The Tail Wagging the Dog

Oct 13th 2008

You’ve probably heard the story of the pastor who was candidating for the job at a local congregation, one of those congregations that reject any and every potential change with the words, “we’ve never done it that way before.” This man give his most impassioned words, trying to convince the search team and the congregation that his was the best guy for the job…   He finished his talk with one last promise, “And I promise,” he said, “if you choose me as your pastor, I promise to lead this church well into the 19th century.” He sat down and the church clerk said, “Pastor I think you mean the 20th century.” He looked at her and said, “Let’s take it one century at a time!”

Over the course of almost 25 years of being a pastor, I have had my share of disappointments, frustrations and conversations (never about Calvary!) about how the church is always a decade or two behind the rest of the world.  The business world perfects the science of marketing and a couple of decades later, the church, starts to buy in to the strategy.  New technology comes out and a decade or two later, it starts showing up in the church.  Music, art, leadership and organizational principles…a decade or two behind.  And I would often hear someone saying, “Why does it seem like the church is always behind the times?  Why does it seem like the world sets the pace and we are just the proverbial tail in the dog?”

During the course of the events of the last few weeks and months — economic, global, kinds of events — I realized that this really isn’t true.  It is really the church that sets the pace for the world.  In everything that matters, at the heart of life, it is the church, it is the people of God that shape the times of the culture in which we live.

This is a Biblical concept which plays out throughout the pages of history.  What we see time after time is that God chooses to bless the land, the region, even the nation, in which His people live…if they walk with Him.  And we also see that in those times when God’s people choose to walk away from Him, that God withholds His blessing from the whole region.  In fact, when people walk with God, it is their calling to be a blessing to all the nations of the world.  And in Chronicles, the author challenges the people with this promise, If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and turn from their wicked ways, and seek my face and pray, then I will heal their land.

In other words, as the church goes, so goes the nation.

If you have listened to me over the course of the last year or two, you know that I have been convicted that the chief sin of the American church is greed.  As the church goes, so goes the world.  Right?  How many times have we heard in the last few weeks? This is a problem of greed.

If I’m right, and the world follows the church…what is the solution?  The solution is not republican or democrat.  The solution is not a bail-out or another tax rebate of monopoly money.  The answer to greed is gratitude and generosity.  Gratitude cancels the power of our sense of self-entitlement and generosity breaks the power of greed.  I think the best bail-out plan for our economy in a financial fall is the generosity of the church which could lead again to the blessing of God.

Gratitude and Generosity — two words that might not be heard often at a political rally, or in the hallowed halls of the Treasury — but two words that might lead us back to the presence of God.  Maybe that’s better.