July 27, 2011

The New Asceticism and Investment Bankers

by Byron Yawn

This is second hand information, but I hear David Platt is the real deal. I have every reason to believe it. I’ve interacted with numerous people close to David and they all say the same thing. The dude lives what he preaches. Given the tendency for trend setting pastors to bear a likeness to Tony Robbins, this independently verifiable fact is refreshing. What he’s written is what he believes. What he believes is what he lives. I’m happy to spread the rumor.

Case in point. Recently, I was seated at the table with a former elder of Brookhills at a ministry dinner. In the midst of our conversation he reinforced the legend of Platt’s sincerity. According to him, at the height of Radical’s success – of which he receives no proceeds – David’s family downsized. He went from nineteen hundred square feet to about nine hundred. For most Americans, that would be…  well…  radical. Honestly, I was convicted.

Having recently read Platt’s follow-up book, Radical Together, I innocently mentioned to this former elder how David had proposed selling Brookhills multimillion-dollar facility – which would be consistent given his message (so many ironies here). The distinguished gentlemen, who had not read the book, nearly choked on his couscous. Apparently, spiritual austerity has its limits.

Books like Radical and Crazy Love have struck a chord with recession conscious Christians. The accoutrements offered by church growth philosophies are now unthinkable in light of the economic hardships, vast needs and suffering around the world. More than one modern day prophet has declared the end of the mega-church era. For young evangelicals these behemoths of old are what gas guzzling SUVs are to environmentalists – irresponsible and inefficient. Around church boards words like “sustainable” are slowly replacing words like “strategic.” Like a tie that stayed in the closet long enough to come back in style, the small church is now the wave of the future. Rustic is the new relevant.

This emphasis is resonating with individuals on deep levels. Downsizing is a new fruit of the Spirit. People are going small. Young rat race weary suburban Christians are taking their cues from the likes of Chan and Platt. Reducing square footage. Quitting their corporate jobs. Going overseas. Adopting orphans from all over the world. Cutting back to one car. Venturing into micro-economics. Owning humanitarian convictions. Doing their part to meet needs in their immediate communities. Moving out of their well to do neighborhoods. Relocating to the inner city and lower income areas. All of this, in one-way or another, is a reaction to the “what’s in it for me” deluge of the past.

Much good has resulted from this shift in thinking. (I’ve seen many positive effects in the church where I pastor.) A resurgence of mission mindedness in evangelical pews. Community conscious Christians. Intimate fellowship. Deep seated compassion for suffering around the globe. Sincere concern for the less fortunate. Multi-ethnic congregations. Simplification of church. A return to core convictions. Cheesy power-point presentations and sermon props are slowly being replaced by gut check calls to life examination. “Eight Ways to Better Living” is slowly being replaced by “Eight Signs the Church is Narcissistic.”

For certain, numerous Christians are now migrating out of the suburban Promised Land settled by their pragmatic forefathers. There’s a reason Rick Warren didn’t end up in Harlem. Growth rates in U.S. cities – otherwise known as going where God is working – lead him to Orange County. After all, church growth and inner city are innately at odds. But, things have changed. It’s no longer about numbers. It’s about genuine and simple. Small churches are popping up in urban areas targeting specific neighborhoods with the Gospel. Famously, Francis Chan, who planted Cornerstone in the suburbs of Simi Valley, resigned as its lead pastor. He’s headed to the austere realities of inner Los Angeles. A place where people desperately need the Gospel. The suburbs are the new burned over district.

It’s been interesting watching all this take place in evangelicalism. For some, their commitment to the new asceticism is intense. Affluence is now a veritable unpardonable sin. It’s not much unlike when American Christians travel to third world countries on short-term mission trips. They most always come back disgusted at the prosperity of America. Two weeks spent boiling your own drinking water has a way of helping you count your blessings. I tell our own short-term missionaries – if you can’t weep for the American businessman the way you do the Haitian, then you are not ready to go to Haiti. Ultimately, I pray all this isn’t some weird irony. A trend in which middle class suburban Christians have mistaken a desire for spiritual austerity and simplicity with a call to missions.

