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21 Comments

  1. William Noel
    27 September 2013 @ 1:53 pm

    How many ways can we minister in difficult times?  Do you mind if I borrow your fingers and toes, and those of about a thousand others to help with the counting? 

    We can hope that difficult times will cause people to come to our church. It happens. This past Sabbath I got to know John, a new face at church, and took the opportunity to get to know him some.  Employment difficulties had caused him to begin searching scripture and when he found the Sabbath, he started looking for a Sabbath-keeping church.  Then he decided to check us out.  What did we do?  We welcomed him warmly and took an interest in him personally instead of just seeing him as someone to be taught particular doctrines.  He felt so warmly welcomed that, to my considerable surprise, he showed-up at a work bee the next day.  As we worked together we began building a friendship where our hearts are being linked in God's love.  I praise God that He is using me to help nurture John's spiritual growth.   

    Still, given the few churches we have in the cities and the near invisibility of the SDA Church in America, it does not appear likely we will see significant numbers of people turning to us for spiritual answers.  So I think the far greater opportunity before us is to learn to minister in the manner of Jesus, whose first actions were to demonstrate the power and love of God by improving the lives of those he met, often without them ever knowing who He was.  It was only after people had encounters with the inccredible love of an all-powerful God that they became willing to listen to His teaching. 

    So, instead of just hoping they will come to us, we should be asking God to make us aware of the hurting and distressed who are already around us and showing us how to minister to their physical needs.  By doing this we can have the honor and joy of becoming partners with God in real, effective ministry that demonstrates His saving love that produces exponentially greater results to the Kingdom of God than preaching first or waiting and hoping they will come to us to be taught. 

    I'll give you an example from just a couple months ago when I was one of those government employees forced to take one day off each week without pay for a number of weeks.  Yes, it hit me in the pocketbook.  I'm glad I had a reserve saved to ease the financial impact.  But those days off gave me the opportunity of more free time to exercise my ministry.  We had one project where we were helping a family in our church and their need was far greater than we could address in a single day.  On the first day my team was doing major yard work that made things look a whole lot better.  I was not working the next day, so I went back and did more work that helped restore their ability to use their laundry room and not have to take their laundry to a coin-operated laundry business a couple miles away.  Along the way I observed that the brick edging around the front steps and porch were peeling-away from the house.  I have no skills as a bricklayer and wondered how we could address the problem.  It was during a conversation with the eldest son the next day that I learned the father had years before been a master brick mason, but no longer had any tools.  So I asked the father, if he had tools, could he do the job?  Yes.  So I bought him a set of tools and a bag of mortar and asked him to let me know when he needed more mortar mix or replacement bricks.  (Sometimes you teach a man to fish and sometimes you give him fishing tackle!)  Though disabled from a heart attack and other health issues, he's doing the work as he is able and feeling good that he is doing something to improve his home instead of watching it crumble.  Best of all, they were blessed above anything they had received in a long time.

  2. Bugs-Larry Boshell
    27 September 2013 @ 4:05 pm

    My wife worked for the Federal Government for thirty years. During shut downs her pay was withheld but was paid in arrears when the problem was solved. Ended up just being paid days off, was OK with her.

  3. Elaine Nelson
    27 September 2013 @ 6:09 pm

    Interesting that it is all about how a shutdown would affect the church.  Members who cannot pay tithe are far more affected by being unable to pay rent, buy food, gas, etc.  These are essentials while tithe is only "essential" to the organization.  God doesn't stop working if the church stops functioning.

  4. Trevor Hammond [22oct1844]
    27 September 2013 @ 11:18 pm

    Just the other day I heard Pres Obama saying they were going to write off all students college debts (or something to that effect).  Then I saw this:
     

    • Five years after the financial crisis, America's super-rich have recovered all their losses to see their wealth reach an all-time high.

