Changing the World

One of the things that I enjoy doing with my youngest son Stephen, is listening to modern Christian music. On Saturday we were listening the the Newsboys album

The Ascension - Stations of the Cross at San Luis, Colorado.
The Ascension – Stations of the Cross at San Luis, Colorado.

“Restart”. The first song confirmed some ideas that I have been tossing around mentally for some time:

That’s How You Change the World

All my life I had big dreams
To do big things and make a change
And all the while, I just passed by
The simple needs right here next to me

The Christian church encourages service to others. Many times, however, the idea of service gets misconstrued to mean that anything effective will be “out there” for all the world to see. I remember as a young person  thinking that the singers and bands of the concerts I attended were the ones who were really making a difference for Christ. They were the ones who started ministries; they were the ones who were employed by Christian nonprofits to speak about their causes; they wrote books; authors wrote about them in Christian magazines.

All of this was good. There were a couple of articles about Christian singers that I remember helping me in my journey; the music I listened to and concerts I attended really helped me as well and helped shape some of my world view. Unfortunately, for some reason, all of the excitement generated by those artists left me thinking subconsciously that I had nothing to contribute to the cause of Christ unless I was famous or extremely popular. As a young person, that was a bummer for me. Popularity was elusive; I was shy and awkward. As an adult, I have learned that popularity is not always desirable. Sometimes, in order to have favor with people, you actually have to give up pieces of your soul and that is not for me.

In the world, popularity equals success. Unpopular television shows do not continue. Movies that do not make huge amounts of money are not award winners. People who do not have glowing personalities do not gain followings, even though those personalities may be as shallow and superficial as a politician’s promises.

No where was this attitude of popularity equaling success more prominent than in the ministry. When I was a pastor’s wife, I struggled mightily in this area because it seemed like our churches, especially the first one, shrunk under our ministry. Pastors who have shrinking churches often do not get larger churches (and thus larger paychecks and other perks) when they move on. They also do not get the respect that pastors of larger churches get. Granted, pastors of large churches are talented people, but in the kingdom of God aren’t we all gifted in some way?

In reality, the majority of people do not have the talents that draw huge followings of people to them. Most of us have quiet talents and gifts that we share with our small circles of friends and associates. And, it is through the efforts of the quiet people that the Newsboys claim that the world is changed. I like these lyrics because they describe me and so many people that I know:

All my life I had big dreams
To do big things and make a change
And all the while, I just passed by
The simple needs right here next to me

It’s the prayer in an empty room
Little things we do when nobody’s around
A hand reaching out to a heart in doubt
It’s the smallest spark that can light the dark

Source for lyrics

When art reentered my life so recently through crochet, these truths came together for me. For two years previous, I had studied Christian spirituality. In that course we covered the early church fathers and mothers, people who hid themselves away from the world to pray and to help the poor. Some of these people of the faith wrote of their experiences and these writings benefit us today. Through their influence, the scriptures about not letting your right hand know what your left hand is doing and going into a private place to pray came alive for me (Matthew 6:6 and Matthew 6:3, respectively). This is how we influence the world. Jesus said so. Acting in private, keeping our devotional times and deeds quiet creates an outflow that affects the people around us.  It affects our creativity; our creative expressions become our outward prayer as we seek to bless others. It is in normalcy that is influenced by compassion where our chief influence lies.

This is not a popular message. Go to any high school graduation and listen to the speeches. Most of them tell the students that they are destined to do great things. Some are, perhaps, but most are not. These speeches are not a bad thing, but they are misleading. They place undue pressure on people because most of those students will go out to live normal, quiet lives. As George Bailey said in the holiday classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” they “do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community.” That’s life. That’s the way it is for most people. It is through these people most of God’s efforts to change the world take place. I’d say that is a pretty high calling. Wouldn’t you?

One thought on “Changing the World

  1. Pingback: Using What We Have – The Contemplative Crafter

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