Even with all the good that has come from this, I do have a basic concern. I’m afraid we may be misunderstanding the Gospel in all this. If we assume the disadvantaged in our inner cities (or third world countries) need the Gospel more desperately than the privileged on their boundaries, than indeed we have. For certain, it denies man’s real need and judges by externals only. After all, humanitarianism is a means to an end. The end is the proclamation of the love of God in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

         

What if a man wearing a tie entered your church along side a man in rags? Honestly now? Who would you assume needed the Gospel more? To whom would your heart go out? Our instinct here is evidence of our failure to maintain Gospel fidelity. Our hearts should go out to both. Not weeping over the businessman in the same way you do the poor man is an insult to the Gospel. To provide the homeless man with bread only is not the full extent of Christian love. Neither is assuming the man in the tie is less destitute as the man in need of bread.

The upper middle classes of the suburbs still need the Gospel. Desperately, in fact. I pastor a suburban church in Nashville, TN. Community Bible – once a rural congregation – has been at its present location for nearly fifty-years. About twenty-five years ago the suburbs overran it. Now, you should know that Nashville invented “church.” There’s no place quite like it. There are more steeples than treetops in this town. A few years back there were fourteen church plants in the Nashville metropolitan area. “Like a hole in the head” comes to mind.

Why plant churches when there are so many churches already here? Because church is a semi-professional sport in this southern city. I don’t mean to demean the efforts of church planters, but planting churches in the bedroom community of Nashville is almost too easy. People do church round these parts. Anyone can plant a church. Even a local weather anchor planted a church here. The logic is not too dissimilar from starting a boy band. Frosted tips, catchy lyrics, choreography and you’ve got a hit on your hands. This place is more religious than the Vatican City. If you build it they will come.

Despite the concentration of churches, the majority have not heard the Gospel. The true Gospel that is. The one which has Christ’s substitution atoning death for sinful men at its core. The one which has reconciliation to a Holy God as its highpoint and every point in between. The pragmatism of seeker sensitivity over the past forty years – which missed the Gospel all together – may have spared people from a lack of contentment, but it did not spare them from the wrath of God. The fields out here are white unto harvest.

There is an amazing opportunity to step into this void with Christ. There is a revival taking place among the comfortable. The “simple” Gospel which is resonating in lower income contexts is also resonating with the overly churched in affluent contexts. After all, it applies to both equally. The Gospel has no boundary to contain it. It penetrates all strata of men and society. (You do realize the Rich Young Ruler would not have been saved had he sold everything? Right?)

So, who’s going to reach the affluent with the Gospel? Who’s going to bravely venture out into the wilderness of capitalism and reach those who have been trapped by its power? Who’s going to trek out into religiously dense suburbs and assume the worst among the people who look the best? The church still needs successful businessmen and wealthy executives who can infiltrate the upper echelons of the corporate world with the good news of Christ. And investment bankers who can speak deliverance into the context of greed. We still need salesmen whose business trips look more like mission trips. The church still needs missional soccer moms.

Byron Yawn

Posts Twitter

Byron is the senior pastor of Community Bible Church in Nashville. His newest book, What Every Man Wishes His Father Had Told Him, is a guide for parents and pastors who seek to raise men of God.
  • Pingback: The New Asceticism and Investment Bankers | The Cripplegate | Church Leadership

  • Don

    Hi Byron, thank you for this post. As a missionary in South Africa, I can testify that “reaching the poor” has become a hobby horse of the affluent West. For most of the ‘teams’ (they are no longer referred to as missionaries) that come to South Africa, the gospel is now either assumed in the love or replaced with the much applauded (and twittered, Face Booked and You Tubed) deeds.

