instead we have thought of dessert.
I am proud to be an American. We are supposedly people who believe in certain unalienable rights: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It does seem that we have replaced the pursuit of happiness with the pursuit of opulence. If a desire for a house with a two-car garage, white picket fence, boat, vacation home, and whatever else you been told to add to this list is the “American Dream” then I would like to be un-American in this aspect. If my dream only affects the quality of my life it seems more like a selfish nightmare.
We have been given a picture of what we deserve in our lives. When we decide what we are told we are supposed to have is not what we want we must learn to live counter-culturally. When we look past the corner “Main Street and Elm” and look to Bolivia or even farther to Burkina Faso we start thinking about words like “equality,” “abundance,” and a “misappropriation of resources.”
Does your life make sense to those who view it in your community? Does it make sense in light of what you have in the Gospel? Does it make sense in light of what you believe should be the commitment level of those who will travel the world to share the Gospel? Is there an equality, and are you fighting for it?
Even though there is no shortage of people on the “not going” side of missions, there is a very real shortage in the world of dedicated senders. And, as a result, there is a very real shortage of dedicated goers. If our churches were asked, “Do you have men of war fit for battle?” far too few could consistently answer yes.
Churches are generally not raising up armies of warriors for the nations. If you want to be a contributing factor to changing that in your own church, I want to help you to nurture an environment and a culture where mighty, lion-faced men are grown and sent forth.