Dan Edelan over at Cerulean Sanctum just posted a very well-written and wholly biblical view of what the church of today really needs.
Read it here.
There are a lot of folks calling for a renewed focus on the church serving the "least of these". A call that is long overdue, but certainly not new. This is a repetition of a social cycle that has played out once already even in my lifetime. Mainstream Protestant denominations began a social justice movement some 40-50 years ago decrying the same disregard the rest of the church had for those in poverty. And certainly much good was done.
Because of having seen this cycle play out over and over again - even in my own relatively short lifetime - I'm always a bit nervous when we pick a "cause" to champion rather than focusing on becoming like the Christ - because I believe the former has always resulted in the exultation of self and our accomplishments whereas the latter will result in the right causes being addressed while exalting God and humbling us.
Obviously some have used this as an excuse for inaction - inaction that the church should not long tolerate. But that is the risk God took. And it is his risk to take - not ours. Our care of the widows, the orphans, the poor, our neighbor are by-products of a life invaded by God's presence and transformed into a Kingdom-kind-of-life. Reversing the order always results in idolatry.
The church has too often and too long tolerated lack of real discipleship. But in our fervor to *do* something, we have often substituted the idolatry of action over the transformation of the self in the presence of God. The upshot being that causes fade, enthusiasm wanes and celebrity-driven efforts are forgotten. But the converted disciple continues to serve.
Having said all that, it is clear that much of the American church has fallen asleep to the call of discipleship - to personal transformation that rejects materialism, rejects the world's value system and becomes an outpost of God's Kingdom. The church needs real teaching on what it means to be a disciple - and on the dangers of syncretism, accomodation and assimilation.