The Moment Our Church Breaks Our Heart – Growing Up and Social Justice

There is a cost to following Christ. It is not something you typically hear in the usual evangelical advertisements. I am not talking about “being a Christian” per-se. I am talking about when a Christian gets to that point in their life where they see a need in the world, and they want to do something about it. It is a call of conviction where you want to go to battle to make the world a better place. The point when a Christian wants to change the status-quo, instead of live within it, they often find themselves suddenly alone. The False Promise of Institutional Idealism The great lie often told by mostly well-intentioned motivational speakers is that if you serve Christ you will be blessed. While this is true in many way, but the problem is that it creates the illusion that serving Christ or “doing the right thing” is met with immediate worldly reward. “Here comes an honorable man! Roll out the red carpet!” It sounds almost silly, but the truth is that many “do gooders” start out with an expectation that their good intentions will be greeted with warm reception. When we are children, we receive praise for doing “good” in our communities. Many churches use AWANA, a literal merit badge system for memorizing scripture and doing...

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How Apathy Creates Systems of Persecution

There is a disconnect, you could say a deep valley, between how the rich view their behavior and how the poor perceive their treatment. Those in poverty often feel like “the man” is working against them. The rich, on the other hand, feel they have nothing “against” the poor and there is nothing stopping them from working their way up the ladder. What’s going on? Often, this gap is explained by saying the poor are just making excuses, but the truth is that society really has made systems to persecute those in poverty. These systems seem so spiteful to those at their mercy, but really they are just systems which formed by those in power not paying attention. In order to repair them, we have to wake-up and act with purpose. The Cliff Effect The Cliff Effect is a phenomenon that occurs in varying degrees from state-to-state, but basically it is a system of persecution which punishes those in poverty for trying to work to improve their lives. See the video below for an explanation: Those We Don’t Help On Purpose, We Harm On Accident This is just one example of how we create systems of persecution when we aren’t paying attention. Our ideological, political, and religious dialog is so polarized and fantastic that we never see problems as...

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Monopoly with the Pope: Do not pass Go, do not collect $200

It seems like Pope Francis really is serious about cleaning things up in the Vatican as far as healthy use of money goes, as this new article from ‘The Fiscal Times’ suggests When he took over as head of the Roman Catholic Church last year, Pope Francis made it clear that he meant to be the leader of a “poor church” – meaning that the Vatican would focus less on its own splendor and more on finding ways to use its vast financial resources to benefit the world’s poor. What might have been viewed by critics as ‘a strategic move’ when Pope Francis came into power and made some significant changes to the banking structures, now seems to really be something that the pope is taking seriously as he has just fired all five directors of the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority [considered to be the primary watchdog in terms of the Vatican’s financial operations] as they were too closely tied to the previous leaders who were ousted and were getting in the way of reform. The article compares Francis’ actions to a similiar controversial incident that Jesus was involved in: The announcement on Thursday was only the most recent in a series of firings, replacements, and arrests that have rocked the Vatican’s financial hierarchy. It turns out that for Francis, casting the...

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A Generosity Dinner: Meet Tristan Pringle

When we visited our home in South Africa in January this year, my wife Valerie and I hosted what we at Common Change refer to as a ‘Generosity Dinner’. You invite some friends over for a meal and each person donates some money into a common pool and then as a group you decide what needs [of people you know and care about] you will meet with that money as a gift to those people. Tristan Pringle attended the Dinner we ran and was inspired by it so much that he decided to host his own. I asked him to share the story of how that went: A while back a few of us felt compelled to create or be part of a platform where we were able to have gospel charged robust conversations about Justice. We formed an informal group of people committed to get together every few months and chat about social justice; we called it ‘Jesus Justice Us’. Our aim is to empower each other to talk about Justice and actively seek for an outlet for the things we learn. We are compelled by love, fueled by the Gospel, and we have Jesus as our main example. My friend Chido and I spent hours talking about what to do with the group and what Jesus meant...

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Wealth, Pleasure, and Worry

It is not an uncommon theological discussion in American churches: is it money itself, or rather the love of money, which is the root of all evil? It is all the stuff he has, in and off itself, or is it the love of his stuff, that makes the rich young ruler turn away from Jesus? It is hard for us, in our current cultural climate, to question the idea of wealth as anything but an unqualified good. However, Joshua Becker over at Don Miller’s Storylineblog examines the Parable of the Sower and points out that Jesus’ parable does just that: it seems to suggest that wealth itself can be an obstacle, a thorn, in the life of a believer. His thoughts and their counter-cultural import are worth serious reflection, and the discussion below his post debates some of the nuances in the various New Testament treatments of wealth. It’s especially worthwhile  discussion for those of us who, having heard the gospel story so many times before, might need to hear Jesus’ words again for the first...

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