May 1, 2019

“Deliver those who are being taken away to death, and those who are staggering to slaughter, oh hold them back. If you say, “See we did not know this.” Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts? And does He not know it who keeps your soul? And will He not render to man according to his work?” Proverbs 24: 11, 12

There is an ignored “Elephant” roaming the domains of modern, American, Christianity that needs to be introduced. He has no name but his behavior is both unmistakable and unseemly, for he doesn’t represent either the purpose of Jesus, as announced to his disciples, to “go and make disciples”, nor does his image do the mission of the Church any favors. But by his sheer weight, size and presence he not only commands attention and admiration, but has also shifted the focus of the Church toward himself and away from our unpretentious, purposeful and powerful mission given by our Savior, Jesus!

Let me introduce this unwanted “elephant” that has taken over our environs by way of a few pertinent observations and mission questions. The I will provide a final recommendation for his removal and a biblical path for our return to the “simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3)

Observation #1: This country is on philosophical and political fire; tempers are short, arguments reign, civility is in hiding, rancor rules. Like a burning building, everyone is watching but no one is picking up a hose.

What has happened to us?

Observation #2: Most American Christians have quit taking about their faith and actively sharing Christ-which is the sole purpose Christ left us here, to share His testimony to the world before He returns. And why have we sluffed off this privilege, this purpose – persecution? Sadly no, instead it’s because we have little spiritual vigor and mission passion. We fat and Lazy American believers have grown passive and complacent. Satan took away our voice by pleasure and passivity – not persecution!

Have I offended anyone yet?

Observation #3: After Easter service I was struck hard by an agonizing and growing realization that many people who call Jesus their savior are actually spectators and consumers of religious presentations not personally engaged in the “spiritual disciples”: bible study, prayer, service and outreach . We’ve become the proverbial hearers of the word, not effectual doers… (James 1:22-25).

What I observed last weekend, I see every week, just the number of Easter “worshippers” amplified the observation. Every week Christians, used to being served and catered to as consumers, show up for “church”.

Now the word “church” is a synonym for the body of Christ which means the church gathered (Ekklesia) and engaged in a personal relationship with Jesus. That means when you, I and other believers are gathered for Christian fellowship – we are acting as “The Church”. But today “church” for non-Christians is known as… a building for public and especially Christian worship(Merriam Webster Dictionary). How about that! The world has distilled the new Testament definition of “church” to a mere physical structure and they’ve no doubt arrived at the conclusion by simply stating what they see – Jesus people showing up at a building, like post hibernating bears, every Sunday, then retreating back to their slumber Monday; disappearing for the week…

Unfortunately, the definition of “church” for believers is not much better – it’s nomenclature for an assembly of attendees who are often mere onlookers; sitting at a “house of worship”, expecting to be served. The expected “service” is typically a program, in stylish form, of worship and information, containing announcements, music, speaking, prayers and a sermon.

No wonder the church is struggling to find its voice and impact in these turbulent times – times where people, worldwide, are looking for a true, best, doable solution to life’s harshness, disappointments and, even, death itself. We, who have The Answer, traded our voice for a crowd gathering spectacle of religion rather than equip an army of servants, bent on personal dedication to Jesus and the cause of Christ; an engaged army because they realize they are privileged to serve in an incomparable mission with an inimitable Leader. Our resultant failure has decoupled us from a world looking for purpose worth living for, a leader worth following and a believable path to it.

So, when they look at us, today, do they see what they are looking for or just another “interest group” with a disinteresting micro culture?

Sadly, we are floundering in our own dilemma – how to get Christians successfully engaged with their faith, with their neighbors, while the society we live in, like ancient Rome, “burns”.

Stop – before you think otherwise, this isn’t a complaint or gripe. It’s an introspection; a call to meditate on this subject for a few minutes. I happen to think its worth some thought. For, if we can diagnose a gap in our methodology or ecclesiology, (“The Church”) then we can fix it.

So what do you think? How we doing; are we as engaged, personally, with our faith as Jesus desires? If not, what can we do to ratchet up our initiative, interest and involvement? And how can we help others, see the light, so to speak?

Mission question: How does this relate to the Master’s Men? Simple, my conclusion is that we’re in a full blown paradigm shift as a society, as well as the church. This “structural shift” has created a divergence that is palpable, startling and needs to be addressed. It’s a divergence that separates average “believer” from average citizen. The new society (today’s non believer) sees most mainline religious systems as irrelevant; including Christianity. This new society chooses to ignore the standard religious supposition that truth is found in a source outside of our “selves” (namely God and His word).

Instead, the New Society – mostly due to them not seeing any profound difference in our lives, given the “out-look” we hold sacred – are migrating to a philosophy that views truth more esoteric than exegetical and thereby, self-revealed and self-sufficient. This has caused social/spiritual disruption in society, especially between Boomers and many Millennials, when juxtaposed with the upcoming society of “Generation Z”. Many of the Generation Z people (those born between 1990 and early 2000’s) view Christianity with anything from disinterest to disdain. They have little regard for a fundamental belief about man, God, sin, salvation and the power of the Holy Spirit as requisite for the abundant life; that is intrinsic to the Gospel and the Hallmark of Christianity (John 10:10).

And that hurts – right? why should they regard us – what do the outsiders see about our lifestyle that arouses a desire to explore our beliefs when they see us disoriented, disconnected and disillusioned, ourselves, about God, salvation and His power to make our lives’ fruitful, meaningful and hopeful?

Is there a solution? Of course there is. It’s called… To Be Continued (see the June article).