Monday, December 01, 2008

Be A Burden Bearer

What is the "law of Christ"? Do you know the answer?

Galatians 6:2 says the following:
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
This is not a suggestion or a negotiable option, my fellow Christians. If we fail to bear one another's burdens, we fail to obey the law of Christ. Breaking the law of Christ is a very serious matter, notwithstanding the fact that we are saved by grace and not by the law. Doing so might be aptly described as a sin of omission.

How will people know that we are Christ's disciples? Because they see us going to church regularly? No. Because we preach or confess orthodox doctrines? No. Because we give a lot of money to the church? No.

In John 13:34-35, Jesus says, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." Love for one another is the mark of the true Christian disciple. Loving one another is not an option. It is a "new commandment" from Christ himself.

Bearing one another's burdens and loving one another in the biblical sense are synonymous. If you read I Corinthians 13, you'll see that "love," as defined in the Bible, is an action verb. It is not mere sentiment or emotion. Jesus doesn't just say that we should love one another. Jesus says that we should love one another as he has loved us. How does Jesus love us? With unconditional, self-sacrificial love which is willing, if necessary, to pay the ultimate price. Admittedly, that's a lot for Christ to ask of us. But it isn't a request. It's a command!

When I was a young Christian, I sometimes heard other Christians say things like, "I've really got a burden for (so and so)". Often, that burden would find expression in the form of frequent prayers for the person who was the object of the burden. (It wasn't always a burden for a specific person, of course. For example, it might be a burden for a particular nation in need of missionaries; or it might be a burden for a particular class of people, such as alcoholics or handicapped people or abused children.)

When Christians make such statements, it's usually a way of saying that they feel an intense moral obligation to bear the burdens of other people, just as the scriptures command. But Christians can also be burdened by their own problems, and they often are. When that's the case, it's incumbent on other Christians to help bear their burdens.

Sometimes praying for someone is really all that one can do, if one lacks the means with which to address a problem in any other way. But prayer alone is insufficient if one also has the means with which to partially or completely alleviate another Christian's burden. Prayer and action are not mutually exclusive.

Many needs go unmet in the Body of Christ, not because the means with which to meet those needs don't exist, but because of the selfishness of immature Christians who don't understand that they have moral responsibilities to one another.

In some cases, needs may also go unmet because such Christians are part of churches which place more value on external appearances than on internal realities. In such "happy face" churches, there is very little authenticity, and very little freedom to share one's burdens with others. In such churches, people who complain about their troubles and ask for help may be labeled as "whiners" instead of being treated with compassion. It's virtually impossible to bear another person's burdens if that person is inhibited by social expectations from telling other Christians about those burdens. Regarding other people's burdens, one has to be aware in order to bear.

What individual Christians can't always do on their own, they can often do collectively by combining their resources. That is one of the main justifications for the existence of "organized religion," as it has sometimes been called. Tragically, however, the institutional church often fails to use its resources in order to address real needs among the brethren. Instead, many church leaders seem more interested in building their own little kingdoms, at the expense of other Christians.

Unfortunately, there isn't much one can do directly in order to change that sorry state of affairs, other than to pray for such leaders and to boldly speak the truth to them regarding their responsibilities and their failure to take those responsibilities seriously. Beyond that, we must leave such things in the hands of the Lord.

However, even if we never succeed in our efforts to persuade church leaders to take their moral responsibilities seriously, we can also do something more; and indeed, we remain responsible for doing so.

We can take every opportunity to communicate directly with other Christians whenever we wish to make it known that we are willing to help others who need help.

We can also create options for Christians who find themselves in need of a means of bypassing the hierarchical barriers and negative church environments which have often prevented believers from communicating their needs directly with other believers, so that genuine ministry can take place whenever and wherever it's needed. We need not be licensed or ordained ministers in order to do such things. In fact, there are cases in which people who are not clergy are actually better qualified than the clergy to meet such needs.

To quote a saying which was popular in the sixties when I was growing up, "If you're not part of the solution, then you're part of the problem." I don't know about you, but I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. I want to be a doer of the Word, not just a hearer of the Word.

