Greetings in Christ to you and yours!
Because so much of ministry here at Servants’ Feast is continuing “behind the scenes” thus far, a newsletter-type update seemed the best means of reaching out to let you know what we are doing and how much you are appreciated – your readership, your attention to emails and podcasts, your support, and, most especially, your prayers. What follows is both a letter and a lesson for thought and prayer. Have you ever started a new project without being fully aware of all that will be required? Jesus warned against that Luke 14. As always, the Lord is right. The mechanics of web-based ministry far exceed my original estimation of complexity, meaning everything is taking longer than expected. That is not to imply progress is not being made, merely an explanation of why plans and ideas for ministry are unfolding more slowly than expected. Even so, in spite of the challenges, we have good reason to be hopeful about SFCM’s ongoing ministry in the months and years ahead.
The saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” has proven to be false as I have worked to build the website. I would be proud of what I’ve learned, but to be frank, while old dogs can learn new tricks, old dogs are very slow to learn complicated new tricks. More than once, I’ve defended my confusion to tech support by explaining I learned to type on a machine that did not require electricity. Speaking with a tech support rep, I finally confessed that I had no idea what he had just said, and he might as well be speaking Klingon for all that I understood. Yet, underneath all that technical muddle lay a gem of insight for all of us. Bear with me while I try to explain…
Talk of “big tech” abounds, but if you’re like I am, how “big tech” works (or little tech or any tech) is a mystery. The miniscule summation of what I know is this: all websites have words and phrases not shown on the page but found by little electronic crawlers (a name I heard, whether fabricated or common to the industry, I couldn’t say, but descriptive nonetheless) sent out by Google. For the record, the only search engine that matters is Google, which really is not a surprise, but is a bit disconcerting. If SFCM is to be found when people search the internet, then 160 different variables had to be added to our thus-far fairly simple site. To expedite the process, we opted to hire an approved “partner” to do the work because, again, I have almost no idea what I am talking about, though I did ask to be taught and to work with the team member doing the work. Apparently, these folks work odd hours. I’ll leave it at that. Upon completion of the task in the agreed-upon time frame, the tech rep with whom I was working notified me and gave me the key words and phrases that his team had used. I thought my head might explode. Seriously. By the grace of God alone, I refrained from unleashing a fount of frustration and irritation that quite possibly might have spewed all the way to his office somewhere far west of my own.
Every entry – every keyword, every page description, every photo, everything – was referenced to “church.” Church. Church blogger. Church podcast. Church blog. Church whatever… Only, Servants’ Feast is not a church. After recovering from my stunned infuriation, I saw something much more important than yet another technical delay.
The team of workers (the names of only two are known to me) are unquestionably skilled and talented in matters of technology. Everyone with whom I’ve communicated has been friendly, helpful, and polite. But in looking at the site, the only word known well enough to use repeatedly was “church”. Christian, discipleship, apologetics, ministry, Christianity, spiritual formation… Words that are part and parcel of Christian discourse appear to be unknown to the people who worked on the site, which would suggest that we Christians talk primarily to one another. Just as I could not understand him, neither can he understand me.
Although today’s culture advertises the irrelevancy of Christian faith and church membership by ignoring it, obviously, a significant majority of people still believe it is true. Movies, shows, videos, and the like are not responsible for being Christian and for making Christianity known. We are. Yet, many of us hold to the memory of the prominence of faith, as if American society is going to swing back to its roots in Judeo-Christian faith and morality. In the latest podcast (linked in this newsletter), I discuss polls indicating the decline in Christianity in America and what we can reasonably conclude from the polls. But the most important point for us to grasp is that Christian life and faith cannot be lived as it was in the past, as a civil and/or cultural religion to which everyone paid at least tacit respect. Those days are gone, as younger Americans are increasingly uninterested in, and occasionally antagonistic toward, religion and church.
I do not think this is terrible news. Nor do I think that we have been terrible Christians (although there was a real question there for a bit when I realized what had been done with the best of intentions on the SFCM site). To the contrary, I believe recognizing the current state of affairs as it truly is can only be helpful to us as we decide how to live faithfully as Christians today. You see, Christianity isn’t a religion. Christianity is life, the eternal and infinite life of God, given to His children by His Spirit. As disciples of Jesus Christ, the time has come to shed the assumptions and societal strictures of the last fifty to sixty years.
Some amorphous cloud of voices, the great “they,” told us to keep our faith private, and we did. We’ve not created waves, and, frankly, we’ve become comfortable living secular lives in secular society with secular education while we do good things for others, say our prayers and go to church on Sundays. But if our faith is life to us, if Jesus Christ really is our Savior – our Lord, our Friend, our Confidant, the one, true Son of God Who defeated death – then it is time for us to come out of our hidey holes in the church. Born of God, empowered by His Spirit, and transformed by the renewal of thought and will, we can bring the life of God into a world unknowingly bent on its own destruction and death – nice people, decent people, but a people lost to the wonder and beauty of the Divine. That means that we must also prepare ourselves to live the Gospel as beacons of light and hope in an angry, dark, and despairing world. Who is happy these days? Where is the joy of life these days? Who lives with purpose and meaning beyond the wants and urges of self?
It is time for us to live as the children of God truly – not for our own reassurance amidst troubles in our world, but for the life and hope of each person we meet. More than in past generations of Americans, the following passage from Matthew 9 applies to our time in this place.
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”
How much hurt, confusion, rage, and meaningless do you see in the world around us? I am often struck by mind-numbing superficiality of cultural goods, the false gods endlessly pursued but never satisfying. How much wealth and power do we need before we die? That’s a topic for another day, but the ruthless futility of nihilism pervades our culture and the lives of more and more people. Against that, we are the bearers of extravagant love and boundless mercy, brothers and sisters of the Son of God Who proclaimed the Gospel, healed diseases and afflictions, and had compassion for the harassed and helpless with no one to lead them.
I remain driven to make the Gospel accessible to regular people. You have every right to know and understand the riches of your inheritance in Jesus Christ, to live in the power of the Spirit poured out in your heart, and to dwell in the shelter of the wings of our Father. Our invitation is not to shallow or watered-down Christianity but is the invitation to participate in the life of God. Being a little bit Christian is not worth the trouble, but to be filled with presence of Christ and to touch eternity with your prayers… That is worth everything. Everything!
So, keep us in your prayers. We struggle along with the last bits of technical difficulties – minor but ridiculously time-consuming. A couple of folks expressed interest in working as an assistant, but those have not yet panned out. If you know anyone who possesses a little tech savvy and would like to work variable and flexible hours from home, have them contact me by email.
In due time (for I am trusting in the providence of God, in part because I have no choice, which is how God most often wrings full obedience from my hard-headed self), I will finish the book on the meaning of Christian marriage: Created to Be One. For now, the podcasts and posts will continue, along with the Scripture readings each week. We plan to move forward with online classes and to add additional authors and contributors, as well as e-books of the From Called to Sent discipling curriculum. All that stands between where we are today and moving forward is the next step. When that step is taken, there will be another. Then, another… One step at a time, I pray that we can “equip the saints for the works of Christ and the building up of His Body.” (Ephesians 4:12) Is that you? Are you being equipped for ministry in Christ?
Recently, a friend and I discussed the meaning of “loving our neighbor as ourselves,” and he made an astute observation. He said he’d always found the most compelling understanding of how we are to love in Christ’s command to His disciples in John 15, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you.”
To love as Christ loves… Are you ready to be Christ’s friend, to lay down your life for others? Are you the one He has chosen to bear fruit in this time and place? We can discern these answers together, as we go along, one step at a time.
In Christ –
Rev. Elizabeth Moreau