So, the Piggy Bank is Empty.

“All the youth are leaving the church.”

And all it’s variations are common in most churches. It’s not something unique to my local church, but I think at times, mine is one of the worst churches for finding solutions to this problem….

Every now and then, the members have a discussion that we youth have entitiled: “What is wrong with our church?” When the afternoon programme has failed to materialise, we usually end up having a discussion about the problems we have in our church: all the issues and concerns, and what we would like to see done differently. When I was a newbie I actually believed the concerns would be taken to the church board and dealt with, but year after unfruitful year passed and I learned that my fellow members in reality used these meetings to get anger off their chests; say things that everyone’s been thinking for ages in order to get a hearty ‘Amen!’ and slag off the leaders that they have a problem with. Then there are those within these meetings that feign authenticity: they establish themselves as the One Sane Voice: the rationalist, who has loads of amazing ideas, only to end their speech with ‘well, this church hates change, so there’s no point in doing any of these things!’ Basically, what they mean is that they can’t be bothered to sacrifice the effort and time it would take to implement all these great ideas, so they’d rather blame their lethargy on the rest of the congregation.

To be honest, I’m tired of talking too. At the moment, my church has a good amount of youth but a huge group of teenagers—a group that is almost entirely disenchanted with church. The older members weep and wail over this disinterest and I think a lot of us who are older than them fluctuate between showing them sympathy and tough love. As I’ve observed the workings of my church, I too have lost respect for the older generation and I also feel disenchanted with the way things are going. Like the congregation that was too caught up in the spirit to see tired ol’ Eutychus on the windowsill in the Upper Room; the adults of my church, and many churches I know, are too caught up in themselves to see the problem.

If you want youth to stay in church, get them involved. Treat them like the fellow humans they are and give them greater responsibility. The church I attended in Jamaica was in the midst of a two-week campaign run by the children: everything, from the Bible working, Prayer Ministries, Music Department and lay preaching, was all handled by the children, and the church supported and encouraged them. Such a thing could never happen at my church! From when these teens (and some of the older youth) have been born, they’ve had to sit on a chair and get things told to them. They don’t get a chance to do much. Then their parents and the other adults expect that at 15 and 16 they would have developed their own relationship with Christ. Why is it that we only see children taking part in the main service when it’s 13th Sabbath School? Why must it be a youth day before the platform party is made up of youth? Why must it be Teens Day to see a teen giving a sermon, or doing special items in the main service?

The older generation has failed to invest in the young people. The youth have low confidence in their abilities and lack the will to do things because they’ve never been given a chance. Money goes on stupid things instead of securing the future of the church.

Why do we spend thousands of pounds on new PA systems and speakers and projectors? Why was money used to get new mics at £600 each?

Why were thousands of pounds spent on a community day, a project that was supposed to build rapport with the community and educate them about the church, when since that time last year there have been no followups with the community members who attended? None of those people have come into the church. What was the point of spending all that money, getting the most expensive option of everything, if the remainder of the evangelising was going to be abandoned?

Why is so much money spent on lunch?

Why are thousands of pounds wasted on flying international speakers over to do a campaign when only a quarter of the church can be bothered to turn up anyway?

Why is it that young people are having to do fundraisers and rely on people from outside the church to give money in order for them to go to evangelism and preaching schools? Why doesn’t the church use those thousands for the international speakers to give to their own youth and start bringing up confident speakers and evangelists from their own congregations?

Why are students having to suffer and struggle financially through their studies, and when they go to the church for help they have to involuntarily donate 20% of their funds to the church—because it’s just so broke it now needs the money from poor students.

Why does the community services department have to rely on donations in order for their soup kitchen to run smoothly? Why hasn’t there been money put in place so that they can buy materials to give to homeless people?

Why does the church now have no money?

Because it’s all been spent on the wrong things. We’ve lost focus. We’re more interested in entertaining ourselves than thinking about the future, about people out in the world, about the youth and teens who want to get involved but aren’t able to; who need to find their own relationship with God.

Stop praying. Stop groaning. Stop spending. And invest in us.

Advertisements

Elisha

I ate no breakfast on the day he left.
Spent the day in prayer
meditation;
I spoke to friends and fellow disciples
I busied about the house
—just thinking,
that today would be our last.

He glanced at me several times
by the table
eating his usual:
locust berries and bread, made by me.
As I fidgeted with my fingers,
tracing circles over the grooves of my bones
and counted the stitching of my cloak,
he smirked and made an absent comment about the weather.

Finally we got up to leave
I said no words, trailing behind him
like a forlorn, homeless dog
and thought about
how it would end
what I would say
what he would do
how things were going to turn out afterwards.

His last miracle, the Jordan.
The parting of the waters
mirrored the pair of streams that framed my face—
he pretended not to see.
But he smirked again,
poised his head and sighed
bracingly. Bracingly.

Did he have to go? I asked
In answer, he leaned forward,
pressed his lips against my forehead
and drew back to look at me.
“My friend,” he said,
“I’m moving on. My work is over; yours has begun.”

He was gone
in a tornado of molten spirit
the flames that he had once called to do his bidding
were now taking him home.
There were so many things we didn’t do,
questions I hadn’t asked
unsaid thank-yous,
forgotten laughs
jokes and tears and memories.

He was gone.
And I was left
with the task
of continuing his work.

