This morning in my post The Ugly Tomato, I included a link to a post that I did on Cheap Faith a few years ago. I have been thinking about that ever since and decided that I would update and republish it. Part of the reason for this is that I am struggling because more and more speaking invites expect us to work for free. The real cost of a conference or event is not really taken into account. And Christians don’t want to have to pay the full cost. Yet I know that in the secular world people expect to pay much more because they know and accept what it costs to put on a conference.
MSA has not held a large conference in the last few years mainly because of some of these concerns. We have always liked to start planning a conference by asking “What are God’s kingdom values we want to represent at this gathering?” It is often an uncomfortable conversation, hopefully not just for us but for everyone who is involved.
In all that we do, I grapple with how to provide resources, technology and events within the constraints of a limited budget. I struggle with how to live and operate our ministry sustainably without jeopardizing our concern for the environment and for the poor. Fair-traded tea and coffee is more expensive than regular coffee. Lunches from Fairstart that provides jobs for the homeless are more expensive than the local supermarket that only pays workers minimum wages. Environmental concerns create even more constraints as we struggle to reduce waste & provide environmentally friendly alternatives. How do we bring in speakers and participants from around the world in fuel guzzling aeroplanes and still show respect for the environment?
I love the way Shane Claiborne approaches some of these concerns. Whenever he travels he gets people to commit to reduce their fuel consumption in compensation for the additional fuel he is using by flying. Not easy but I think it is a great way to show how seriously we take these issues. Or maybe we should all cut back our fuel consumption for a month beforehand to compensate. Maybe we should hold more local events that don’t require a lot of travel or expensive accommodation and encourage us to cooperate with each other in what do.
Not easy but why should I expect it to be easy? It is never easy to choose deliberately to live by God’s kingdom values in all our actions. Unfortunately we live in a world that wants everything especially food, clothing, household goods and technology at bargain prices but, at what cost to the poor and the environment? For us to have access to bargain priced food, technology and resources often means that those who produce and sell our goods are not paid a living wage. Our bargain goods often are produced in conditions that devastate the environment and add to our polluted air.
What concerns me most is that our obsession with bargains extends to our faith as well. We want to buy salvation and Gods grace at bargain prices too. My quest for bargains encourages me to believe I dont have to pay the full price for redemption either. Which is great because I would much rather settle for a relationship that demands little of me in terms of penitence or repentance. Like many Christians, I would rather experience Gods grace and forgiveness without sacrifice, without commitment and without the need to change.
It is not surprising that in a culture like ours, few people practice fasting and self-sacrifice during Lent anymore. Deliberately walking with Christ towards the Cross never comes at bargain prices, it is very costly. In fact it demands our whole lives but it is absolutely necessary if we want to become the disciples God intends us to be. It means recognizing that the true self is made in the image of God and reflects the characteristics that are true to Gods image love and compassion, concern for justice for the poor and freedom from oppression…considering the needs of others as more important than my own.
I think many will get a shock when they enter the kingdom of God. It will be a real cross-cultural experience for them because the bargain price values they have lived by will be totally worthless. Fortunately, Gods spirit continues to work within all of us enabling us to confront the false self and its cheap values. It constantly breaks down the barriers that distort our ability to lead a life that is fully integrated with God and Gods ways.
The question I find myself asking this morning is “Where do I still go after a bargain and sacrifice God’s values as a consequence?” Maybe you would like to ask the same question. Where is the spirit of God nudging you to change so that your false self will be transformed into the true self that reflects the glory of God?