Tuesday, March 31, 2009

How will churches respond to Recession?

It seems a few churches are responding by holding support groups for those who have lost jobs or are facing difficult economic times. This hasn't escaped NPR's astute reporting: give a read or a listen to their coverage of this development here. On a more local level, Knox Presbyterian in Naperville provides both a weekly encouragement gathering every Thursday morning and hosts a job connection database through its website. Check it out here.

I'm proud of churches responding to the New Economy in a tangible way. God does not address us just in our warm-fuzzy "spiritual" parts; he saves us in all our humanness, including the parts of us that need some weekly cash-flow to put food on a table and to have four walls and a floor for that table to stand on. When the church takes action to address our human needs, it's being the presence of God in the same way that Jesus was when he healed the sick, cast out demons, and fed the hungry.

But I also have some questions for our churches. First and foremost, why do we so often resort to spiritualizing comfort (I think James calls it blessing your brothers and sisters but turning them away hungry) or moralizing condemnations of the big, bad, dirty-rotten CEOs (Jeremiah definitely indicts both the rich and the oppressed poor as idolatrous participants in an anti-God system)? 

Halden from Inhabitatio Dei asks another difficult question:
But I do find it interesting how the church is intervening to put people back to work across America. I wonder also why we aren’t hearing of churches across America sharing their financial resources to care for those that are out of work, in addition to providing emotional support groups…
That churches are addressing this issue at all is great. It's high time we began to worry just as much about people's employment and standard of living as we do about their personal quiet times and tithe check. But we can't walk too far down this road before we realize that our responses continue to be inadequate, to fall fall short of the Thessalonian church's support of the Jerusalem congregations even while believers in Thessalonica struggled to cobble ends together.

An article from Mustard Seed Associates poses another question: Why didn't we see this coming? Some of us did (not me!). A little more than a week before the beginning of the Wall Street disintegration, on September 7, 2008, MSA hosted a recession preparedness seminar (read about it here and read the results of that brainstorming session here.) Our churches are so often find themselves reacting; maybe it's time for us to start looking down the road a bit farther than next week's potluck and this summer's VBS.

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