Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Can Bankruptcy be a New Beginning?

The worst thing that can happen in our modern economy is to go bankrupt. It is essentially the death of our independence. In declaring bankruptcy, we admit that we have come to the end our resources. We throw ourselves on the mercy of the courts for protection from our creditors. A judge decides if there is any hope of viability and if there is not, he orders liquidation. If there is hope, the judge orders development of a new business plan. No more "business-as-usual."

Working in the auto industry I have observed first hand my company go through bankruptcy. Long before the crisis, we operated at a loss more years than not. But we always had enough cash reserve, enough credit, and the really deep pockets of a parent company to cover up the negative slope of our trend line. We knew the trend would cross zero one day, but we deluded ourselves that "some day" was in the distant future. Until that day came, we kept paying people to build product and buy product that no one really wanted. The long-term assumptions and fatal errors continued. We had no incentive to change....until the bottom fell out. The day of reckoning had come! So, what does bankruptcy have to do with with faith and life?

To become a Christian and live out a full life of discipleship, we must accept our personal bankruptcy. Without coming to the end our resources and the end of ourselves, we cannot truly follow Christ as His disciples. Instead we are left with our own presumption of grace. We know that a price was paid, but we have no idea how much, because we assumed we never really needed it. Our salvation has no real value. It's just a given.

We must also face the corporate bankruptcy of our churches and denominations. The trend line will cross zero one day. It is a cop-out to say "the way is narrow" and "few there be that find it". More likely our decline is due to the fact that we are increasingly disconnected from society and have become insular. All our energies are used to preserve the status quo. We become inconsequential to those around us. We become irrelevant to society at large. We are salt that has lost its savor.

But perhaps we will be able to step out of ourselves and our churches long enough to recognize the trend lines. We might just see that we aren't having much of a redemptive effect on those around us. May God give us the incentive to change. May He help us to make the painful and necessary changes that we might become outposts of His Kingdom in this world. Individually and collectively.