For a long time, I've had some specific ideas about how to do just that, with respect to the needs which often go unmet in the Church. It occurred to me long ago that the real issue pertains to difficulties in communicating our needs with one another. The informal networks which often form at local churches are better than nothing in that regard, but there are times when such networks fall woefully short of meeting needs in particular situations. This is particularly true in very small and/or very poor churches where there are very few resources available to the congregations, but even the largest and most prosperous local churches have their limits.

What is needed, it seems to me, is a means of communicating directly with large numbers of fellow believers, in a timely and rapid manner, without having to filter such communications through local church leaders or to meet with their approval. In the interest of maximizing the probability of success, such a method of communication must transcend the boundaries of individual churches, geographical areas and church denominations. By definition, that requires the creation and sustenance of a "parachurch" ministry.

You would correctly think that it was a dysfunctional family if you visited your neighbors and discovered that brothers and sisters living within that household had to ask permission from their parents every time they wished to speak with one another. It is equally dysfunctional when such ecclesiastical red tape hinders communications within the church, which is also known as "the family of God".

Some pastors would argue that there is nothing stopping individual Christians from speaking with each other on a one-on-one basis, and they would usually be correct. But speaking with people one-on-one can be a very, very time-consuming and inefficient method of communication, particularly in cases where one's own circle of intimate friends is very limited. So such communication simply isn't adequate for every situation.

My proposed solution is the creation of a newsletter, to be published and distributed inexpensively online, to be known as Body Power News.

As the title suggests, Body Power News (BPN) would consist, in part, of news from churches and from individual members of the Body of Christ, regardless of their denomination or local church or geographical location.

The objective would be to empower the Body of Christ; hence, the "power" part of the name of the publication. BPN would naturally be beneficial to all local churches and the leaders of such churches, because it would enable them to regularly publicize the activities at their local churches in a manner which would be accessible to other Christians throughout a given city, region, state or nation.

But Body Power News would also feature classified ads, supported by the donations of those who felt blessed by the numerous benefits offered by BPN, which would enable a diverse array of individual Christians to publicize a wide variety of needs and opportunities for ministry. (Properly understood, every need is an opportunity for ministry!)

What kind of needs could be met by means of ads and articles published by Body Power News? Any needs whatsoever, provided that they could be justified within the framework of a Christian worldview. People would be free to run the same types of ads they might run in secular classified ad publications or on classified ad websites such as CraigsList, for example. If they had items they wished to sell or buy, they would be free to use BPN for that purpose.

But that would not be the primary justification for the existence of Body Power News. Unlike CraigsList or the classified ad sections in city newspapers, BPN would offer opportunities to publicize needs or opportunities in a manner which would maximize the chances of success by focusing on readers who professed to know and love Jesus Christ.

Christians specifically looking for Christian roommates, for example, could certainly publicize such needs via CraigsList or local newspapers, but they would have a much better chance of reaching the specific types of people they wished to reach if they could also run such ads in a Christian publication specifically optimized for the purpose of reaching members of the Body of Christ.

Christians seeking employment or volunteer opportunities in fields pertaining to ministry would find Body Power News to be indispensible. The same could be said for companies and organizations seeking ministry-oriented employees and volunteers.

Christians seeking to share rides with other Christians (to concerts in distant cities, for instance) could publicize their needs for such rides via Body Power News.

In these days of extremely high gas prices, many people seek to form car pools in order to reduce the expenses of traveling to and from work, and also in order to reduce the pollution from their automobiles. Wouldn't it be great to form car pools in which one's fellow travelers were all Christian believers, so that one could productively use such unavoidable travel times for the purpose of fellowship based on common values, instead of wasting time on idle talk about trivia? Body Power News would make it a lot easier to organize such car pools.

Christian musicians seeking to form bands and musical ensembles could advertise for other Christian musicians with whom to collaborate; and they would not be limited to the musicians they met at their own local churches. Christian musicians could also publicize upcoming concerts and new CD releases and more, using BPN. They could buy, sell and trade music instruments and other necessary equipment using their BPN ads. They could publicize the need for space for rehearsals and for individual practice sessions, using those same ads.

