Partly due to doing things with my family and partly due to catching up at work after last week of very little work, I haven't read much lately, and then when I did read, it was late at night, and figured I'd wait until I was in front of a computer to blog about it, rather than using the phone (and keeping Heather awake with the cell phone light, and the clicking of the keyboard...)

The next couple chapters weren't as gripping for me as the first few.

I did like a couple quotes though:

I was talking with a prominent evangelical church leader and asked him why more people are not open to a household model of church or to community groups meeting in homes.  The church leader was candid in his reply: "Because people like me come from professional backgrounds, and we want churches that reflect our backgrounds.  I don't want to be opening my home to people.  I don't want to get involved in people's lives.  I don't want needy people in my church.  Before people like me went into Christian ministry, we were lawyers, doctors, businessmen. And when we get involved in ministry, we bring those values with us."

I have wondered why some people seem to not want people in their home, at least not more than once or twice a year.  I have no idea what the reasons are, and if this guy represents a common thought.  BCF is always looking for homes to have various meetings in, and I think people have finally gotten the idea that our house is open whenever, and it isn't a burden at all.

Another quote about people's social levels.  A potential customer recently tried to convince me of the worthiness of his project, and part of his argument was that people tend to stick to people that have similar education backgrounds, etc. And even more than that, people who go to "elite" colleges tend to ignore the "non-elites".  I thought he was completely wrong, that though it might be true in a professional sense, if I was thinking about hiring someone who came from one college or another, I don't think I have any biases when it comes to meeting someone on the street or at church.

Dave had spent two years as what is known as a lay assistant [that word always annoys me - he'll talk about clergy and how unbiblical our current models of church are in a couple chapters] and was considering what to do next.  He wanted to go into full-time ministry.  He has a good grasp of the gospel and is an able communicator.  He comes from a working-class background and had worked as a laborer before becoming a lay assistant.  He was trying to decide whether to go straight into church planting or complete a theological degree.  As he took advice from various people, one prominent evangelical leader told him that he needed a degree so that in future ministry he could relate to doctors, lawyers, and other professionals. ... While a degree might enable Dave to relate to professionals, it would undoubtedly make him less able to relate to working-class and marginalized people.  But the assumption is that "successful" churches are church with professionals.

Evangelicalism has become a largely middle-class, professional phenomenon.  When we invite people to our dinners and our churches, we invite our friends, our relatives, and our rich neighbors.  We do not invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.  What is at stake is the grace of God.

Various people disagree with me, but I think a class (and race) agnosticism is the best way to relate to people.  One ministry at CMU made a point of being intentional about reaching out to different races, athletes, arts students, engineers, etc.  I always felt uncomfortable with that and the quota system of sorts that developed - "we have 5 engineers, so we're doing pretty good in that department, but we only have one drama major, and zero soccer players, so we need to focus on them, and so we are changing our meeting night to not conflict with soccer games.  I asked one Asian friend what she thought of this, and of the criticism I received about not really paying attention to what race people were, and she said she thought that was a good thing - that she didn't want to be treated differently because she was Asian.

I think these authors don't quite say we should reach out to the "poor and needy" any more than other people, other than it is probably a good idea because other people are reaching out to the rich and middle class folks.  I think they advocate a more moderate position to bring Christ to all people, regardless of status, race, etc.

I found this to be a good insight, from the other side of the fence:

At a poverty hearing organized by Church Action on Poverty, Mrs. Jones, a mother who has lived in poverty all her life, described the experience of poverty like this: "In part it is about having no money, but there is more to poverty than that.  It is about being isolated, unsupported, uneducated and unwanted. Poor people want to be included and not just judged and 'rescued' at time of crisis."

'Rescuing' the poor, as Mrs. Jones put it, can be appropriate in times of crisis or important as a first step.  But if it never moves beyond this, it reinforces the dependency and helplessness at the heart of poverty.  It does not produce lasting or sustainable change.

They [the poor] do not want to participate in projects.  They want to participate in community [just like anyone else].  A woman told me, "I know people do a lot to help me.  But what I want is someone to be my friend." ...  They need community.  They need the Christian community.  They need the church.

They finish the chapter with a question, aimed at "conservatives" while correctly opposing any "downgrades" in doctrine, perhaps are not paying enough attention either.

The big question is, why is the church in the West failing to reach the poor and marginalized in our society?  We must examine ourselves to see whether we too are robbing the cross of its power.

