Too many have dispensed with generosity in order to practice charity. — Albert Camus
As our politicians bickers over the solution to the problems facing the American healthcare system, Christians have lost sight of real compassion.
The image I created for this post is based on Hugo SandovalI’s impressionist painting of “The Prodigal.” Cut from the heart of Jesus’ story of true compassion is the medical caduceus. What does this image symbolize? The following parable tells the story in words.
A Crowd gathers around the broken form of a Young Man lying motionless on the roadside. Moments before, the Young Man was riding his bike down the street, when suddenly struck by a car. Dazed and confused, the Crowd looked around for someone to offer direction on what they should do.
A Doctor came to the scene. He quickly ran to the Young Man’s side, bent down and began searching through his pockets. When the Doctor could not find an insurance card, he quietly moved away and said, “I cannot help this man.”
As the crowd became angry, a successful trial Lawyer came to the scene. Upon seeing the man bleeding to death, and hearing the story of the Doctor who refused to help, the Lawyer became angry. She decried this great injustice saying, “no one in America shouod be refused medical care just because he cannot pay.” The Lawyer quickly bent down beside the Young Man bleeding on the ground. She put her business card in the man’s pocket and said, “when you get well, come and see me. I will be sure to represent you in a big-money lawsuit against that Doctor, the Hospital, and the Insurance companies.”
Growing more angry, the Crowd began to grumble and complain, “what is wrong with this country!?”
A wealthy US Senator whose office was close to the scene came into the crowd. Seeing the Young Man bleeding to death on the ground, he cried out, “why has no one helped this man?!” The crowd reported the story of the Doctor and the Lawyer. The Senator knew something must be done quickly to save this man’s life. He jumped into action. He climbed onto a nearby soapbox and gave an impassioned speech to the enraged Crowd. ”We need change! We must pass a law to help this man who does not have healthcare! There are many Rich People in this country who have enough money to help this man. Come with me and we will pass a Law that will force these Rich People and Big Companies to pay for this man’s healthcare!”
The crowds loved the words of compassion spoken by the wealthy-Senator, made signs in support of his speech and followed after him to help pass a Law.
Before the Crowds could leave, a well-known Pastor jumped into the middle of the ruckus and condemned the immorality of the Senator’s proposed Law. The Pastor used his great influence and spoke passionately from the Bible to rally a counter-protest against the Senator and his Law.
The TV cameras soon arrived to film the scene. The nicely-dressed Anchorwoman knelt gently beside the injured man. She held a microphone to the dying man’s mouth and asked for a statement decrying the evils of the American healthcare system. Unable to speak or sign a press release, the Anchorwoman moved on to interview the Senator, the Doctor, the Pastor and the Crowd.
Crowds passed by the scene; each chanting support for their chosen cause. The cameras followed. The Young Man was left alone, bleeding to death on the roadside.
Soon, an Elderly Man came to the scene. He bent down, and forced his aging fingers to bandage the wounds. The Elderly Man had no money of his own so he sold his car to help pay for the Young Man’s medical care.”
Which of these people; the Doctor, the Lawyer, the Senator, the Pastor, the Crowds or the Elderly-Man reflect true compassion?
Which of these people offered a real solution to the dying man?
Which of these people are you?
Read more of my article on Faith & Politics @ TheFaithNews.com
This is a Haiku in English based on the Japanese haiku poetic form.
Associate professor Bradley Wright from the University of Connecticut is talking again about Christian researchers who focus too much on the negative in surveys about Christians. In his latest series on “The creation of a useful, but inaccurate, statistic” he writes,
In presenting these data, Barna emphasizes the low favorability scores for Evangelicals. He writes that non-Christians are “dismissive” of evangelicals, and that “one reason why evangelical churches across the nation are not growing is due to the image that non-Christian adults have of evangelical individuals.” One could make the opposite case just as strongly—while only 22% had favorable impressions of Evangelicals, only 23% had unfavorable impressions. These data could be spun either way, the cup being half-empty or half-full, and Barna chooses half-empty
He goes on in part 2 of the series to make the following observation.
Yesterday I recounted a study conducted by the Barna Group. This study can be summarized as positive, negative, or ambiguous in its portrayal of Christians. Positive in that born-again Christians were found to be well-regarded, negative in that Evangelicals were not, and ambiguous in that different reactions were given to what is essentially the same group (i.e., evangelical and born-again Christians).
As such, these data provide almost a Rorschach test in which people can see what they want about Christians. It’s informative, then, to see how commentators, both within the church and without, have used these data. Without exception, they emphasize the negative story, and each has different incentives to do so.
It’s a nagging question for me, “why do some Christian researchers always seem to emphasize the negative which, in many cases, only serves to tear down the Body of Christ?”
Tell me, what do you see?
In October 2007, Bill Hybels had what he called, “the biggest wake up call of his adult life.” His staff, led by Greg Hawkins, ran a survey of the congregation and discovered that their philosophy of ministry, which has guided them for the past 30 years, has led to a huge failure in making strong disciples of Jesus Christ. Come to find out that going to church and attending programs does not equate to mature faith. Hybels called these findings “earth shaking,” “ground breaking,” and “mind blowing.” Now he has started a new approach based on more research through their website called REVEAL. My initial impressions back in 2008 are depicted in my cartoon, “Blind Foxes & Shifting Sands.”
First, my cartoon is not a wholesale indictment of Willow Creek, Bill Hybels, or even the Willow Creek model. Hybels, like every leader, has made mistakes and used bad judgment, but I have no reason to doubt he is a brother in Christ Jesus. The only point I am making here is that statistical surveys are not an effective method for evaluating the spiritual life of a people. You can check out the educated and insightful opinion of Dr. Bradley Wright for deeper study.
Hybels is convinced that every church in America will be shocked to discover that attendance at a big church and spending millions of dollars on programs do not equate to spiritual maturity. But what shocks me is Hybels, after 30 years, is only now aware that his methodology is flawed. A study of history could have told him 30 years ago that this approach was flawed. It is a mistake for Hybels, and for any leader, to rely on statistics (from REVEAL or Barna or any source) to shape their ministry.
Henry and Richard Blackaby, in their book Spiritual Leadership: Moving People Onto God’s Agenda, states,
“The church must discover its vision not by seeking the opinions of people but by seeking God’s will (p.62).”
Later they ask, in response to the tendency of some in pastoral leadership to push the setting of BHAGs (big hairy audacious goals),
“This all sounds exciting and can generally elicit a chorus of amens from the audience, but is it biblical? (p.66).”
The answer to their question probably varies from situation to situation, but the truth that we need to follow God’s vision and not our own is universal. A better translation of the oft quoted Proverbs 29:18 offers some important guidance,
“Where there is no revelation the people cast off restraint”
It is revelation that must guide us, not opinion polls and surveys.
Replacing one program with another program is not the answer either. There have been many voices over the past 30 years who have tried to warn of the flaws in Hybels approach. I suggest that if people are looking for some good answers to Hybels “new” discoveries, they should look to some of those discerning voices before following Hybels into his next 30 year experiment.
I hope the cartoon will help people face some hard questions.
- If you are a Willow church, why?
- Should you continue to follow Hybels’ leadership into the next experiment? Why or why not?
Everyone who follows the Willow model will have different answers. I am not here to give anyone the answers but I do hope my observations will at least give you pause to stop, pray, and think about how God wants to lead your church?