The Gospel According to Niall Ferguson?

crumbling church buildingYou may have heard of Harvard history professor Niall Ferguson.  TCP and I heard him speak last night here and it was one of those delightful one of events that breaks me out of Church World.

According to Niall (which I was hoping was pronounced ‘Nile’ but alas is pronounced ‘Neel’):  A rich United States is good for the whole world.  But the U.S. is not as wealthy today because:

  • We’ve breached the contract between generations. (“Those over 70 consume more than double what those under 20 consume via Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security.)
  • Regulation in business – especially small business – has exploded.  (“Since 1993, over 81,000 new regulations have become law.”)
  • The Rule of Law has shifted to The Rule of Lawyers.  (“The tort system needs only stupid judges and opportunistic litigants to thrive.“)
  • Associational life has been diminished.  (See Bowling Alone.)

He lost me a bit when he praised Margaret Thatcher.  And I disagreed with him on some other things as well.  But – here’s where we move to Church World – some of Ferguson’s points inform the 21st Century Church:

  • Does our budget reflect our desire to raise young followers of Jesus?  Examples: The sanctuary is freshly painted and clean, but the nursery and children’s classrooms are dingy and filled with broken furniture and toys.  There are no people under 40 in the congregation and there is no plan for reaching out to those who are not yet with us.
  • Is everything over-regulated and institutionalized?  Examples:  We have to have a chili dinner every October.  Ms. B has to be the  Vacation Bible School Director every summer.  We always have old hymn sing-a-longs every Sunday in August.
  • Have we become Pharisees in terms of how we run things?  Examples:  We nit pick over meaningless things in order to hinder more important work.  I once worked in an office that had a rule about bringing dogs to work.  But you could bring your cat.   And we talked about this policy for an hour. Really. 
  • Are we about activities instead of relationships?  Examples:  we have calendars full of church activities but nobody really knows anyone else.  Conversation is cordial, but there are no deep relationships with each other.  Or with Jesus.

Professor Ferguson is not a theologian, but everything is spiritual.

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