Women in Ministry

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this topic. I think I’ve spoken a lot about the gender inequality in religion and as the state of the world deteriorates we’ll inevitably get more sexism and chauvinism in church. We know that religion is a hotbed for tradition and with this tradition comes views that are not only ridiculously Functionalist but also dangerous.

For example, people love to blame women for the current state of marriage in the church, because we rebellious women aren’t submitting anymore and we want to be “independent”. Since when was independence a bad thing? Unless everyone’s getting their moral lessons from Destiny’s Child songs then an independent woman shouldn’t be a problem. Like most things, the phrase has been twisted to mean an angry black female who emasculates all the males around her, when it should really mean a woman who can fend for herself. I was listening to the radio once where driving instructors were describing their most difficult students. Several of them mentioned that there was an influx of women in their 60s and 70s learning to drive for the first time; an age where their reflexes are slower and it’s much harder to pick up new skills. Why? Because all their lives they relied on their husbands to drive them everywhere, leaving them without transport once they were widowed.

I was watching a live online Bible study about relationships and the topic of submission came up. Once again, rather than clearly discussing and empathising with the women that had been beaten physically, emotionally and spiritually by their husbands because of a warped interpretation of the word “submit” and their husbands subsequent omission of the command for them to love their wives as Christ loved the church (and gave His life for it), everyone just went into rants about rebellious women. One bright spark actually said:

Are these problems a result of the women’s rights movement going too far?

I beg your pardon? So should we start taking rights away from women, then? Because we’ve been given too much? I wanted to pursue this comment, and maybe if I did I would have been given better clarification, but it was Sabbath and I didn’t want to get into an argument. After all, I’m trying not to be so hot-headed about the issue and I’ve been asking God to hold my tongue on this matter.

Not surprisingly, these views have been used to dictate to women what they can and can’t do in the church. I don’t claim to be an expert on the subject, but I think I may make it my mission to find out this month. I’ll do some study on it and write my findings, making sure to seek God for counsel and wisdom throughout : )

There is no denying, though, that God loves women and he has called them into service. The best example I can give for this is in Matthew 28:

 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.

And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.

Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.

(28:1,9,10)

The first evangelists were women. It’s one of the most powerful moments in the New Testament, and such a privilege.

God gives messages to women as well. There’s Ellen White, for example.

I wanted to start studying this topic because I read this blog post earlier, and it made me wonder why there is such confusion surrounding the matter. We’re all supposed to be convicted and influenced by the same Holy Spirit, so why are there so many hurting women in church, left to feel inadequate and excluded? We’re all part of the same body and thus, we’re all needed.

(I just discovered that blog today; it’s nice.)

So it looks like along with my weekly study, not only am I studying the book of Jeremiah but now I’ve got this subject to do as well! You can’t have too much Bible study, I suppose…

xXx

 

Do Something!

I’ve bored my male friends silly with my talk about women’s rights and whatnot. It’s not that they don’t care or anything, but I think they know that talk is cheap. I have such strong views, but what am I doing to make a difference, to help women in those positions that truly breaks my heart?

A few years ago I watched a Dispatches documentary about women in Afghanistan living under Taliban rule. These women were forced to wear burqas—even to the point where their eyes had to be covered—they were beaten by their husbands, they couldn’t work or be educated, and even being spotted in their homes by another man without appropriate cover meant severe punishment. These women were so hurt that they were self-immolating. There was an eighteen year old in a forced marriage who had attempted the same on a busy high street, but was rescued and doused with water by onlookers. The camera crew visited her in hospital, all bandaged and weak, and my stomach dropped. The girl looked dead inside, as if her soul had gone. It was after watching this documentary that I decided to start my own charity.

There’s so many things happening in the world against women, so there was a lot of think about: what would my charity do? What section of women’s inequality should I tackle? I did lots of research and found that there are already charities helping women in the Middle East and ones that set up schools for young Afghan girls; I know that there’s rape crisis centres rapidly being established in the Congo and other parts of Africa where war rape and incest is rife, so I decided to look into the areas of violence against women that aren’t being addressed.

Cue another documentary, Panorama this time, about asylum seekers and refugees who try—by any means necessary—to escape their war-torn and dangerous countries to get into the UK. It was  a very sad documentary and made me thankful that I was already born and raised here. There was a trio of college lads who had literally left Afghanistan in just their t-shirts and jeans and ended up on the borders of Europe in the middle of winter, shivering, with just a plastic sheet between them to keep warm.

There was a woman on this documentary who left Africa after her husband was killed. She had her two young daughters with her, trying to get into the UK. There’s a part of the asylum seeker’s journey that’s dangerous—rogues operate in the area and use exploitative means to provide transport for people to get on to the next country.

You know where I’m going, right?

Yes, the woman was raped by these poachers and they molested her nine-year-old daughter. As the woman told her story to the reporter, she and the camera crew were in tears. That’s when it struck me: women who are homeless, or coming into this country poor and broken—and their children—are in danger. It’s more dangerous for women to be on the streets than men and women asylum seekers won’t only be exploited on their way into this country, but a lot of them find themselves in human trafficking rings once they’ve arrived.

So I want to start up a charity that helps homeless and vulnerable women and their children.

It’s going to take a lot of prayer, and it’s something I don’t actually have the time to tackle at the moment, what with university and assignments, but I’m hoping that with God’s help and a lot of patience, this idea can become a reality.

Stop thinking, Baker, and start doing.

xXx