My daughter informed me this past October that all she wanted for her 10th birthday were two goats! Clearly this is not a typical request from a 10-year old, but given that we had just moved to a small farm it was certainly understandable. We ignorantly plunged ahead and found an ad posted on Craigslist for a buck and doe pair that were for sale – Dallas and Lucy.
We went to look at Dallas and Lucy and the very first thing I noticed was that they appeared to be severely malnourished. When I expressed my concern to the owner he assured me that was the typical physique for that breed of goat. Although I had serious doubts, I went forward with the purchase.
I spent the next four months unsuccessfully trying to put weight on Dallas and Lucy by increasing their food intake and improving their nutrition. I tried giving them more grain, but that didn’t work. I tried moving them to different grazing areas, but that didn’t work. I tried giving them an abundance of quality hay, but that didn’t’ work. I tried to worm them, but that didn’t work. I tried putting them on alfalfa pellets, but that didn’t work. I tried adding cracked corn and corn oil to their feed, but that didn’t work either! All the while they had a ravenous appetite, but gained no weight. They were restless and miserable.
I was sharing my frustration with a neighbor when she stated, “those goats have worms – I am sure of it!” I shared with her that I had already attempted to worm the goats twice. She replied, “The wormer you used doesn’t work because it isn’t strong enough. The worms actually build up a tolerance to it.” The next day I purchased the potent worming medication recommended by my neighbor and one month later my goats look fat, happy, and healthy!
I think this has been the problem in the Christian community as well. We see spiritual malnutrition in our culture, communities, and in the personal lives of those around us, but we fail to apply the appropriate remedy. As a result, too many people around us are restless and miserable, communities are decaying, and culture has no moorings.
Churches try to cure the malnutrition by, ironically, offering a nutritionally deficient gospel. This approach will attract the ravenous masses who will gobble up the message because everyone loves to eat sugar even though it possesses no nutritional value! A prosperity gospel does the same thing – you are temporarily inspired while on your sugar high, but it fails to transform lives.
Others choose to rely on a legalistic approach through church or civil government, convinced that spiritual malnutrition can be simply willed away through sheer determination. A temporary improvement frequently occurs, but like the mild wormer, people eventually will reject such a demanding dogma that offers nothing meaningful or personal.
Still others choose a fatalistic approach and ignore the starving individuals, deeming them spiritual reprobates. Clearly this flawed approach exacerbates the problem and offers hope to no one.
It is critically important that we carefully consider the remedy for the spiritual malnutrition we see in our culture and that we are intentional and purposeful in administering the cure. Just imagine an approach where a strong dose of the entire Gospel is boldly proclaimed with compassion, Christians live authentically and with an integrity that inspires replication, and the church is focused on loving and mentoring people rather than on programs and numbers.
Jesus stated, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind and love your neighbor as yourself.” An authentic display of this command is someone who loves the repulsive, embraces the rejected, serves the unwanted, defends the helpless, admonishes the prideful, corrects the confused, and proclaims truth to the scornful.
The results of this holistic and balanced approach will be Christ-changing as individuals, communities, and culture becomes stronger, healthier and happier – just like my goats!