Inner Change
John Telgren

My Dad has a garage behind his house that began to crack and lean. The ground had begun to wash away beneath it. At one point you could actually crawl beneath the garage. Dad didn't repaint it or try to straighten it, but wisely hired someone to repair the foundation, which is where the problem was.

How easy it is to miss what lies underneath! After all, it is what no one notices. In fact, it can be ignored for a large amount of time without any apparent consequence. It isn't until the something breaks or collapses under the stress that you realize how serious a problem there is.

I have observed that this is the culture in which we live. Our culture prizes the accumulation of successes and accomplishments, as well as the symbols of success, such as the fancy cars, big houses, designer clothes, club memberships, and such. This focus on externals leaves a gaping hole that can often collapse under stress. In fact, I remember reading an article that stated that stress is the number one killer in America. According to this article, 70-80% of all illnesses in medical practice are either caused by or made worse by stress.

I believe that people in general recognize that there is a void in their lives. Things of a "spiritual" nature have become very popular in the last couple of decades. People have consumed movies, books, items to wear, workshops, and a host of other things of a spiritual nature out of a hunger for something many of them cannot articulate.

One of the things I found strange is that when unbelievers began to crave something spiritual and something transcendent, they didn't go to church, but turned to New Age books and Eastern religions. After seeing the wave of resources on spiritual formation in Christian circles in the last five years, I began to understand why. Even Christians were craving something deeper than their surface Christian veneer! The emptiness of accumulating must have plagued Christians, their churches, and their ministers along with the unbelievers around them. Building mega-churches, marketing style ministry, multiple programs and services, the drive and pride of tangible results, and the pressure of the expectation of the minister as C. E. O. produced a large gaping hole beneath the surface of many ministers, churches, and ministries. Many ministers and church leaders were burning out and suffering stress related illnesses just like the unbelievers in the world around them. Marriages in churches were seeing the same divorce rates as unbelievers. People in the church were suffering from the same stress related illnesses as people out of the church. Is it any wonder seekers didn't go to churches? Many churches did not look much different that what they were trying to escape from, except it was in Christian veneer.

No wonder Paul said, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Rom 12:2). I like Eugene Peterson's Paraphrase of Romans 12:2 in The Message: "Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. "