"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


bring what i am able

This is probably my favorite music video. I listen to this song just about every day when I'm in the Congo, where the contrast between rich and poor is so stark that it hurts.

I have been traveling to and from the African continent for nearly ten years now, and living in that tension never gets easier. Of late, one of the ways that tension has been manifesting itself in my life is an increasing discomfort with the way we do church in the United States. We put such a focus on programming and presentation and facilities and fancy gadgets and church growth. And I think we've missed the point.

Here's the problem, summed in some of those lyrics:

"The more we take, the less we become
A fortune of one that means less for some"

I got bashed on another blog last week for a statement I made here to the effect that the gospel has a much larger message about caring for the poor than it does about sexual ethics or raising strong families. The commenter noted that Jesus only told one man that he needed to sell all he had and give it to the poor, with the implication that that lets us all off the hook on that pesky little command.

Yeah, well, as Rich Mullins was fond of pointing out, Jesus also only told one guy that he needed to be born again.

I love how this video doesn't mess around, how it lays out so starkly the choices that we make every day and the difference that just a little money makes in the lives of millions. Our choices matter. And we are wasteful.

Don't get me wrong: I am sure that we as a species need art and beauty and music.

But I also think we deceive ourselves into believing that we need a lot more stuff than we actually do. I don't need another dress to look professional to teach my class. Nobody needs a huge house in the suburbs for her children to grow up healthy and happy. And a church doesn't need a fancy new building to reach the unchurched or HD DVD screens for people to be able to worship. We may want these things, but we don't need them. And I would argue that, in an era in which millions of people, including Christians, are starving to death because of the inequality in this world, it is immoral for us to spend money on excessive things we don't need. Even in church.

It's Day 8 of the 40 Day Fast, and so far we've been challenged to think about a lot of issues, from the material poverty of untouchable people in India, Haiti, and South Africa to the spiritual and emotional poverty of those living in Paris or right here at home. My turn to manage the fast at Inspired to Action starts tomorrow, which means that I've already gotten to read some of the upcoming posts. We are in for some really incredible stories in the week to come.

One of the dangers in reading about this many causes at once is that it can leave us feeling overwhelmed. In a world full of need, we know as reasonable adults that one person can't possibly change it all.

But what I love about this song is that it doesn't excuse us from taking action. There's a world of hurt out there, a world that's "more than I can handle." We can't fix it all. But we can bring what we are able to bring. We can take up one burden, sacrifice something we don't need anyway, and maybe, just maybe, save someone's life.

So I'm curious, Texas in Africa readers. Have you been following the fast? What posts or causes have touched you the most? Have you taken action as a result of something you've read? Will you be joining us for the fast on day 40, August 1?


Blogger Angela said...

Thanks so much for this post, and the important questions it asks. I have been following the Fast, though it's hard to say which cause has touched me the most. They've all touched me and opened me to the needs out there. The one that has pushed me into action is the Kiva post today. It seems like such a great way to reach into an individual life and make a difference. I don't have a ton of money to give, but I'm going to discuss it with my Discipleship group and see if we can all get together to sponsor an entrepreneur; and then another, when the money comes back. It's a small thing, but it's what I'm able to bring right now.

Monday, June 30, 2008 9:36:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry TexInAf, but I've just started really following your blog. Or else, I probably would have joined you on the the 40 day fast. It really seems like a God inspired idea.

Be Well,


Tuesday, July 01, 2008 8:04:00 AM

Anonymous Heidi said...

Thanks, and oh so well said! People look at so funny when we talk about stuff like the money in churches. Fracis Schaeffer made the point about the money in American churches a long time ago, seems like no one listened.

We also get some funny looks because we are raising mission minded children, aware of a world outside of the USA. My 5 yo son wants to be in construction and build churches. My 11yo and 8 1/2 yo dds want to run an orphanage in China together (and the eldest has wanted to do this since she was 4!). I dont know what the Lord has in store for them!

I find your post so encouraging. Keep it up!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008 7:59:00 PM


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