There is a little of that in all of us, I suppose. We come up with great ideas, but when it comes down to actually putting our effort where our ideas are, we expect someone else to come along and take care of the work part. The world is full of “idea men” and “idea women” who are a bit reluctant to put their ideas into action. It’s almost as if they expect some minions to come along at just the right moment, praise them for their great idea, and then put it into practice while gracefully stepping aside when the praise is doled out to say, “Oh, it was Fred’s idea, we just did the work.”
The Church isn’t immune to this syndrome. In fact, it may flourish in the Church more than in many places. You certainly don’t expect us to get our hands dirty, do you? Oh sure, we want to help those people, we just don’t want to actually come into contact with them. We will just write checks and call that ministry. The only problem with that is that it isn’t ministry at all. Most often, it is an attempt to assuage guilt that lingers just beneath our consciousness threatening to burst forth in a most untidy manner. We avoid having to look at our obscene collection of materialistic toys and other assorted nonsense by cutting the occasional check to help the less fortunate. This creates more problems than it solves, because it provides a kind of endorsement to giving that isn’t at all transformative for either the giver or receiver – largely because it isn’t sacrificial.
The Church has been historically very strong on the notion of sacrificial giving. Unfortunately, it has usually only talked about sacrificial giving in terms of cash collections. I would argue that cash collections, while important, are seldom transformative because they allow us to keep a safe and sanitary distance from those whom we are trying to help. It may be that the only transformative sacrificial giving involves getting our hands dirty and actually contacting those we serve.
I expect that most people have a litany of excuses – work, family, social obligations, even church functions. They say that all they can afford to do is think great thoughts and design programs for others to carry out. We need to tell those people, “Thank you very much, but if you aren’t willing to be involved in implementing your plan I am afraid we will have to take a pass on your great idea.” We need to tell people that if something is worth doing, then it is worth making time to do it.
We all waste a lot of time every day. If something was meaningful to us, surely we would give up two hours a week of television watching, internet browsing, or whatever other form of self stimulation we waste our time with and engage in something transformative.
We live in an entertainment driven culture. A lot of what passes for church is structured on an entertainment model – and that is a very bad thing indeed. If we seat people in an auditorium and feed them everything they need on a large screen TV or two, and offer “messages” that encourage them to separate themselves from the big, bad world we aren’t encouraging them to grow – rather we are becoming an instrument of even more time wasting. We become an opiate for the masses, placating an already passive and isolationist crowd into believing they are doing something for God by sucking on a spiritual pacifier in a mega-church setting.
Grow up, kids, it’s time to get your hands dirty.