Making progress in the right places

Richard Swenson, author of the book Margin, suggests that there are five basic environments in which humans engage:

  1. Physical environment (wealth, technology, health – the material world)
  2. Cognitive environment (knowledge, information, education – the intellectual world)
  3. Social environment (family, friends, neighbors, church – the societal world)
  4. Emotional environment (feelings, attitudes – the psychological world)
  5. Spiritual environment (the eternal and transcendent – God)

Swenson makes the case, I think rightly so, that most of the progress we are seeing these days is in the first two environments: physical and cognitive.

The issue is not that we are progressing but the lack of balance in our progression! Swenson writes, “While the progress we boast of is found within the material and cognitive environments, most of the pain we suffer is found within the social, emotional, and spiritual.”

While our computers are faster, our lives are longer, our knowledge base is deeper, and our education is better… we are regularly stunned by the REGRESSION in the social, emotional, and spiritual environments.

I believe that the job of the church is to capitalize on the progress being made in the physical and cognitive environments in order that we might lead the way in developing healthy social, emotional, and spiritual environments!

I want healthy families more than I want fast computers.

I want leaders with integrity more than I want big bank accounts.

I want spiritual development more than I want safer cars.

I want emotionally sound people more than I want quicker access to more information.

I want people to have real friendships more than I want the cure to every disease.

The GREAT NEWS is that I believe this is not an either/or proposition! It’s a both/and! We can experience progress in all of these environments when we grab a hold of the key…

Swenson writes,

Where do you think God would have us search for answers regarding drugs, crime, divorce, suicide, depression, teenage pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, and litigation? In the material and cognitive realms, or in the relational ones? Our society tries in vain to remedy these problems using the popular notions of progress – appropriating more money (that is,  material/physical answers) and setting up more classes (that is, cognitive/educational answers). But insufficient funds and lack of education are not the problems. The problem is lack of love.

Church, the Bible tells us that God has poured His love into our hearts and that the distinguishing mark of a Christian is the way we love one another! In this world that is progressing faster than a hungry man towards a bowl of Skyline Chili, what is needed most is exactly what God has given us in unlimited supply… LOVE!

We will experience healthy, balanced progress in all five environments when we put love first. When we love God and our neighbor as ourself we will see progress that we can live with and celebrate!

So, who are you going to love today? Not sure what that looks like? Check out this link…

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