Evangelization of another marginal group–the rich

jesus sick lameIn a previous post, I blogged about a need for evangelization and missions to the margins.  In this post, I will make a case for evangelization to the rich. The left will hate what I have to say here.

Missionary families have sacrificed their lives and their comforts of home to live overseas, to adopt a new culture and learn a new language.  Their motivation is to proclaim the gospel to people on the margins.  They are on the margins due to income/economic status; sickness/health; race/ethnicity; language and education.

Jesus’ entire ministry was to those who were on the margins.  Luke 7:21-22 states:

“At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.”

Previously I hadn’t really noticed this one verse in Luke 7:29:

“All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John.”

Yes, even tax collectors repented and got baptized.  During the days of the Roman Empire, tax collectors were people who were relied upon by civil government. The Roman Empire depended upon them to bring in tax revenues. Without tax collectors, they would not have been able to receive any monies to fund their public services. Thus, tax collectors were highly valued by the Emperor.

It was unfortunate that they abused their positions of power. They took advantage of people. They added additional taxes to their collections that were not necessarily owed to Rome. They enriched themselves by pocketing that extra money for themselves. They were hated and despised amongst the common people.

Some of these dishonest tax collectors were evangelized. They received Christ and transformed their lives. They gave up their dishonest ways, and were baptized by John.  If there is room for the rich in God’s kingdom, who are we to judge?

zacchaeus

Zacchaeus in the bible was a dishonest man.  He came to faith in Christ.  In the gospels, he was repentant and transformed the way he conducted his business.  He promised Jesus to give half of his money to the poor and return four-fold what he had cheated (Luke 19:8).

Jesus’ response was evidence of the good news that came into Zacchaeus’ life.  Jesus said in Luke 19:9-10,

“Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

Do we despise those who are rich and powerful?  Are they also unfairly despised by some of us commoners.  We accuse them of being oppressors of the weak.  We accuse them of getting rich on the backs of the poor. Not necessarily true.

There are many rich people who make their money honestly, and through hard work and diligence.

Do we scorn the rich, famous and powerful for the sake of scorning them?  When we do so, it creates a bigger chasm between them and the commoner.

Do the ultra rich, powerful and famous also need to hear the gospel?  Are they also loved by Jesus?   They also have problems like us ordinary people.  They also have marital troubles, divorce and separation, parental issues, just as we all do.  Their lives can also be torn by sin and corruption.

This sector of society also need Jesus.  There is room for them in God’s kingdom.

Here’s a question for us to consider.  If Jesus invited himself to eat with Zacchaeus’ at his home, might Jesus do so with the ultra rich and powerful today?  Most definitely.

Our evangelization and missionary work today could use a good tweaking. We ought not only be evangelizing the poor and sick. We also need to turn our attention to people of influence.

Missionaries are doing some great missional work to evangelize the marginalized. But what about politicians, and the rich business person? In a way, they might also be people on the margins–but on the other side of the margins?

I’ll define this group as those who are on the margins on the opposite of the economic and social spectrum.  We tend to marginalize them because of the division their money and wealth has created.

I know it’s rather difficult to attach the label “marginalized” upon those who are rich. Juxtaposed with a large middle-class population, the super ultra-rich do standout as a marginalized group.

superrich

In our modern contemporary society, we might consider people such as:  the ultra rich, famous Hollywood stars, music icons, Supreme Court justices. These people might also be some of the loneliest people in the world.  Their success in their own field of work has created a greater chasm between themselves and the common person.

What would Jesus do?  Jesus addressed rich people regarding their spiritual poverty.  They were too content, too satisfied and did not seek after the things of God.  Money satisfied them but they missed the spiritual side of life.

To be fair, and on the other side of the same token, I believe Jesus would also speak to the poor people regarding their spiritual poverty.

So whether we rich or poor, God would desire we all people to seek after godly and spiritual things.

The ultra rich might be the most financially comfortable people in the world.  But they might also be the most unhappiest people in the world.

All human beings, regardless of our status, battle with depression, suicide, debilitating sicknesses and diseases.  All people have marital breakdown.  All people battle personal problems.  God can be the savior of all people who need a savior.

It is not unusual that the higher one climbs on the socio-economic ladder, the less happy and more lonely one becomes.

So who might be the proverbial “tax collectors” of today?   Might they also need to be ministered to? They might be our Hollywood producers, famous Oscar recipients, successful real estate tycoons, business persons and corporate executives.