    We hope to see you at the Shepherd’s Conference again soon!
    -Don

    • CR Tolbert

      That’s sad, but I wouldn’t blame that on books like Radical. Platt spend a great deal of paper explaining that if you don’t take the Gospel to the poor, you haven’t really helped them at all no matter how much food or water you have provided for them.

      • http://www.bogdankipko.com Bogdan Kipko

        Awesome point towards the end!

        Peace,

        Bogdan.

  • http://www.housewifetheologian.com Aimee Byrd

    What a fabulous article! You nailed it. The new asceticism is so popular b/c it makes us feel better about ourselves as we share the gospel w/the “needy.” I think the crux of this article is in the implied but unsaid: We are the needy as well!! We so desperately need the gospel even in our sanctification. It is much harder to witness to the businessman because they don’t think they need our help.God calls us all in different “mission fields.” One should not be more holy than another.

    Thank you. I also wanted to add that I love this site & will be a regular reader.

    • CR Tolbert

      I don’t think Platt would say that one is more holier than the other. I think he said that the fact is most people who say they have a desire to spread the Gospel here on our own home turf, never actually get around to doing it.

  • Robert Sakovich

    Thanks, Byron. To me, this type of thing can easily wind up becoming legalistic because it can get to the point where people are looking around and saying, “Why aren’t those people going to third world countries and doing mission work? Why aren’t they downsizing?” Every person should live by the convictions that they have from reading Scripture and living by the Word of God. It won’t look the same for all of us and, as you clearly stated, the mission field is in every sector of the world. Hopefully people can just look to do more in the area where God has placed them or will place them. That is what I have done after reading “Crazy Love”.

  • Pingback: Combing the Net – 7/27/2011 « Honey and Locusts

  • CR Tolbert

    I’m sorry, but where in Radical was it taught that every Christian is commanded to sell everything and give to the poor? I think many “Reformed” types are grossly misrepresenting the message and I’m extremely confused as to why that is. It almost seems that all these critical reviews are coming from people who are upset because their books haven’t sold as well or had the impact that Radical and Crazy Love have had. I read through Radical twice, making notes on nearly every page and I never understood Platt to be saying that if you don’t “downsize” you are somehow not as holy or don’t love Jesus. I don’t remember him stating that we should only take the Gospel to the poor and forget about the affluent. The message of the book is that each Christian must, in light of and for the sake of the Gospel, seek God’s face as to how the blessings of abundance we have been afforded can be used to make His Name great among the nations, including our own. Some adopt children, some give to organizations like Compassion Intl. Some do give everything away and buy a one way ticket to Uganda to spend the rest of their lives caring for the poor. And some intentionally witness in their Fortune 500 corporation or at their youth soccer games. Not everyone has been called to give everything, but everyone has been called to give something. And this is the message that needed to be proclaimed in a culture built on consumerism, were the majority of those who profess Christ do not even help the poor in their own cities.

    As a side note, I don’t remember this much criticism being heaped upon John Piper when Desiring God came out, when there is a chapter in there that basically says the same thing.

    • http://www.livingbread.org Patrick

      More people should read Calvin’s Institutes Book 3 chapters 7 and 8. We have so forgotten that true disciples are called to deny self, willingly take up our cross and follow (obey) Christ that books like Radical actually seem radical when indeed the life they propose should be run of the mill Christianity.

      • Anonymous

        True. There is a book called Poverty in the Theology of John Calvin that examines his view on giving to the poor. It is actually really shocking, and points out that Calvin got more flack for this in his lifetime than he did for his teaching on the sovereignty of God. That being said, his view was extremely local, and only concerned wiht the poor (baptized as infants into his church) that lived in his city, whereas Platt is obviously more concerned about the poor in Asia.

    • Jaye Barnes

      I never got the picture that Byron, in this post, is coming up against David Platt in any way. It seems more that this is a call to leave a particular mindset – one which has permeated the modern church – than it is a critique of Platt’s book.

