A Tale of Two Churches

Welcome to another Wednesday and another chapter of the continuing discussion about The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns. Even if you haven’t read the book, please still feel free to hang out, read today’s post, and join the discussion. If you’ve written a post about this chapter, please link it up at the link widget below. And please make absolutely sure to visit my friend and co-facilitator, Jason Stasyszen, at Connecting to Impact to see his thoughts on this chapter.

And now, let’s jump into Chapter 15 – A Tale of Two Churches

In this chapter, Mr. Stearns shares a parable about two churches. One church is an American church—busy, thriving, growing, and supremely blessed with every program that a church could ever dream of—that he calls The Church of God’s Blessings. And the other church is an African church—filled with hurting, starving people who live in desperate need with no programs to support them or meet their needs—that he calls The Church of the Suffering Servant. Stearns gives the example of the African pastor, coming to the American church to ask for help. And as I read, I realized that I have lived this scenario.

In mid-2004, I was attending the largest church in the city that I lived in at that time. Their pastoral staff was larger than some churches I’ve attended. They had every kind of program under the sun and it seemed like there was something going on at the church twenty-four hours a day. And their music and drama department did so many musicals each year that the church was referred to throughout the community as “Hollywood Church.” I was involved in a dozen ministries there.

One Sunday morning, from my perch in the choir loft, I watched as our pastor invited two men into his pulpit. They were African. An older man and a younger man. As we listened, we learned that the older man was the Bishop of a group of churches in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The younger man was his translator. I listened with tear-filled eyes as he made his plea.

We have come from across the sea to ask for your help. Your brothers and your sisters in the Congo are dying. Many of them eat only three times a week. The children have no clothes. No food. No medicine. You have so much. We have nothing and we are going to die. Will you not help us?

It took us until January of 2005, but we mobilized a medical team and went. But even as we ministered, we recognized that sending one medical team to this country was the equivalent of using an eyedropper to put out a forest fire.

On a Sunday morning in January, I sat in the church in Kinshasa, DR Congo, and watched as the people danced and sang and praised God for hours. These people who had no homes, no jobs, no food—needs more desperate than any that most of us will ever experience. And as they sang and praised God, every single one of them danced down the aisle to put their small, tattered offerings into a large basket at the front.

Today, I’m confronted again with the same question that I was confronted with on that Sunday morning in Kinshasa: If these people who have absolutely nothing will dance down to the altar to give everything they have, then how can I—who in comparison have everything in the world—not dance to the altar to give everything I have?

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  1. Good thoughts Sarah. I am reminded of Scriptures that teach that God delights in obedience far more than the sacrifice of lambs. I also know He is more interested in me giving all I have than to give a token and hope it salves the need and my conscience.

  2. Isn’t it amazing how our wealth and blessings hinder our devotion and worship. You would think it would be just the opposite.

    There is a definite need for us to keep on doing and doing more… not for our selves, not for our own edification, but for the Kingdom of God and the world that needs to know His love.

  3. Sarah Salter says:

    Bill & Dusty, Thanks for coming by and sharing your thoughts! Dusty, this reminds me of something Brother Andrew (the missionary that started Open Doors International) said. For years and years he ministered behind the Iron Curtain in the underground churches. And in those years, while those churches were being oppressed, spiritually, those churches were absolutely on fire for God. Well, then the Iron Curtain fell and suddenly, those churches didn’t have to be underground anymore. And once they were no longer being oppressed, they began to wane, spiritually. Some of those churches have completely died now. And what it comes down to is that there is a definite spiritual strength that only comes from having to trust God in a big way, whether for money or for survival.

  4. What a wonderful story. The larger the church the more it takes to steer the ship. It’s not that they shouldn’t, but we small churches have an advantage on that front. We need to see that we have the ability and not sell ourselves short because people need us right now. Love your thoughts, Sarah! Thank you.

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