Let me ask you: When did you last minister to Hollywood producers, the political operatives, and business tycoon?  Did you offer them any spiritual guidance?  Were there any around who could share the good news with them.

Most common people never have any sort contact with them. Why would we? And how could we?  The marginal on this side of the bell curve are also isolated people.

How can the gospel transform the lives of the rich, famous and powerful?  This might be worth pondering upon.  The gospel and the love of Christ can transform the lives of all persons.  It might make the world a better place.

Can they be transformed by the light of Christ to the glory of God?  “Yes.”  Jesus also wants to intervene in their lives. God loves all people of all economic and social status.

If this post has made any sense, I hope it might present another challenge. How do we reach this other marginal group of the rich?  Perhaps we might consider and pray that God should send evangelists, missionaries and apostles to the super rich, famous and powerful.

Leaving Church #3: Lack of purpose and mission

Reason #3 – Lack of purpose and mission [ part 3 of series ]

Many of our churches seem to expect our members/parishioners to attend our Sunday services, go home after it’s over and come back the next Sunday.  This cycle of worship is expected to be normative for all parishioners.  But what is missing in this cycle is their active participation in meaningful mission.

During my young adult years, I used to be a pew warmer for the most part.  I did nothing, and was not encouraged to take an active part in fulfilling any responsibilities at church.  In many churches, only the core group of members get to participate in meaningful mission and purpose. When the work of God’s kingdom is delegated to only a few while some or most only get to watch what is going on, and eventually get bored. No wonder why some people think church is boring. There’s nothing for them to do that’s meaningful.

If we do not mobilize our church members to take an active part in God’s mission (missio Dei) in this world, how do we expect them to fulfill their purpose in the world.  Everyone wants to be a contributor by adding value and then being appreciated for their work in the church and in the world, but if the church does not articulate the importance of mission and mobilize people into God’s mission in the world, they will fail to find something meaningful to do.

Will they begin to wonder why the church is no longer a significant part of their lives and why it seems meaningless?  Will they become dissatisfied with a lack of purpose and eventually leave the church to find and fulfill some meaningful purpose elsewhere?

The Church: always forming and reforming

Throughout my seminary career, I’ve heard professors being openly critical of other churches, especially those that practice different methodologies in ministry.  Both mainstream evangelical and confessional mainline churches are continually criticizing one another’s methodologies, and even, critiquing one another’s motives in ministry.   I have had a foot in both camps for a while now so I can totally understand where the two are coming from, and also feel torn between the two.

In our mainline confessional churches (e.g., Lutheran, Anglican, Roman Catholic), we seek to maintain the confessions of the historic church in order to preserve the truths.  This explains why the growth in or historic confessional churches tend to be stagnant.  However, the upside is that historic positions of the Christian church are maintained and preserved.

In our evangelical churches, we are constantly trying to change in order to be missional.  This explains why our growing evangelical/charismatic churches tend to re-invent ourselves all the time (e.g., new forms of worship).  The upside is that there is growth in evangelical churches (especially worldwide Pentecostalism and charismatic churches).

On the missional church, Craig van Gelder describes the church as: always forming (missional), and always reforming (confessional).

    He says that in this polarity lies a healthy and dynamic tension between change and continuity, and between mission and confession.  This forces us to be challenged by a need to recontexualize a congregation’s ministry while maintaining the truths of the historic Christian faith.

    Can there be a “Third Way”?  I have come to position that in order to survive and even thrive as a Church, the ministry of the Church must begin to practice what I call the “Third Way”.  In my pastoral ministry, I have been trying to implement and meld some of the accepted methodologies of mainstream evangelical and historic confessional churches because that is the only way to be dynamic and growing, while maintaining the established Christian truths.  I believe that we need to be challenged by one another.  Those who do not submit to learning one another’s differences will never understand the advantages of the other methodologies of ministry.  I do hope that we can all, one day, come to a more common understanding of ministry.

    Will be blogging on the missional church

    After returning from my vacation, I’ve been taking it easy and have been enjoying watching the highest level of soccer in the 2010 FIFA World Cup.  I’ve also been reading some books about the missional church and have been challenged to think more in terms of being more missional as a Christian and as a minister.  The books I have been reading have been more oriented toward the missional church.  As a result, I have been thinking of gearing the New Epistles blog to eventually move into topics about the missional church.  The blog started as a biblioblog, then moved into a theoblog. I will now add a missional element to my blogging because I wish to move my own practice of pastoral ministry to be oriented toward being a missional church.