Posted by Jon Daley on April 2, 2010, 9:30 pm | Read 10952 times
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While a degree might enable Dave to relate to professionals, it would undoubtedly make him less able to relate to working-class and marginalized people.

I would certainly hope not. This is a cross-cultural issue, and fluency in one culture should not make you less fluent in another. In fact, it should enable you to understand both, better -- as learning another language helps you understand your own native tongue. Thinking about my Swiss-American grandchild(ren), I would expect them to relate equally well with their American and Swiss countrymen. True, they will never be "all-American" or "all-Swiss," and thus not relate 100% with the purebreds (whatever that might actually mean in two countries that are each an amalgam of different peoples) -- but no one ever relates 100% with another person anyway, however close. If the man's venture into the professional culture makes him less able to understand and enjoy community with his native culture, then something else is wrong with him, not his education.

Various people disagree with me, but I think a class (and race) agnosticism is the best way to relate to people.

I agree completely, and I'm quite tired of people telling me the colorblindness is racist. The only person I've heard make a reasonable case for giving deliberate attention to such differences is John Stackhouse (professor at Regent College in Vancouver), in his On Behalf of Diversity in Academic Hiring. He says, "A case needs to be made that the mission of the academic unit (university, faculty, department) will be advanced better by having different kinds of people ... rather than having all of the same kind." Substitute "church" for "academic" and it's still true, perhaps more so. One can easily agree with that, yet disagree with the idea of focussing on recruitment of drama majors or Asians, but here's where Stackhouse got me: if a university (or a church) is already a monoculture, without deliberate effort and awareness of who we might be leaving out, the status quo tends to remain the status quo, even if in theory we are open and welcoming to all. Our IVCF chapter when I was in school so effectively excluded nursing students that they formed their own fellowship. The reason? Our meetings didn't begin till 10 p.m , and the nursing day began at 6 a.m. Ten o'clock worked for all the people who came to the 10:00 meetings, and attracted people for whom that was a good time, and thus we never thought that it might be a problem for some. Entirely unintentionally, we deprived our community of the valuable insights that might have come from a nursing perspective.

Posted by SursumCorda on April 3, 2010, 10:00 am

I don't really follow your first point. At my high school reunion, I found myself pretty separate from most folks - it seemed to me that the jokes and interactions among some were basically the same as they had been ten years prior, but among those that had gone to college (and in particular the schools not known for their partying) related in a different manner.

I found the same to be true at a company when I would walk down to the manufacturing floor. I was friends with some of the folks, but that was where I started wondering if everyone should go to a four year college, no matter what they studied or future ambitions, but just for maturity's sake.

Posted by jondaley on April 5, 2010, 10:19 am

I'll admit that most of our friends are college graduates. But of the several that I know are not (and there are probably many more with whom the issue has not come up, so I don't know), I find I don't relate to them any differently from our college-educated friends. We have deep, meaningful conversations; we have light, trivial conversations; we have families that we care for and jobs that we work at and we all worry about the direction our country is going -- even when we disagree about what the direction should be. I remember one Easter, many years ago, when we had as our dinner guests two young men, one with a Ph.D. and one a high school dropout. We had a most wonderful, interesting, and stimulating dinner conversation. So I guess I don't know why education, or lack thereof, should make you unable to relate to people.

Posted by SursumCorda on April 7, 2010, 9:20 pm

I don't think anyone said "unable", just that it is harder to relate to someone with whom you share fewer common experiences.

Posted by Jon Daley on April 7, 2010, 10:32 pm

Obviously, "Dave" and many degree-less people like him are already quite mature, or else they wouldn't be looking at a history of volunteer service in the church. If indeed maturity levels are what makes interactions different, then Dave should already have trouble relating to the uneducated - which he apparently doesn't. The only danger I see is that the uneducated would let their prejudices against the educated interfere with relations, but since he's got shared life experience with them, I don't think that will happen too often. Unless, of course, he gets all uppity about his college degree.

But for that matter, I'm not sure college confers maturity. I'd be happier saying that mature high-schoolers have a better chance of making it to college than their immature classmates, but the immature kids that make it can indulge in immaturity at college more than anywhere else, as far as I can tell. In my experience gutter humor persists just as much with the educated folks, except that perhaps they have learned where decorum is expected.

Posted by Stephan on April 8, 2010, 12:41 am
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