      According to Forbes magazine the 400 wealthiest Americans are worth a record $2.02 trillion (£1.4tn), up from $1.7tn in 2012, a collective fortune slightly bigger than Russia's economy. In another sign of fizziness at the top of the economy, the cost to enter the billionaires' club has also gone up to levels not seen since the 2008 crash. In 2013, an aspiring plutocrat needs at least $1.3bn to make the Forbes list – the highest since just before the collapse of Lehman Brothers sent stock markets plummeting.

    Perhaps they will just decide to print more money and use that socialist cash injection policy to bailout more bankers.  I saw an appropiate comment at the end of this article by someone who said:
     

    • Some people have had a great recession.

    I still think that it will be easier to manipulate and control an America in debt than a financially secure one.  It goes without saying.
     

    • William Noel
      28 September 2013 @ 12:42 am

      It is always the poor who suffer the most in times of financial difficulty.  What are you doing to minister God's love to those who are suffering from that manipulation?  To demonstrate God's love and power in ways that improve their lives in the midst of their troubles? 

  5. earl calahan
    28 September 2013 @ 6:53 am

    A non-sequitur, a futile exercise signifying nothing. The Repubs as presently emasculated, will cave. No other choice. Even should they stumble and vote to shutdown, it will only lead to a larger debt ceiling.

  6. Stephen Ferguson
    28 September 2013 @ 7:02 am

    The point I find most interesting from this article is the question to what extent would Churches, such as the SDA Church (but others also), would fill the vacuum of Government if it did shut down.  I'd be interested to know how the SDA Church is doing in Greece (presuming we have any members there at all), given the Government is failing to provide even basic services.  I believe the far-right group Golden Dawn is rising in popularity precisely because it has started to fufill some of these basic functions, such as policing, food benefits or even trash collection.

    • William Noel
      28 September 2013 @ 7:44 pm

      Stephen,

      Religious groups can play a major role in society when government-sponsored social structures and charities fail.  My question is if the church will be ready to start working when the need explodes across our communities and nations.  The status quo could lead a logical person to conclude that it will be impossible for churches to rise to the challenge. 

      During the Great Depression of the 1930s in America, churches were the largest providers of charity and social services using funds provided by the wealthy.  Government social programs at the time were very limited in scale.  But the rise of Progressivism (liberalism/socialism) has made government the primary provider of charity and social programs while making it ever more difficult for churches to perform their traditional ministries.  The population has largely become dependant on the government for these services.  As a result few people turn to churches for help in times of need and in many places it is hard to find churches doing more than a very small amount of charitable work. 

      Charitable work is a huge opportunity to influence the community and nation.  Perhaps our greatest examples of that today are in the Arab world.  The Muslim Brotherhood rose to prominence in Egypt, not because of its political views, but as a result of their charitable and educational work.  They cared for the poor, advocated for the oppressed and ran schools.  Along the way they indoctrinated their communities and students with an increasingly radical view of Islam where the combination of their social work and teaching made them the leading force in the "Arab Spring."  Other Islamic groups are doing the same thing in Gaza, South Lebanon, Pakistan, Yemen, Sudan and many other countries in Southwest Asia and Africa,  though their objective is more obviously the recruitment and training of warriors with the objective of destroying Israel and America. 

      I believe that the time is not distant when government-funded social programs will be reduced in scale, if not eliminated as a result of fiscal collapse.  When this happens the professed followers of God will find themselves in a very difficult situation because the contrast between their words and their deeds will be illustrated in dramatic ways.  People will be wanting to minister but having no idea what to do because of their dependance on government and inexperience with God.  Yet it will be a time of great opportunity for those who are willing to follow the leading and empowerment of the Holy Spirit and we will see miracles with our own eyes that we have only read about in scripture. 

      Why am I confident of this?  Because I am already seeing God doing it.

  7. Stephen Foster
    28 September 2013 @ 9:39 pm

    Interestingly, I find myself in agreement with much of what is said here, Stephen.
     