      • CR Tolbert

        Quoted from the post above:

        “Even with all the good that has come from this, I do have a basic concern. I’m afraid we may be misunderstanding the Gospel in all this. If we assume the disadvantaged in our inner cities (or third world countries) need the Gospel more desperately than the privileged on their boundaries, than indeed we have. For certain, it denies man’s real need and judges by externals only. After all, humanitarianism is a means to an end. The end is the proclamation of the love of God in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

        Why would “we” assume these things? This concern is valid and important. It is also explicitly, clearly, and emphatically addressed in Radical so that we wouldn’t assume such things. So then why write things that imply otherwise?

        • Byron

          CR. I actually appreciate Platt. I was sincere about his sincerity and the example of his life. You have me confused with someone other hack critic. As far as book sales go, what I most appreciate about Platt is that he wasn’t trying to sell books or start a trend. For the record, I’ve sold tens. Want a free one? Peace and grace.

        • Donmarkmgr

          He mentioned in his article about the Field being White or (Ripe) for the Harvest. That has been the issue and was an issue in Christ’s days. Jesus said to shake the dust from your feet and move on if they don’t accept your message. I think America is more open to the Gospel in some areas than in the past because of tougher economic times but if you compare that to many parts of the world it doesn’t come close to the desire for Hope in those poor countries. I was fortunate to witness the Gospel being presented to an African tribe that had never heard the Gospel before and everyone except for 1 or 2 accepted Christ. I don’t think you could go anywhere in the States and have that happen. The fields are definitely much riper for the Harvest in other parts of the world. We should make the same efforts to spread the Gospel where ever we are, which I think is what Byron is saying. So I think both Platt and Byron are correct and if we carry out what Christ called us to do, Evangelize and Make Disciples, then both are right on target.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jgunter115811 Justin Gunter

      I believe you may misunderstand what Byron was truly saying. I don’t believe Byron is in anyway misrepresenting or attacking either Radical or David Platt. As a member of Byron’s church, trust me, he would not spend two paragraphs complementing Platt if that was his goal. Additionally, I would urge you to carefully consider whether you have any substantial basis for making the argument that Byron is among a group of “people who are upset because their books haven’t sold as well.” That is a serious allegation and not one that should be made lightly. While I can offer nothing more than my own opinion from witnessing Byron’s ministry, I am certain your allegation is not true. Furthermore, as a member of Byron’s church who is presently working in Birmingham and attending The Church at Brook Hills, I would actually argue that these two pastors share much of the same vision and definitely share the exact same love and passion for the gospel.

      That being said, I do believe Byron is critiquing something particular. Although he is neither critiquing Platt nor Radical, he is critiquing a certain group of people, many who may have read Radical, who misunderstand the very core of what the book is about. As you know from reading Radical “twice,” the book does an amazing job of focusing on the gospel and demonstrating how the gospel should be lived out practically. However, numerous times throughout the book Platt emphasized the danger of focusing on the practical actions and forgetting the gospel. Unfortunately, despite Platt’s warnings, this loss of focus on the gospel is exactly what Byron is talking about. In sermons at Brook Hills, I have heard Platt make much the same argument.

      Throughout history, and for various reasons (chief of which may ironically be idolatry), the church has struggled with certain sects taking a truth — especially in the cases where a central figure argues for “radical” (I’m sorry the word just works) change — and applying it to the extreme, that is past its Biblical application. I believe Byron is trying to say this is one of those times. The problem is not inherently embedded in the message, but in the faulty application.

      • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

        Although he is neither critiquing Platt nor Radical, he is critiquing a certain group of people, many who may have read Radical, who misunderstand the very core of what the book is about.

        I think that is an extremely helpful, clarifying insight. Thanks Justin.

