Monday, February 25, 2008

Apathy & Making a Difference

This last week I had the opportunity to sit at the feet of a couple of great thinkers in the ELCA. First I attended a class taught by Dave Daubert who was working with the ELCA largely with planting mission start churches. He now works with A Renewal Enterprise, an organization dedicated to helping people and congregations connect with God's mission in the world. One of the most striking comments he made was that the predominant emotion expressed in the ELCA is apathy. We just don't seem to care, or maybe it's believe, that God is present and active in our world, much less that God is inviting us to join in this great mission.

Then on Sunday, I attended a workshop along with several other council members where the keynote speaker was Bishop Mark Hanson. He had some rather interesting, and provocative, things to say as well. One of the things I walked away with was that this generation we often lament being missing from our congregations, 18-35 year olds, want to join organizations where they can make a difference in the world. What does that say about us as a denomination if this generation is by and large missing?

These revelations kind of make me sad. It makes me sad that we are missing the mark so badly as a denomination. It makes me sad that there appears to be such a large number of people missing out on the exciting, glorious things that God is up to in the world.

Oddly, though, there is also excitement. While, we might be currently missing the mark a bit, we are also poised to make a tremendous impact on our culture which could probably use a good hug right about now. We have a theology that embraces the amazing things that God is up to in the world, and does so in a helpful way, with a realistic perspective. We have a theology that recognizes that there are just gray areas in life and embraces grace and forgiveness. We have a theology that understands that it is God at work and it's not up to us, but that we are invited to participate along with God who embraces those who find themselves at the margins of life. Consequently we have some of the best social service organizations in the world. We have the structure and people power to make a difference in the world like no other organization in existence. We can change the world!

Are we going to allow apathy and fear to rule? Or are we going to embrace the exciting things that God is up to in the world? There is a lot to be exciting about! We have only just scratched the surface of the impact we can have in the world through the power of god.

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