Another mass shooting in the US.
And another wave of people posting their ‘thoughts and prayers”
Sending your thoughts and prayers is just like saying to someone,
“I empathize with you, but not enough to actually do anything about it”
Or as christian author (Stuff Christians Like and more) Jonathan Acuff would say,
'Sometimes, saying “I’ll pray for you” is just the Christian equivalent of ending a date by saying “I’ll give you a call.”’
Thinking about a situation doesn’t actually help a situation.
Saying you will pray about a situation (and do not) does not help a situation.
See cause prayer might actually help, if we actually did it.
Jon Acuff says, “Right now I have about a 17% success rate when it comes to actually following through on my “I’ll pray for you” statements. I know that’s horrible, but it’s a ten year average and from 1996 – 2004 I was batting about 0%”
Honesty is a good first step!
So knowing this, being honest that when we say 'I'll pray for you' and don't; how much more unhelpful is ‘thoughts and prayers’?
And what are we praying for?
What are we asking God to to?
Are we praying for AR15 Assault weapons to just disappear?
Are we asking for miracle of a waiting period of more than 15 minutes before you can buy one?
Or are we praying for someone, somewhere to take action.
See here is the thing, prayer can be action.
There are things that prayer help to change.
But make no mistake, if you pray and then do nothing else; I am afraid you missed the whole point.
Prayer isn’t just for someone else, somewhere else.
It should also change you.
But I also think there is a larger issue here… So stay with me.
The great Billy Graham just passed away. He was known for being a man of integrity, for preaching the word. He was an evangelist.
And a good one.
He packed stadiums and led thousands to the faith.
He prayed with and for presidents.
He simply was a great man of faith.
But I can’t shake this feeling that there is a change of the guard.
Almost as if with his passing, he has left it up to us to figure out how to expand the kingdom today.
Let me explain.
When Billy Graham started out his ministry, there were no iPhones.
There were barely TV’s. And if people had them, they were black and white.
He grew with television. Using it as a tool to tell people about Jesus.
He Preached the gospel to who ever would tune in or watch him on TV or in the stadiums.
Many thousands responded to that call.
Today, we have the world at our fingertips. Literally.
We have millions of hours sermons and resources.
We have the best of the best available.
And we have statistics. And they tell us a story.
As thousands walked up to the stages to ‘give their lives to Jesus,’ many didn’t join local churches or even go to church at all afterwards. They attended an event. Felt something grab them and responded. As beautiful as the moment may be, giving your life to anything can not be a momentary decision.
For years we have seen preachers hold giant meetings and invite people to come up to the front. Evangelists who speaks to millions of people at a time in Africa and all around the world, see thousands of people walk to the stage to ‘give their lives’ to Jesus….
But then what?
To use a Edgar Nye quote, “a mile wide and an inch deep.” In other words, its one thing to make a choice and another to follow through with it, grow with it and give your life to it. It is one thing to believe in Jesus, another to pattern your life after him, to forgive like him and love like him.
So what does this have to do with thoughts and prayers?
There is a need for the church as a whole to no longer just ‘pray’ about things or send thoughts. People are looking for action. Real, action. And there is a feeling out there that the church is really good at staying within their bubbles. Everyday people are not trusting of churches in my experience. And maybe that is kind of our fault right?
I mean, you can loose years of your life just worshipping every sunday and trying to be a good person. You can read your bible and eat an apple a day and think life is perfect. And if that works for you, amazing! I'm not sure you would want to read on :)
Jesus is looking for partners, not robots. He is looking for workers. People, are looking for action. For us to actually start loving others. For us to stop using the word community lightly and actually start being a part of one (outside the bubble).
The world is watching as churches remain silent and do not act on many current issues.
We stumble around the #metoo movement
We are not transparent with our failures
We create our ‘christian bubbles’ and sell Jesus is my homeboy t-shirts but do not realize how it was child labor that made that other shirt we wear.
And don’t even talk about how we have treated our LGBTQ2+ community
And look, I am just as guilty as anyone else.
But there has to be a time when we realize that a part of prayer is action.
And Prayer needs to be more than, "God I want you to do this" or "God grant world peace"
I think we need to let prayer be a starting point, and action be the next in line.
I think people are looking for love in action. For people who should love like Jesus, to actually love like Jesus. And this is why I think the guard has passed from big massive evangelistic events, to small local gatherings helping each other, growing together and being active in their communities. From the big sexy church gatherings to the real, honest small group where we can share and grow without all the money and emotion.
And why? Because the word ‘Christian’ has be better than this quote from the NRA president, "It's not bestowed by man, but granted by God to all Americans as our American birthright. So I call right now today on every citizen who loves this country and who treasures this freedom to stand and unflinchingly defend the Second Amendment, the one freedom that protects us all.”
We should all be upset about this. Not that he said it, that so many people (christians) believe it.
We should be upset because the loudest voice that should be ours, belongs to the children who are rallying on the steps of congress for change and action.
And we post our thoughts and prayers.
I live in Canada. We are different from America in many ways. Guns for one. But we all can learn something from this,
Our physical communities should be lit up with the radiant love of Christ if we are a part of it. But instead my fear is that for most churches, if they closed their doors on Sunday; the greater community would not notice.
And I am not alone with this feeling. Listen to Brian Zahnd in his book, “Water to Wine” as he speaks about one of his dreams/visions about his journey;
“I was in New York City, the epicentre of modern capitalism, looking for the kind of faith Abraham lived… I was asking everyone I met where I could the faith of Abraham. The peculiar thing was that people seemed to know exactly what I was talking about - what they didn’t know was where to find it.
… At one point of the dream I found myself following the crowd - which rarely is the way to go - being led into a big Christian conference. It had all the things Americans like best - it was big, loud, exciting, and most of all ‘practical’. The worship was entertaining. The sermons were ‘applicable to your life.’ What was being offered were the things you could ‘use.’ I knew this world well. But the faith of Abraham was not there. So I left.
Back outside I began to take the streets less travelled, quieter streets. That’s where I found the bookstore. The difference between the raucous conference and the quiet bookstore could not have been more striking.
In the back of the book store of my dream, still searching for Abraham’s faith, I found Abraham himself-sitting among piles of old prayer books with tears in his eyes. He knew what I was looking for. “
What do you think? Is there a need for churches to start taking more action?
Do we need to get away from the big conferences and start smaller?
Or do we need to just do Sunday’s better?
For Story, we are a smaller gathering.
We are a safe place to grow, learn or be with people on the journey.
And we are learning what love in action looks like.
And it is my hope, my deepest prayer; that Bowmanville is better because we exist.
And if it sounds like something that you are interested in, there is a coffee waiting for you.
To the saint Billy Graham;
Thank you. for your integrity, for your passion and commitment to sharing the good news.
May you rest well in His arms.