  • Kathy

    Good post. Certainly we need believers to share the gospel in all contexts, with the wealthy businessman and the poor, both in our own country and abroad. I live in the “second-richest county in the country,” and there is great spiritual need here. I am not worried about the recent calls for radical living to turn into legalism, though; most Americans–who are extraordinarily wealthy compared to the rest of the world–can well afford to downsize, cut back on their discretionary spending, and should be encouraged to at least consider selling a hugely expensive piece of property if it would further the cause of the gospel being spread to all nations. The rich young ruler went away sad, because money had such a hold on him. I think that is all that Platt and Chan are trying to say–and warn us all about. We can keep all the commandments diligently, but if we aren’t willing to give up our temporal possessions if that is what we need to in order to fully follow Christ, we run the risk of missing the true gospel ourselves.

    • http://www.livingbread.org Patrick

      I agree. We love to point out that the rich young ruler didn’t really need to sell everything but that Jesus was pointing out his idol. We neglect that in Matt 13 Jesus told a parable about two men who sold everything because the understood the surpassing worth of the Kingdom of Heaven. We ignore that in Luke 12 Jesus told his disciples to not worry about the things of this world like the gentiles do, because their father was pleased to give them the Kingdom of Heaven and therefore they should sell what they had and give to the poor. Jesus was not commanding disciples to liquidate their assets but to live in light of the Kingdom. He wanted them not to be conformed to this world but be transformed (Rom 12:1-2).

      The gospel of the kingdom has implications over our entire lives and I fear that much of the push back against Platt and Chan are the result of the church being conformed to the materialistic, consumeristic culture we live in. We don’t have to get hung up on two guys (Platt and Chan). Read Calvin, Wesley, Whitefield, Edwards, Spurgeon, etc. Better yet just read the scriptures and do what they say. I think that’s all Platt is saying. Don’t treat anyone with preference just seek to live in obedience to ALL Christ commanded.

      If we do this not only will the poor be saved but our middle and upper class neighbors will see our light. They will see that we are truly different and by the power of the Spirit we will have supernatural favor in their sight. They too will be saved. Read Is 58. That is what happened in the early church in Acts.

  • Ryan Trzeciak

    It is interesting how the situation of James 2:1-7 has been reversed. We no longer show partiality to the rich but to the poor because our observations of the external cause us to believe that the one in rags has the greatest need. It seems that we have forgotten the whole camel through the eye of the needle analogy. Thanks Byron for the insight and the exhortation to “assume the worst among people who look the best.”

    • CR Tolbert

      I wish someone would show how “we” are showing partiality to the poor and neglecting the rich. Huge over-generalization.

      • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

        Hey CR, I think Ryan might be referring to this paragraph in the original post (he can correct me if I’m wrong, but this is where I made the connection from his comment):

        What if a man wearing a tie entered your church along side a man in rags? Honestly now? Who would you assume needed the Gospel more? To whom would your heart go out?

        I can easily see my heart going out to the poor man more, and upon reflection, I don’t even know why. Byron’s point is extremely well-made here: both need the Gospel. That’s not necessarily an indictment of Platt or Chan as much as it’s an indictment of me — and to anyone else who would answer that question the same way as me — and our focus on externals.

        And so to the extent that the above scenario would be true of us (we who answer the above question the same way), “we” are showing partiality to the poor. And that does look like the reversal of James 2.

        I appreciate your desire for Christians to live what we say we believe, and that we live it from our pocketbooks. That’s a message that’s needed. But Byron’s point (as I understand him) isn’t that we don’t need to simplify, but that (a) it’s easy to take pride in our simplification and regard ourselves as superior to those who don’t, and that (b) while it’s great that the cool thing to do right now is to have compassion on the poor, we should guard against the mindset that more affluent people don’t need the Gospel just as much.

        And that’s a good word, especially to me.

        • CR Tolbert

          Hey Mike, thanks for the clarification. I agree with the James illustration and with your take on Byron’s point. I guess what I have a problem with is that Platt seems to go to great lengths in Radical to make sure these things don’t happen (I haven’t read Crazy Love, so I can’t speak there) but it seems that the critics either didn’t read those parts or fail to mention it.

