Archive for September, 2010
Due to financial difficulties in the U.S. at present, many people are losing jobs, realizing reduced values in home prices, experiencing reductions in investment income and retirement savings, and seeing a rise in scenarios where banks are calling in loans as a period of extend and pretend is coming to a close. These factors combined are leading to a major rise in home foreclosures. More than 95,000 homes are reverting back to the banks through repossession in August 2010–this is the largest number of homes repossessed in one month so far. For the first time in generations, large numbers of people are losing their homes. Some of those have nowhere to go….Absolutely nowhere.
One recently homeless man, Butch, shared with me this week that he thinks “we are close to being back in the Great Depression.” He continued, “people don’t see it, but there are more [homeless] on the streets everyday.” The reason these suffering are unseen is because they are sleeping in their cars, spending the last of their savings on cheap hotels, and living in tent villages or in the woods just out of sight of others. Some have taken their lives before facing eviction or their own personal financial catastrophe.
So what might the church do? There are, I believe many ways to positively address this growing plight. A couple of unacceptable options, though, would include ignoring the problem or promising our prayers and best wishes while taking no action.
What if we pursue a major conversion? If a church with property were to take some rarely used or unused property and convert it into dormitory-style living, a good number of people could have shelter and experience a daily, grace-filled blessing. Space normally reserved as educational space could be utilized with great effect in terms of size and fulfilling the objective of making disciples. Those living there and those who had previously met in those rooms would have an opportunity to experience the love of God in a whole new, profound way. Other options may include having families seek to rearrange living arrangements to free up a bedroom or living area for those that are struggling. There are a growing number of situations already in cities the hardest hit by the housing crisis where people are living in community with multiple persons or family units in a home as people seek to align their income and expenses.
Undoubtedly there are challenges to undertaking such drastic conversions dealing with logistics, how to oversee, etc. At this point, Butch’s thoughts are vital to embrace. He shares that the homeless are just seeking to maintain some of their dignity. This may be expressed in basic ways by providing some monies even if there is a chance that it may be squandered on alcohol. He suggests that this is not a time for moralizing or preaching, but showing the unconditional love of Christ.
This is the 4th in a series on ever-growing economic realities in the U.S. and some practical ways for the church to respond. In the next post and others in the future, we will continue to look at aspects of this challenge. The next post will be a guest post–Could you survive in poverty?
For regular readers of this blog, this post may initially sound a bit off-kilter for me. However, I believe it is time for churches to seriously consider the need for undertaking a new building project. Right now. No, I am not proposing the next $130 million dollar project. But I am proposing something that should be promoted and celebrated with the intensity that some would allocate to constructing a state-of-the-art worship center celebrating the majesty of God. This humble project should be fast-tracked. Regardless of a church’s financial condition, a capital campaign for this undertaking will likely be met with enthusiasm from those that are passionate about putting the words of Christ into practice. The church would do well to consider ways to put in gardens and greenhouses on church property and empty lots throughout the community.
During a time of rapid growth in unemployment, with food stamp usage nearing an all-time high, and even signs of escalating suicide rates because of financial stress, the church needs to be active in feeding the hungry. To provide ways to deal with one of the most basic needs of life for those struggling financially the church can equip and enable them to plant, cultivate, and harvest produce. In addition to providing much needed food, the process gives a sense of self-worth while providing multiple metaphors and object lessons of God making us into a new creation. Depending on geographic location, greenhouses may be beneficial to allow year-round produce to be harvested.
Called to seek the lost, the church will do well to make the garden visible to the community. It is possible that the garden and/or greenhouse function as a sign of service to the community. This sign could replace the symbol of the steeple for the church signifying that this is where a group of people that love and minister to their community for the glory of God in obedience to Him may be found worshipping and working. It may serve as a new symbol of trust, hope, and safety for the community.
To take this into the community more, creating multiple gardens throughout the community may serve as points of engagement with the lost and hurting. Use of empty lots as a way of beautifying the city while meeting needs for the surrounding neighbors through their labor and collective work will allow people to begin a process of discipleship and journeying toward Christ long before they have made Him their Lord.
It is time for the church to rethink the old food pantry and to look for creative ways to meet needs and share the love of God through being the incarnation of Christ as we live and work and relate to those that are lost. Additionally, considering other alternatives that maximize resources such as Angel Food Ministries will be a blessing to those in need.