Christians wishing to form parachurch ministries of various types (such as Christian coffeehouses, homeless shelters and much more) could publicize their vision for such ministries via ads in Body Power News.

Christian bloggers could invite other people to visit their blogs and become part of ongoing conversations facilitated by those blogs, using ads in BPN.

Christians could organize Bible studies, prayer meetings, picnics and many other types of events, using BPN, in a manner which would reach all of the Christians (whether those Christians attended their own churches or not) within close physical proximity of their homes or places of business.

Christian parents seeking baby sitters could run ads for such sitters in Body Power News, if they sought to maximize the chances that their children would be cared for by people who shared their moral values.

Christian landlords could seek new tenants via ads in Body Power News, thereby minimizing the likelihood that the people who rented apartments or business properties from them would lead lifestyles which could be injurious to their properties or reputations.

Christian singles wishing to meet other compatible Christian singles could run personal ads in Body Power News, knowing that the vast majority of the people viewing their ads would be fellow believers. Christian singles' ministries could likewise publicize their activities in a manner which could attract people from throughout the city or region, rather than being limited to the people they could reach by placing ads in the church bulletin.

Christians in need of emergency housing or legal help or financial assistance could publicize urgent or desperate needs in a manner which would reach the maximum number of fellow believers in a timely manner. Likewise, church leaders who were made aware of such needs could run ads on behalf of such people as one means of obtaining the resources with which to meet the needs of the members of their congregations more effectively. (If necessary, they could do so without embarrassing the people in need of help, by omitting the names of those people.)

Display ads could also be offered, for a modest charge, to people wishing to publicize their businesses, organizations and ministries in a manner which would specifically reach members of the Body of Christ.

These are just a few of the many options which would be available to the readers of Body Power News. I invite you to use your imagination in order to come up with your own ideas about how YOU could use Body Power News!

In the past, the cost of creating such a publication in printed form and then distributing the publication throughout a given region would have been very high. But thanks to the power of the Internet, that cost is now extremely small.

Body Power News could be distributed in the form of PDF documents which would be regularly updated and uploaded to a website, where the documents could be downloaded and printed for free. The primary costs associated with creating such a publication would be the administrative costs associated with paying someone to create the publication, publicize the existence of the publication, solicit news stories from local churches, input and edit the ads and articles, convert the publication to PDF format, upload it to the website, and so forth.

I have all the skills which would be needed in order to perform those duties. In addition, I have a real passion for the project, because I understand just how badly it is needed.

In addition to the PDF publication, I also envision a parallel option which would consist of an online community bulletin board or forum, so that late breaking news and situations could be addressed immediately rather than having to wait until the next edition of the PDF publication. Such a community could be created with content management software such as Joomla or Drupal, or with bulletin board software such as phpBB. I have minimal experience with such open source software, but I do have web design experience and skills, and I've been told that all of the aforementioned solutions are fairly user-friendly, relying at least in part on easily available templates. (Even so, it couldn't hurt to get some volunteer help from someone who already has experience with such solutions.)

My hope is that I can raise the funds which I would need for the purpose of obtaining the necessary office space, computer equipment and other resources which would be needed in order to turn this vision into a reality. In addition, I really believe that I could perform such tasks most effectively if I performed the numerous tasks associated with such a project as a paid staff person, rather than trying to squeeze such work into my free time while working for another company or while looking for employment. So raising money for my financial support would be crucial to the success of the project.

Body Power News is only a small part of my vision, which also encompasses all aspects of the Christian Arts Initiative, which I will describe in more detail in the near future. Meanwhile, I would suggest that you visit my website,, in order to get a better idea of how my passion for the arts fits into my overall vision.

If anything you've read in this blog post appeals to you, feel free to contact me via e-mail. My e-mail addresses are: mwp1212[AT] or mark_w_pettigrew[AT]

I look forward to hearing from you.

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