Lessons from the Amish

By Shirl (homeward1) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

There was a very interesting article about the Amish in a recent issue of Leben, a journal that focuses on Christian history. In the editor’s preview of the cover story he wrote, “Most separatist sects die out after the first or second generation, but one group of Pietists have not only survived, but prospered. Known as the “Amish”, these folks have grown rapidly in recent years, expanding across the country and, in the course of their stated objective to do good, have done very well.”

The article itself notes, “the Old order Amish in America not only survive, but thrive. With high birth rates, and a healthy lifestyle, they have managed to grow numerically at a far higher rate than the general population and now are approaching 300,000 adherents. Not only have the high birth rates contributed to their growth, but approximately 90% of those raised in the Amish community remain Amish. Proselytizing is rare, which shows how strong the internal growth dynamics are to this community.”

A side-bar to the article is entitled “One of America’s Most Successful ‘Church Growth’ Plans.” It begins, “There are numerous books, conferences, and websites devoted to church growth. One of the underlying themes of many of these sites is the presumption that churches need to change in order to grow. We’re all for a few less of those lime JELL-O and shredded carrot salads at potlucks, but before we assume everything ought to change, consider the Amish. In 1920, there were only about 10,000 of them.”

When an announcement is made in church that someone is expecting, my typical response is, “That’s my favorite kind of church growth!” Admittedly that’s more emotional than intellectual, but apparently it’s not too far off base.

Obviously we need to reach out to those who don’t know Christ, and those who have fallen away from active participation in a body of Christ. But there really is something extra special about children being born into our family, and our being given the privilege of helping them grow into men and women who love and serve the Lord.

Now I’m not suggesting that we need to join the “full quiver” movement, but I am always looking forward to another arrow being added to our quiver. If you don’t know what I mean, read Psalm 127.

God Bless, Rick


Uniquely Commissioned

I think I said something Sunday morning that bears repeating. Actually, I hope the whole sermon bears repeating, but there was one part that I believe needs to be clearly heard as the church considers the appropriate response to the devastation caused by the recent hurricanes.

While addressing the need to put love into practice, I pointed out that we are the channel through whom Christ’s love is to flow into a world that desperately needs it. However, I also noted that we must not allow the world to pressure us into showing love as it thinks we should.

Jesus was often moved to compassion when faced with a specific need, and He did meet some physical needs. But He didn’t let the physical needs of the society in which He lived side-track Him from the real reason He came to earth. Likewise, the church must never forget the primary commission it has been given. It must not get so caught up in doing good that it forgets the unique role it has been commissioned to play in the world. There are a lot of needs in the world, and many of those needs can be met by individuals, or organizations, or governmental agencies. But only the church can meet eternal needs.

Now James does warn us not to tell a brother or sister without clothing or in need of daily food, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled”, and not give them what is necessary for their body. But sharing God’s love with others must go far beyond providing physical help.

The church is the primary channel through which God’s ultimate expression of love is to flow into the world today. And, as Peter made clear, if we fail to do what we have been called and commissioned to do, we prove ourselves to be useless and unfruitful in our knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

May each of us carefully and prayerfully consider how to best respond to the overwhelming needs that exist in the world. And may we never be critical of a brother or sister who feels led to do something we don’t feel led to do, or who doesn’t feel the need to do what we do.

God Bless, Rick

Weathering the Storm

In the aftermath of Harvey, and while anticipating the arrival of Irma, Fox News had a couple of “faith” articles I found insightful. Max Lucado asked the question, “Where is God?”, and Joshua Rogers, an attorney, asked, “What did Jesus say about natural disasters?”

Max took us to Luke 21, where Jesus made it clear that there would always be earthquakes and plagues and famines on earth, and that while natural disasters may surprise us, they do not surprise God. He also noted that Jesus compared the frequency of natural calamites to the birth pangs of pregnancy—indications of an impending delivery. He said when these things take place, we should stand up and lift up our heads, because our redemption is drawing near.

I believe Max was telling us to let these things remind us that someday all will be made right. That God has allowed dysfunction in our lives, and in nature itself, to remind us that things aren’t the way God originally intended, but that they will be made right when Jesus returns.

Joshua directed us to Luke 13, where, when asked if the eighteen people who were killed when the tower in Siloam fell on them were the worst sinners in Jerusalem, Jesus said, “No, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Joshua went on to write, “When it comes to the question of ‘why’ with disasters, (Jesus) gets to the heart of the issue and focuses on the potential disaster that threatens everyone who ever lived: the day they meet God face to face.” He went on to note, “In God’s efforts to keep us from eternally perishing, he will use everything he can to get our attention— even things he might not have caused, like the devastation that comes with a natural disaster.”

He then quoted C.S. Lewis; “God whispers to us in our pleasure, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

May we have the faith to hear both the promise and the warning that comes to us through disasters. And may we keep our eyes on Jesus if the waves are lapping at our feet.

God Bless, Rick