This was a headline on page A-1 of the local Merced Sun-Star: “New Book Ranks Merced Fourth Worst Place to Live in U.S.” It’s not exactly the sort of thing you want to hear about your city.
Criteria for the designation includes cost of living index, air quality, job availability, health care, and climate. It struck me, as I read the article, that the people writing the book probably were like air passengers flying over a city. You get a cursory view. “There’s a lake.” “There’s a mountain range.” “A fire destroyed that building.”
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I find that it is quite easy to feel sorry for myself when I use myself or people I consider to be more privileged than myself as points of comparison. Grumbling issues for me can include a wide variety of things.
That was until I went to the Global Rich List website. The website has a place where you can type in your annual salary, and then it compares your salary against the rest of the world. It is a sobering experience.
Global Rich List is not for the feint of heart. It shows what American dollars will purchase in the rest of the world. Here are some examples.
$8 could buy you 15 organic apples OR 25 fruit trees for farmers in Honduras to grow and sell fruit at their local market.
$30 could buy you an ER DVD Boxset OR a First Aid kit for a village in Haiti.
$73 could buy you a new mobile phone OR a new mobile health clinic to care for AIDS orphans in Uganda.
$2400 could buy you a second generation High Definition TV OR schooling for an entire generation of school children in an Angolan village.
Imagine what Americans could do if they devoted even a small portion of their salaries to feeding the poor and helping Third World Countries! Enormous good could be done, and much of the anger that exists because of the frustration of poverty would be eased.
I just finished reading Simple Church by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger. I’ve been reading it for a couple of weeks, and I am greatly impressed by its profound treatment of simplicity. Rainer and Geiger concluded as a result of a lot of research that simple churches grow more and are healthier than churches that are complex in structure and activity.
I also attended a one-day workshop on small groups in Sacramento. It was sponsored by Church Coaching Solutions and hosted by Stadia. Jim Putman was the presenter, and he is the senior pastor at a 7,000 member church in Idaho that has virtually all of its members involved in small groups. They have a phenomenally high rate of involvement.
What was interesting was that what Jim Putman presented closely mirrored what I had read in Simple Church. Simple, basic churches are actually healthier than churches that try to offer too many things and who are too complex in their organization.
I don’t know how supermarket churches will fare in coming years. They will be constantly having to offer something that is new and delicious in order to keep their momentum and structure. Simple churches, on the other hand, train small groups of people to think in terms of meaningful relationships and serving others.
Relationships and service are highly portable ideas and do not require large, complex structures to enact. At LifeSpring Church this simplicity will enable us to minister effectively to this community without over-burdening our members. Simplicity is so incredibly wise and easy to do, provided that you can turn loose of unnecessary traditions and baggage.