    However, in America, the government allows tax deductions for charitable giving, which includes giving to the church and its charitable affiliates. The tax code actually encourages the church and individuals to engage in benevolent activities. Churches and other non-profit organizations aren’t taxed.
     
    So, in America, the church cannot blame the government for it not “stepping up.” If the churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples would do all that is in their power to do in terms of charity and beneficence, there might be less need for the state to do as much.
     
    In other words if tax-deductible tithes, offerings, and charitable contributions were allocated more precisely, then not as many tax dollars would be necessarily allocated for assistance to people.
     
    I agree that it will be interesting to see if and how churches are poised to do what will be necessary. Actually, it’s already necessary as many adults try to live on two minimum wage jobs; while the average monthly government food assistance lasts a family perhaps a week. To Monte’s point, many regular (American) church goers are now dependent on Social Security. (Elderly people are the most regular attendees.)
     
    We gotta get out of here folks.

  8. William Noel
    30 September 2013 @ 3:07 pm

    Monte,

    Here's a tidbit to chew on.  The pols want us to believe that a government shutdown will have disastrous effects on the national economy.  But, according to government economic statistics, the 1995 shutdown was actually beneficial.  Unemployment dropped during that time, gross domestic product increased and the national debt shrank.  But all three reversed shortly after the shutdown ended and erased the gains from that time. 

    Look back just a few weeks.  According to the Obama administration, sequestration was going to cause huge economic difficulties.  International commerce would come to a halt because customs agents would not be able to screen imports.  Seamen would die because the Coast Guard could not come to their rescue.  Hospitals would close.  Criminals would run wild because police would be taken off the streets.  The military would have to reduce overseas operations because no costs could be cut.  None of that happened.  What was supposed to be 16 weeks of one day a week furlough for Department of Defense workers got reduced to 11, then to 8. 

    In the short term it appears our challenge is seeing through the fear-mongering and blatant lies or politicians.  The public is starting to see their deceptive charades for what they are and public opinion is turning against them.  Still, what concerns me is the long-term challenge of whether the church will be prepared to minister to the needs of their communities when the government is no longer able to deliver on past promises and people realize they must fend for themselves instead of living off the redistributed prosperity taken from others.
     

  9. Anonymous
    30 September 2013 @ 3:29 pm

    It would be interesting to play "What if…" using a "business as usual" scenario. What if we just continue passing budgets that call for out-of-control spending, with built-in increases, and no realistic plan to live within our means, much less pay off the tens of trillions of dollars in debt and unfunded liabilities that the political classes have saddled us with over the past twleve years? What impact will that have on Adventists?

    It's a lot easier to fool ourselves into complacency playing the "business as usual" game, because the short term, immediate pain and disfigurement caused by radical "surgery" and "chemoradiation" appears vastly worse than the future threat of a lethal disease from which we are presently experiencing minimal symptoms – symptoms that can be alleviated by the narcotics of borrowing and printing money, while denouncing the life-sustaining metabolic processes of the body for the spread of the disease.

    And so we claim to be motivated by compassion when we warn of the dangers of not letting the disease metastasize. My physician son-in-law told me the other day that, for every day of immobilized bedrest, a body loses 10% of its strength. If I, as a healthy, able-bodied person, remained in that condition for 10 days, I would be unable to walk on my own. I wonder how long a resource-rich, able-bodied nation can incentivize nearly 40% of its population to be sustained on economic bedrest before the Ponzi scheme of staving off "what if…" with "business as usual" collapses. I suspect we have already passed that point.

    • Stephen Foster
      30 September 2013 @ 4:30 pm

      And heeere we go again. Hmm…40%, huh? I thought the operational figure was "47%." 