        • Donmarkmgr

          Platt actually spoke to this in Chapter 9 of Radical. He used Matt Chapter 9 where Jesus and the Disciples were surrounded by a multitude of people that were sick, poor and needy. What did Jesus say…”The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the Harvest therefore, to send out workers into the field.” Jesus is calling the disciples to Pray to the Father to send more disciples. He told them to pray for the Church, not the sick, poor and needy, but the Church. Jesus was not concerned that the Lost would Come to the Father (Accept the Gospel). His concern was that his followers would not go to the lost. Yes that can apply to the business man too but in Jesus example he was over run by those ready to accept the Gospel. That is where the fields are ripe for the Harvest. That doesn’t mean we don’t evangelize in the Suburbs too. It is both/and but I will have to say it is much easier to hear the Gospel in America that in the areas where 4.5 Billion are lost and most have not heard the Gospel and won’t hear it unless the workers go. So Jesus said Pray to the Father for the Church to send more workers.

  • http://www.livingbread.org Patrick

    Living a simple life or a wartime lifestyle (depending on which term you prefer) for the glory of God and the good of his kingdom does not preclude one from sharing the gospel with the middle or upper classes. In fact when our middle and upper class neighbors see that we have been transformed and are no longer in bondage to stuff or status they will see that we are indeed different. Too many of us are conformed to this world and don’t look much different that the moral, middle class, lost business men and women you speak of. They compare themselves to us and think they are ok.

    I dare say that churches like Brookhills, Cornerstone, and even Bethlehem Baptist are doing a as good a job as any at reaching lost middle and upper class people. They are not doing it in spite of the teaching of their pastors but in part because they are proclaiming the gospel and modeling biblical Christianity.

  • Michael

    It wasn’t so much that Jesus interacted with guys in ties versus guys in rags differently. It was the guys in ties in the church who didn’t fare too well in conversations with the servant-God. If the criticisms in Radical, etc are based in the person of Christ, so be it.

    • http://www.livingbread.org Patrick

      And when guys in ties (Zacchaeus) responded to the message Jesus taught, it had social implications. Their lives looked radically different after coming to know Christ.

    • http://www.livingbread.org Patrick

      And when guys in ties (Zacchaeus) responded to the message Jesus taught, it had social implications. Their lives looked radically different after coming to know Christ.

    • http://www.livingbread.org Patrick

      And when guys in ties (Zacchaeus) responded to the message Jesus taught, it had social implications. Their lives looked radically different after coming to know Christ.

  • http://www.facebook.com/MichelleLesley Michelle Dacus Lesley

    Great article, Byron. I’d like to add that not only should we be carrying the gospel to the “uttermost parts of the earth”, and not only should we sharing the gospel with rich and poor alike in our communities, we need to keep in mind that their are many people who sit next to us in church every Sunday who aren’t saved. They might be church members, sing in the choir, even teach Sunday school, but some of them are hanging their eternity on the fact that they were baptized, walked an aisle, or parroted a “sinner’s prayer”. Lost is lost, and those folks are just as lost as the heathen in an unreached people group. Let’s make sure we’re keeping our pastors and teachers accountable to boldy preach the truth of the gospel, lest anyone spend eternity in hell wearing a perfect attendance Sunday School pin.

  • Radicalis

    “The church still needs successful businessmen and wealthy executives who can infiltrate the upper echelons of the corporate world with the good news of Christ.” Did Jesus disciple such people? If I remember right most of them were pretty low in status except Paul, but Paul gave it all up and became a real Radical. Why aren’t you truly Radical?

