One of the most frustrating things about being a pastor, writer, counselor, teacher, educator, whatever it is I am these days, is the widening gap between belief and behavior in this country.
We continue to hear from bad-news Barna and other sources that there is little difference between those who claim to be Christian and have faith, and those who claim no allegiance to God or higher power or however you want to define it.
That gap is seen in the fact that millions and millions of people in our country attend church every Sunday morning and then leave without any visual or measurable effect on their behavior day-to-day.
For me, I have decided not to curse the darkness, but to try to do something about it. As I’ve thought about it, read, researched, and come to some conclusions for myself, I am convinced there are four things that we Americans, religious or not, could do to save our country and turn her around within one generation. And we don’t even need a government bill or law to be passed.
Here are my big four:
Big idea #1: The minute we start keeping our promises and building and growing great relationships at home and in the workplace, our country will turn around. Think about it. Money, government, the family, church; all institutions populated by carbon-based life forms, run on the virtue and integrity of the members of those groups. If we simply committed ourselves to keep our promises when we get married, pay our bills when we sign contracts, and to give grace, love, and generosity to everyone within our circle of influence, our country would begin to turn around within one generation.
Big idea #2: If we simply stopped listening to the advertisements that promise us something for nothing, that take our money and rip us off; if we stopped looking at money the way we have been taught over the past generations by Hollywood and Madison Avenue, we would have more money to do the things that would help turn our families around.
We’d have money to send our kids to good state schools without leveraging their future by going into 40, 50, 70, 100 thousand dollars worth of debt. We would help the environment by not buying new cars that break down every three or four years, consuming our discretionary income on interest and penalties. Bottom line: earn money, spend it wisely, give some, and save some. It seems simple, doesn’t it?
Big idea #3: Start doing work that we have a sustainable passion for, and adds meaning to our lives and those we serve. There is a revolution going on in our country that I am 100% for. And that is, we’re raising up a generation who simply will not sit in long traffic jams to and from work, spending 3 to 4 hours of every day of their life going to office buildings to sit in cubicles to get paid to do meaningless (or at least it seems to be meaningless) work. I am seeing more and more smart, gifted men and women who are willing to become entrepreneurs and work for themselves, even if they work within a large institution.
My father spent 45 years of his life working at a job he hated, retired, and died six years later. That’s not going to be me, and t’s not going to be this next generation. If we all did work that we have a sustainable passion for, that brought meaning to our lives and those that we serve, not only would we make a whole you-know-what pot of money, we’d all be happier and better-served.
Big idea #4: This one is one you might expect. Don’t dismiss it. If the American church and those responsible for her leadership style and well-being would stop being so obsessed on leadership for leadership’s sake, would stop being so obsessed with being cool and slick and hip; if pastors would stop worrying about what kind of untucked shirt they wore for the camera, or what mousse they have in their hair to make them look like the religious version of the Goo Goo Dolls, and start really loving and caring for people more, we’d all be better off. Don’t get me wrong. I love the church. It is the Bride of Christ, but as such our focus is on confronting, caring, and engaging people at the point of their pain, not at the point of our need for more leaders!