I had a conversation the other day that reminded me of some observations I have about suffering and prosperity. I thought I would share them...
WARNING! I am about to make some generalizations. Generalizations are useful tools to organize our perceptions. Generalizations are well known as debate starters and feeling hurters. Generalizations have exceptions. Please do not read any further if you are overly sensitive to generalizations.
OK. Here goes:
I observe two kinds of churches in the world; churches that preach suffering and churches that preach prosperity. What do I mean by this?
Well, on the one hand, you have churches preaching that to be good Christians we must suffer. That the call of Christ is a call to sacrifice. That we will be persecuted. That we must give up everything that we have. That we must count the cost. That the last shall be first. That the world hates us. That the Christian life is about giving, serving, sacrifice, endurance, piety, humility...
On the other hand, you have churches preaching that Christians shall receive rich blessings. That good and perfect gifts come from God. That if we ask we will receive. That good stewards receive a hundredfold return. That by faith we can move mountains. That God is able to give us more than we can imagine. That Jesus carries our burdens. That God takes care of His children. That no weapon formed against us can prosper. That we shouldn't worry. That the Christian life is about prosperity, success, overcoming, reward, peace, happiness, joy...
So we have two kinds of churches preaching two seemingly very different messages. Why?
I have also observed that churches whose members and attenders are generally upper middle class usually are the type to preach suffering. And in general, churches whose members are more impoverished are likely to preach prosperity. I have seen this over and over again. Rich suburban churches preach suffering and poor inner city churches preach prosperity.
As to why, I think it is because these are the messages that need to be heard by these congregations. Both messages are true. Both come straight from scripture. But what does a wealthy Christian need to hear? I believe they need to hear that they must use their riches for God's Kingdom. Therefore they must give, sacrifice, and serve. They need a message of Christ that challenges them where they are. I count myself today as a wealthy suburban Christian. And I need to remember that all I have God has given me. It belongs to Him and I've got to use it for Him. I've got to be willing to give it all up for Him.
By the same token, when I was poor I needed to hear that God had something better planned for me. That He wanted to bless me. That He wanted to pull me up out of the miry clay and set my feet on solid ground. That my faithfulness would produce fruit in my life. That giving my life to Jesus would result in huge blessings, more than I could imagine. That He would change me, take care of me, protect me, provide for me. That He loved me and had a wonderful plan for my life.
I've been in both places in my life. I've been to both kinds of churches. I've needed to hear both kinds of messages. And both are the truth.
I think its awesome how God works.
Minister of Music & Administration
Our Place Christian Church
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