God, Goods, and Hoarding

I will admit that I have watched a couple of episodes of “Hoarders” on A&E.  I’m fascinated by how incredibly bizarre the lives are of those who hoard.  Their houses are packed from top to bottom with things that they just can’t find the willpower to part with. They hoard and stash valuable things all the way down to gum wrappers until there is hardly any room in their homes for them to move around…and that’s when the cameras show up.  The people featured on this show have a serious problem, and their hoarding is often a result of some mental or emotional illness or disorder.

But I don’t hoard like that.  I’m not like them.  I throw things away, and I even give things away to those in need – sometimes.  Plus, I’m married to a woman with the gift of hospitality, which is accompanied by the gift of housecleaning. She has taught me well!  Hoarders have a problem.  I don’t.

Or do I?  Obviously the kind of hoarding featured on the show is the extreme, but after reading this quote by one of my Christian heroes, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I’m not so sure I don’t have a problem myself.  He wrote these words in his benchmark book, The Cost of Discipleship:

“Earthly goods are given to be used, not to be collected. In the wilderness God gave Israel the manna every day, and they had no need to worry about food and drink. Indeed, if they kept any of the manna over until the next day, it went bad. In the same way, the disciple must receive his portion from God every day. If he stores it up as a permanent possession, he spoils not only the gift, but himself as well, for he sets his heart on accumulated wealth, and makes it a barrier between himself and God. Where our treasure is, there is our trust, our security, our consolation and our God. Hoarding is idolatry.”

I’m not convinced that having a savings is sin, nor am I convinced that I should give everything I own away and expect God to replenish me anew every morning with the things I gave away the day before.  Many of the things I have are things God has given me that I need for the sustenance of me and my family.  However, I have many things I don’t need.

I’ve moved my family 11 times in the 18 years I’ve been married.  I’ve hauled a lot of things from place to place to place.  I’m also well aware that there are many in my scope of influence who do not have what they need.  I have dabbled in hoarding, and I don’t think I feel very good about it after all.  May the Lord continue to press on us the truth that He has blessed us in order to be a blessing to others, and may He remind us often of these words penned by the Apostle Paul.

I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness.  As it is written, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.” (2 Corinthians 8:13-15)

Keys to Reaching Young People

In the summer 2011 edition of Facts & Trends magazine, Thom Rainer, the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, pointed out five big changes he sees coming for American churches.  Here are a couple of his research findings (in italics) followed by a few brief comments by yours truly.

1. Our nation will see the emergence of the largest generational mission field in more than a century. According to our current research, the Millennial generation, those born between 1980 and 2000, will have a very low Christian representation. Our estimates now are that only 15 percent are Christian. With a huge population of nearly 80 million, that means that nearly 70 million young people are not Christians.

2. The dominant attitude of this huge generation toward Christianity will be largely indifferent. Only 13 percent of the Millennials rank any type of spiritual matter as important to their lives. They are not angry at churches and Christians. They simply ignore us because they do not deem us as meaningful or relevant.

3. Family will be a key value for Millennials.  Nearly eight out of ten of the Millennials ranked family as the important issue in their lives. They told us that they had healthy relationships with their parents who, for the most part, are Baby Boomers. Some churches say they are family friendly, but few actually demonstrate that value. Churches that reach both of these generations will make significant changes to become the type of churches that foster healthy family relationships.

Those born between 1980 and 2000 are currently between the ages of 11 and 31.  If the numbers are anywhere near accurate, then there are a couple of things I see as being crucial if this generation is going to be reached for Christ.

Christian parenting.  If we want to reach this generation for Christ, then it may be wise for us to look to minister to the generation ahead of them.  A secular study done in the early 2000’s revealed that the number one determining factor of a child’s religious beliefs and practices once he or she reaches adulthood is the influence of one or both parents.  Parents are the key, so rather than first looking to reach this generation directly for Christ (at least the younger half – ages 11-19), maybe we ought to look at reaching their parents first.

Family Ministry. Churches need to have a strong focus on helping parents raise their children to follow the Lord.  This includes marriage ministry, parenting ministry, children’s ministry, and youth ministry.  All of these ministries must be relevant and must work together to assist parents in the training of their children to walk with the Lord as adults.  Of course, in the absence of godly parents, churches can assume the lead role in helping kids grow in the Lord, but even non-Christian parents must never be excluded from the ministry reach and help of the local church.

Church Integration.  The churches that see the most young adults (ages 18-30) stay connected (to the church and to their faith) are churches that don’t just offer age-specific ministries to young adults, but work diligently at helping them integrate into the life and body of the church as a whole.  Real life is integrated and multi-generational.  Churches that keep young adults separated from the rest of the body are not doing anyone any good. I’m not suggesting that churches do away with age-specific programs for young adults (college and career, etc), but I am suggesting that churches must work diligently to help young adults integrate relationally and in ministry with people from other generations.

These are just a few thoughts off the top of my head.  What are your thoughts as you process Rainer’s findings that I listed above?