    • CR Tolbert

      I have to disagree with your logic here. Jesus lived in a completely different historical and cultural context. And yes, He discipled the rich also (Nicodemus, Matthew, Zacchaeus, etc.) He didn’t come to seek and save the poor or the rich. He came to seek and save the lost. And He told us to go and do likewise. And Radical challenges a people who are, compared to 95% of the world, rich to use their abundance to do just that. He is speaking into a Christian culture that was not doing much of that. He never said quit trying to reach the rich and affluent. He never said to meet peoples needs without giving them the Gospel and it is a shame that this has been implied by several reviews by guys that I thought would know better.

  • http://hereiblog.com/ Mark

    I appreciate this post. One thing I *think* I’ve noticed is the tendency to preach a message in the manner that, for example, Platt does to attempt to get others to embrace his own personal convictions. Which is fine in a sense, but this doesn’t make his personal convictions more biblical. I’m not saying he should not preach that way, but if my convictions are not his in a particular area we should have room in the message for that too.

  • Whitefrozen

    If you think being financially responsible in a tough time is ascetism, you don’t really know what ascetism is. St. Anthony, anyone?

    • Anonymous

      I totally thought this too. I mean, taking plush chairs out of your church and replacing them with benches, or shutting off the AC, is not only far removed from true asceticism, but is sort of pointless.

      I would love to see a thoughtful article or post (maybe by Grudem) on how the new asceticism that Byron talks about jives with the protestant work ethic. I am really curious about that.

      • Whitefrozen

        Or how either jive with Anthonite asceticism, or styliteism.

  • http://www.lambblood.com Rick.Owen

    Three complementary thoughts:

    (1) Contentment with godliness is always great gain (1 Tim. 6:6) regardless of the culture and church trends. This usually leads to more simplicity so as to ” throw off everything that hinders” in running the race better and finishing well (Heb. 12:1; 1 Cor. 9:24ff).

    (2) How we “do church” (large or small) should be more about how we “are church” when we gather according to the NT model. Too much to say here — see more at http://www.lambblood.com/reforming-church-practices.html — but this again transcends culture and trends.

    (3) Jesus and His followers did speak of those who recognized their need as being more receptive to the gospel than those who, in their own eyes, did not need a doctor and were already righteous (Mark 2:17). While this does not always follow socioeconomic lines, it seems that it often might (Luke 18:24; 1 Cor. 1:26ff; James 2:5).

  • Brad

    Good overall points Byron. Would you also agree that God is, in some way, closer to the poor than the rich? I say that because it seems like there are many verses where God literally associates Himself with the poor. Also, I have been reading a lot how about serving the poor is actually a sign of belief in the gospel. In other words, if you don’t have a special place for the poor in your heart, you probably don’t understand the gospel. That is what I learned by reading a paper from Tim Keller on the gospel and the poor and by reading his book Generous Justice.

    I personally find it much easier to hang out and minister to upper-middle class people than the poor man on the street. I find that it takes more trust and faith and soaking in the gospel to love the homeless than to love the rich man.

  • Chelsy

    Great post, good case for evangelizing where you are in life, as well as where the Lord leads you. If everyone did just that, wouldn’t the Gospel be more widespread?

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    This edited comment from a post about Campus Crusade for Christ’s name change to CRU seems applicable to the thread discussion:

    “The NT and early church did not market Jesus to those who aren’t really interested. The harvest is plentiful, but it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God because he doesn’t really think he needs help, so we have to sell it to him instead of calling him to repentance. And it is various sorts of rich people (not necessarily in wealth) that are the “seekers” we are trying to be sensitive to in these efforts.

    So what’s a better alternative?

    1) It is to follow Jesus in proclaiming the gospel to the poor:

    And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.

    Note Jesus emphasizes the poor here. Yes, we preach to everyone including the rich, but we do especially to the poor, since theirs is the Kingdom. We need to stop justifying our neglect of preaching and seeking converts especially among our poor neighbors by saying we’re evangelizing to the rich, college-educated, hipster, politicians, cool kids, football players, etc. which demands salesmanship and distorts the Church over time.

