Lesson from the Mamas and Papas

January 25, 2008

In the song by The Mamas and the Papas called “California Dreaming”, John Phillips sings: “You know the Preacher likes the cold, he knows I’m gonna stay.” The songwriter is saying that the preacher in California likes the fact that the cold of wherever this guy is from is driving him to California where he will settle down and stay. And everyone from Minnesota said, “Amen”.

I was at a conference of Church Planters this week and at one dinner table we were discussing the financial collapse that is currently happening in our country. With dropping house prices and stagnant wages, it is going to be a hardship for many people (and already is for some). But is there a silver lining? If there is, it might have to do with Church Growth and health. When the economy turns in this country, people are much less likely to make risky moves. When things are booming, people are tempted to cash in the profit on their homes and move where the next fortune can be made. This causes the local church to suffer the difficulties of an ever-changing human landscape. Here in Sacramento, with double-digit percentage drop in house equity, threat of floods, rise in unemployment, and very little relief in sight, it is doubtful that anyone wants to make a huge move right now.

That may mean people will stay put for awhile and actually put down roots into the community. That, by the way, is the only way a community really has a chance of being a nice place to live: When the people who live there have been there for a long time.

This preacher likes the current economy. Well, perhaps like is too strong a word…maybe I can appreciate that there is a side to it that can work to God’s advantage. There usually is. Remember Acts 8 and the great expansion of the early church which happened because a huge persecution arose against the church and spread them running to many regions of the world. God often uses hard times to get His work done.



  1. Nothing grows community like crisis. The fires we had down here in So Cal really brought some people together. after reading this I am excited to see what happens in our shiny new community of Murrieta and Temecula

  2. I am on the endangered species list–a native Californian of almost five decades. While California has always been a place where people came to escape colder regions and to make their fortune, I have noticed a shift in the way immigration plays out. My parents, and my friends parents, came to California to set roots and stay until they died. These were the folks who came for jobs in factories, logging, construction, shipping, and a vast supply of other industries. There were also a large number of people who came here to serve in the military and decided to remain after their service was finished. My childhood pastor was one. He came to a Northern California community over fifty years ago. He buried his wife there and he will die there. Sorry, got off trck. After the dot com bust, my family in Sunnyvale said the mass exodus was stunning. They tell me the town went from busy and congested to slow and sleepy in a few months. People moved out in droves. I think many went to other parts of the state, but a large number went to other states, or countries.

    Locally, I work in an office of six people, counting myself (we are a microcosm of California). Three are from other countries, and none of these immigrants have definite plans to remain in California until they die. One definitely plans to move back to her native country after she retires.

    The face of our church has completely changed in the last five years and it is likely to change again in the next five years. It is difficult to have a grounded feeling of community and place in an atmosphere like this. It also makes me feel like my state is being used like a cheap floozy. Most of my family has remained here in the good times and the hard, but it is getting more difficult to stay through the tough seasons. When the jobs and the busyness go, California can be a hard place to hang on, specially in the smaller single-industry communities. But what makes it most difficult to stay behind is watching your friends leave.

    Let’s pray that we are spared from economic recession.

    By the way, I always found it amusing that people come here to escape cold weather and snow when California has always been a place of catastrophic fires, earthquakes, floods, mudslides, drought, and a state government that seems perpetually broken. But I suppose the grass still looks greener from other places.

    Still, California is quite a place, is it not? Where else can we find the freedom to be as free-thinkig and weird as we wanna be without cultural disapproval? Peace baby!

  3. I think it is time to stop focusing exclusively on our immediate world when we pray. We seem stuck in a self-centered predisposition. Perhaps it is time to think big when we pray. There is nothing wrong with praying for personal economic security, health, church health, and the prosperity of the community where we live. But we have some real dangers that threaten the physical and economic life of our country. Should we not spend more time praying for our government leaders, our military (whether you agree with their missions or not), corporate leaders, labor leaders, economic leaders, and our church leaders? While husbands, wives, sons, and daughters fight at the enemy’s gates in foreign lands, we wring our hands in angst because the economy is shaky and our world of commerce might suffer.

    And what about our missionaries who are in the middle of some very dangerous places around the world? Many of us forget about missionaries except during missions week. I am not an economist, but I suspect that if we go into a recession, giving will go down and missionaries will suffer. So how do we change our thinking so that we frequently pray for these folks?

    I pray with a group of guys almost every week and I can’t recall the last time we prayed for something, or someone, outside our own local world. It has resulted in some wonderful healings, but I am beginning to think our prayers should extend beyond our close circle.

    Let’s pray for our economy, but let’s not forget there are other looming problems as well.

  4. Anonymous: As I have taught for years, prayer reaches places in this world faster and more effectively than traveling there ever could. Having said that, my friend Gordy McDonald likes to say that when we have been somewhere or are somewhere, it is easier for God to get our attention to pray for that place. However, the best way to approach prayer is to pray what God wants you to pray, when God wants you to pray it, for as long as God wants you to pray it. That is called “Strategic Level Intercession”.

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