I wrote this article just as HFL was getting started. We needed to communicate why we were so compelled to start a new organization when many already existed. After 12 years it still remains the fuel for our fire. We say some things a little differently now, but reason we come to work every day is still the same. And now...we have 12 years of changed life stories as evidence that this is all worth it.
Why does Hungry For Life exist? Why do we do what we do?
HFL exists because this world is starving spiritually and physically, and the two are intimately related.
Spiritual starvation in developed nations significantly contributes to physical starvation in developing nations. People are hungry for life. All around the world hunger pains are seen and heard.
In places on earth where there is enough food to eat, the hunger is of a different sort. Outside the ‘church’, there is a generation of people wondering what this life is all about, thinking that there must be more to life than living and dying. The hunger inside the Christian community is a hunger that quietly questions if our experience of God is really what He intended. We keep attending church but we are not sure why.
More and more the contrast between the 21st Century North American Church and the 1st Century New Testament Church is causing people to question what ‘Church’ really is.
Without a good answer to that question we keep warming pews, but with a keen knowledge that there is a lack of passion and motivation to live out the faith. Why is it that the stories of our Grandparents from the ‘good old days’ about the goodness and power of a living God are more inline with the New Testament Church? Why is it that our faith today is so weak and the compulsion to truly talk and walk like Christ is overpowered by other passions? Why is it that once again society is forming believers to its mold rather than believers forming society? Other than a few bright lights of passionate spirituality, we have a Church on the decline. More and more society has less and less value for ‘church’ and what it offers. Seen as a crutch for the weak and simple, many churches have acquiesced to that state. As a whole, we have enjoyed the blessings and ignored the One who blesses. Where are the passionate Christ followers who demonstrate what Paul said in Philippians, “for me to live is Christ but to die is gain”? Where is the power to transform lives? Where are the signs in the western world that point to a God of power and might? Churches and hearts are more and more empty, leaving us with one constant question; where is God?
How did we end up like this?
In our pursuit of happiness, we have been deceived into thinking that attention to self is the path to what life is all about. “The more we have the happier we’ll be” has been the path to happiness for the past 50 years.
Materialism is rivaling the world’s greatest religions.
We see it everywhere. We believe that true life and happiness results from worshiping at the online shopping websites and big box stores. Although not a new problem, this fixation with self combined with the greatest concentration of wealth in human history has created this addiction. No different from all other vices, we think that we will meet the need for joy, fulfillment and happiness if we can just buy the latest and greatest. Advertisers are the dealers of this most common and accepted “drug” of escaping the hole that exists in the soul. In the end, as with all false ‘gods’, materialism leaves us even more empty than we were before, but still looking for the next fix. In reality, prosperity has led us blindly down another pathway, one with consequences that are more dangerous than just accumulating lots of stuff.
Prosperity breeds independence. To illustrate, babies and young children are never far from their parents because they depend on them completely for survival. As children grow up, they become less dependent. The natural order of growing up automatically means that one day our children will not need us as they did when they were young. They will learn to live life on their own and one day move out, and if we are lucky, they will call once a week. Think about it: what do we truly need God for today? What are we forced to depend on Christ for, so that if he does not come through we are dead? We lack for nothing. If we are hungry we go to the refrigerator, if we are cold we turn on the furnace, if we need a car or a house we can get a loan. If there is more month than money, we get a credit card. If we are sick, we can go to the hospital. The western world that is recognized as being materially blessed has become spiritually cursed because of the blessings. All of the stuff that God has blessed us with has become the focus of our trust and dependence. The gifts have become the focus rather than the Giver. We have neglected God. In the pursuit of the ‘good life’ defined by the security of material comforts, God has given us over to our new love. What makes matters worse is that the consequences affect more than just us.
So then, what is the connection between the quality of our spiritual lives in the first world and the quality of physical lives in the third? One of the many results of a Godless generation is self-centeredness. The world suffers from another result of worshiping at the altar of materialism. We live in a “me first” society. However, that society lives next door to a global community that is starving for physical life; one where 34,000 children die each and every day, because we simply don’t share what we have been given. In 1994 the world’s richest 350 people had a combined net worth equal to that of the poorest 45% of the world’s population. Given God’s heart for the poor and the priority he places on how they are treated, how can we think he will not hold us accountable for such an imbalance of resources? We have also become desensitized to the magnitude of the problems of poverty and paralyzed by the perceived inability to affect any change. In our own quest for happiness, richer nations become richer and poorer nations become poorer. The less we are impacted by the presence of Christ, the more we live for ourselves, and the more the world starves for life.
The solution is obvious.
The more we experience the power and the presence of God, the more motivated we become to give of ourselves for the sake of those who are physically hungry.
The more intimately and passionately in love we are with Jesus the more we become like him. We pay attention to the people he paid attention to. We see the world and our resources the way he did. We will gladly give what we have to the poor. When someone is living in the presence of Christ, he or she does not need to be coerced or manipulated into giving or going.
Christian leaders need to spend less time trying to change people’s behavior and more time facilitating encounters with Jesus.
In the pursuit of Christ and in the response of social justice we will find the real life we are looking for. The Bible teaches the law of reciprocity, in that when we ‘spend ourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the need of the oppressed’ he promises to demonstrate his presence in our lives. The message of the prophets is simple, “pay attention to God (passionate spirituality) and pay attention to the poor (compassionate ministries), and God will pay attention to you.” This is why Hungry For Life combines two uniquely different but vitally unified ministries: 1. revival & renewal, and 2. relief & development.
The life that Christ came to give us abundantly can return to the North American Church. However, it will cost us everything. To focus on pursuing the face of God and to focus on serving the poor will likely cost us our comfort, our safety, our security and maybe even our lives. The scary thing is that the cost of not living this life is far greater.