    The poor don’t care if you’re called Campus Crusade for Christ or Cru; in fact, they probably are more alienated by the distinctly hip-sounding “Cru.”

    So preach to the rich if they really want the crucified Christ and humble themselves. But if they go back to reading their in-flight magazine, “shake the dust off your sandals” and preach to the poor.

    The upshot of the better alternative is a presentation and embodiment of the whole Body of Christ, the Church living out in Word and life together the vision of love which is certainly intelligible to the poor, though the rich won’t be as willing to embrace it. It is a Church that is not overly concerned about worldly power and is not filled with egos who demand status recognition or feel-good moral therapy or who feel uncomfortable with being weak or with hard truths, but is filled with the poor in spirit who repent and receive mercy at the hand of a crucified Lord, and then give it to the other poor.

    In the end, the problem with salesmanship is not so much what you do (which can be justified somewhat in certain narrow circumstances), but the neglect of the more important aspect of the biblical picture of what the Church is supposed to be because we’re chasing after market segments instead of the poor.”

    From HERE.

  • Anonymous

    Will you please comment on the idea that America is already evangelized (e.g., Bibles in the English language are available and affordable at the neighborhood Wal-Mart), and therefore we should focus on unreached people groups?

    And if America isn’t currently evangelized, was it at some point in the past?

    Is it proper to consider one nation as a whole evangelized and another nation as a whole not evangelized?

    • Anonymous

      Missiologists often say a community is “reached” when there is a sustainable gospel witness there, regardless of if everyone is exposed to it. So in a technical sense, most of America (outside of Indian reservations) would be considered reached. But it is important not to take a definition from one area (missions) and apply it to another area (daily living/sanctification). The understanding is missiology is that once an area is reached, through normal Christian living the gospel will gradually work its way to people in the society. This implies that Christians are actively witnessing and evangelizing.

      • Anonymous

        Your reply helped me. Thank you so much.

  • http://www.bogdankipko.com Bogdan Kipko

    Great post — thank you!

    Here in SoCal — often we are accused of being maniacally materialistic — party because many expressions of wealth are found here externally (vehicles, homes, clothes, etc). But this time of rampant materialism can exist not only in SoCal but just as well in Seattle or any other major metropolis. For example, a person might not be driving a luxury vehicle but they go to REI and purchase a 2k jacket to wear when going to the great outdoors — The former would be instantly ridiculed by those seeking to manage the materialism. The latter would be discounted as a necessity — so there needs to be a balance.

    If you are saying that becoming poor, selling all of your possessions and subscribing to the Chan/Platt theology — is becoming more of a trend rather than a trepidation of humility — how can we strike a balance without going to either extreme?

    Peace,

    Bogdan.

  • Thomas L

    Byron.

    Thanks again for coming to SA’s Shepards confrence. Enjoyed your book. In total agreement with you on this post.

    Balance is key… not!!

    Christ and focus on the Gospel above all. A totally unbalanced Christ driven focused, ever investigating the motives of the heart, ensuring that all we do is Christ focused not works focused.

  • splodinec

    Very true & the point goes both ways – those that want to minister to the down-and-outers and those that want to minister to the up-and-outers end up missing both the people and the point that everyone is an outer before God.

    btw, I’m waiting for an email

  • Pingback: Trending Topics Thursday « Making Faith Live

  • http://twitter.com/CrackedPot_40 Barbara

    I just find it interesting to read the last couple of paragraphs of this article after having just read the assertions in one after it (“Accommodation or Separation?”) – not saying that being a wealthy businessman on Wall Street amounts to the the same thing as witnessing to alcoholics in a bar…though depending on one’s heart idols, it could be.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for this post! If you ever find an extra copy of your book on preaching laying around send it my way. :)

  • Pingback: The New Asceticism and Investment Bankers « With Fear and Trembling

  • Pingback: Laudable Linkage and Videos « Stray Thoughts

  • Pingback: Monday Links and Bullets 8.1.11 « pastorkevinb