      • Anonymous
        30 September 2013 @ 10:30 pm

        Stephen, I don't know that I have ever used a 47% figure. Are you trying to lure me into a political debate with the assumption that whatever has been said by conservative political candidates can be imputed to me? Sounds pretty desperate. It's a good thing you have told us so many times that you don't engage on the political level. Otherwise, we might get confused.

        I recently heard that labor force participation is only 63%, the lowest since 1978. Hence the "nearly 40%" observation. I should have said "working age population." I don't think the precise percentage is particularly relevant to my point. But I guess if you simply want to comment in order to pick a quarrel, why deal with the underlying point I was making?

        • Stephen Foster
          30 September 2013 @ 11:13 pm

          “The underlying point” was the (political) opinion that “40%,” or whatever percentage, of Americans is “incentivized…to be sustained on economic bedrest” while the “Ponzi scheme” is awaiting collapse. Now that may be your opinion Nathan, but, as you say, you should have said “working age population;” as that has identifying phrase has much less resemblance to the 47% who were incentivized by government largess to vote a certain way according to a certain politician; and does not bear any resemblance to those who are beneficiaries of the “Ponzi scheme” so identified by another certain politician in the same cycle.
           
          I engage in discussions of public affairs on this site on a regular basis. I just prefer to do it without specifically identifying personages or political/ideological party affiliations.  It isn’t always possible to do so, and it’s just a personal preference here; this way the “underlying point” gets isolated and is therefore more likely fully discussed. 

          • Stephen Foster
            30 September 2013 @ 11:17 pm

            “…as that identifying phrase has much less…

          • Stephen Foster
            30 September 2013 @ 11:28 pm

            In fairness to you, I should also note (the obvious?) that if you had said that nearly 40% of the working age population was somehow being incentivized to be sustained on economic bed rest, I would probably have replied the same way.

          • Anonymous
            01 October 2013 @ 12:46 am

            You make me laugh, Stephen. Quite funny! I appreciate the honesty.

          • Stephen Foster
            01 October 2013 @ 1:04 am

            …and I didn’t have to add 🙂

    • William Noel
      01 October 2013 @ 11:47 am

      Potential immediate impacts are a far more effective scare tactic for persuading an uninformed public than the far more certain future results from failure to act in the present.  Today is real, the events of next week are potential while somewhere off in the distance is theoretical. 

  10. earl calahan
    30 September 2013 @ 5:51 pm

    The SHIP OF STATE is on a pre-planned never ending voyage of socialization.
    Give me a break, wake up and smell the coffee. Both major parties (USA) are onboard the same ship. Woo the masses with goodies. IT AIN'T GONNA CHANGE until the SHIP OF STATE SINKS. Responsible balanced budgets? Riddance of PORK? Political benefits and PERKS for the POLITICOS? Under the table payoffs, squirrelled away in offshore numbered accounts? Corruption at the highest levels, starting at the local muni levels? Off budget spending? Contracts to "friends of Government" without the bidding process, or by invitation only? Total neglect of the National Constitution? Governing by the fiat of  "I won't wait for the gridlock of the Legislative, I will enact it as the President? "Prudent financial planning, and enactment?  Truthful statements that stand up to scrutiny of auditors as fair and acceptable business practice? It has been changed to "ACCEPTABLE PRACTICES ONLY".
    The churches in the past have always responded to the needy in society, some are still making a effort to aid. But as mentioned above, the churches dwindling headsare mostly gray retirees. There are very vibrant programs in most communities serving the needy. Food kitchens, frequented mostly by the homeless, and derelicts in towns, also the Food warehouses, the Salvation Army, and other organizations.
      
     

  11. Anonymous
    02 October 2013 @ 3:11 pm

    Another interesting "What if…" game that we could play is to imagine if Jesus was on earth today, how would a government shutdown adversely impact His ministry. The fact that our lives as citizens of the U.S. are greatly impacted by government finances and monetary policies is bad enough. But shouldn't we be terribly ashamed at having to acknowledge the extent to which we have placed the gospel commission at the mercy of the government?