August 28, 2014

THE OUTCOME AND THE PROCESS

There are two opposing ideas at work in the Church in the West today. The “Process” and the “Outcome”.

The Outcome is Salvation of the Lost. This has always been the Outcome that the Church has sought in harmony with the commission Our Lord has given us.

The Process is the means by which the Church has sought to accomplish the desired Outcome.

Once these two ideas worked in harmony. Not so today as I will explain.

The Process varies from denomination to denomination; culture to culture and has differed over time. As a matter of fact, as the centuries have unfolded the Process has evolved  into a complex pattern of ministries, which have come to include numerous institutions that are more of a social nature, rather than purely evangelistic or spiritual. These have come to include ministries and institutions that focus on Drug and Alcohol Recovery; the care of Orphans and the Elderly; Hospitals; Housing; The Homeless, etcetera. In and of themselves these institutions and ministries are worthy, for has not Our Lord taught us to care for the needs of others?

These various institutions of a social nature are dimensioned to facilitate the outcome of Salvation with not only the reasoning of the mandate of pure charity taught to us by Jesus and pointing to a loving caring God, but also with the thought that it is difficult for the Lost and the Poor to receive The Message and accept Salvation if they are cold, hungry, un-housed, addicted and so concerned with the necessities of the day that they have no room in their life for God. As Jesus did, we will meet people at their point of need to facilitate and give credibility to the Message of Salvation.

I do not disassociate myself from this reasoning. Self-sacrificing love in behalf of others is definitive of Christianity. Traditionally, the Process has always been seen as the means to the Outcome.

The difficulty in our current age is that the Process has taken over from the Outcome and in many instances is taking precedence over The Message of Salvation.

This happens because the Process has become very expensive and regulated.

Once upon a time it was simple to dimension a shelter. You rented a warehouse, heated it up and provided soup and blankets. Shelter! Now you have to hire a staff with a variety of advanced degrees, meet a blizzard of health and safety regulations, provide extensive insurance coverage, have lawyers on retainer to defend against litigation and the list goes on and on. These requirements are layered over every social institution. The demand for services is great and the staggering costs of regulatory compliance mean that the Church is involved in perpetual fundraising and must accept donations with a lot of strings attached, particularly from Government Sources, to keep going. The temptation wrought of necessity is to sell out to secularism.

Funding and meeting regulatory requirements of social ministries have become the focus of many denominational activities and The Message is soft peddled or not mentioned at all. There are many Social Ministries in Europe and America without a Cross or a Chaplin in sight.

God forbid that we should let the world know that we are Christians behind The Food Bank and mention Jesus. Somebody (or some government) might object and that might affect donations and funding and that might mean we would have to close the institution or cut back services. People would lose their jobs and others would lose services. Not the “outcome” sought. Retaining jobs and services become the object of the exercise.

Keeping the institution intact and running now becomes the “outcome” and The Message sits at the back of the bus. if its on the bus at all. It is surprising how many Church Leaders are OK with that.

Rather than symbiosis, the Process and the Outcome are now at odds with each other and more and more the Process is winning out. Priorities are skewed and the material trumps the spiritual.

What about you? You too are facing the temptation to compromise your faith out of material necessity.

Never sell your birthright in the Kingdom of Heaven for a bowl of soup (Gen 25: 29-34). That will take courage and determination. I pray that God will grace you with both.

M.J.O.