Has the church become obsessed with the pursuit of leisure and comfort? Have we forgotten the urgency of the Gospel and what treasure we possess?
I’ve been a part of the “Christian scene” for a good part of my life, but as I’ve learned more and more over the years I’ve only become disappointed.
This past Sunday I witnessed a truly powerful, yet devastating message. The church we’re currently attending welcomed a visiting pastor from India. He was a soft, compassionate brother with a radiant love for God and people. He preached on conversion and how only God has the power to change hearts and lives and that our job is to simply present the Gospel and its truth. It was a harrowing message and it reminded me that, as an apologist, our reasoning isn’t ever going to convince everyone. Our responsibility isn’t to convert with intellectual reasoning but to show that the Gospel message is set in firm historical and philosophical truth. Christianity is so much more than empty intellectual truths. Fulfillment and resurrection are things only God can provide.
While I can’t go into details here, we were shown the devasting situation India is in right now. If you are an Indian Christian you are likely to be persecuted in horrific ways (we were shown footage of a terrorist attack that easily breached R-ratings). Yet, despite the odds, they continue to preach the Gospel with even more fervency and as a result more and more are coming to Christ. The pastor said that when one converts to Christianity over there, it isn’t a blind emotional experience as if it’s nothing more than a comforting idea. For them, it’s a real, tangible truth that they are willing to suffer unspeakable pain for.
We hear how the disciples were murdered for their faith but I don’t think we realize exactly what they went through. The disciples weren’t ones to believe anything. They had boats because they didn’t believe men could walk on water. They worked for food because they didn’t believe men could produce thousands of fish from the sky. Joseph’s first thought after hearing Mary was pregnant was that she committed adultery. They buried men in tombs and graves because they didn’t believe people could rise from the dead. Yet we see that every single disciple, no matter what suffering and pain was inflicted, never once recanted their faith. That they saw the physical body of Jesus walk among them after His death. The same thing is happening in India today.
In the modern West, we’re seeing the opposite scenario, for better and for worse. Persecution is a horrible, horrible thing, but the lack of any outside threat has made the church complacent. I thought New Atheism could be the thing to get Christians to stand and/or change but they’re hardly doing a good job these days. They’re still using “The God Delusion” as a knockout punch and their movement isn’t firing on all cylinders. What is happening within that group is far from alluring. If the only thing your group has in common is a lack of belief in a god division is only inevitable.
On the other hand turn on any sort of Christian entertainment or popular adherent and it becomes apparent our culture is obsessed with leisure. We want everything the easy way. We want to feel assured and good about ourselves. We possess an ideology that will change lives for eternity, a message that will free the hurting and bound, and above all the Holy Spirit, the person that provides life and healing. But you wouldn’t be able to tell this by our entertainment, how we spend our time in the church, and how we’re using our resources.
We have the means to spread the Gospel far and wide, but when the majority of our resources is used to make us feel psychologically secure or that we’re entitled to some kind of temporary wealth, something is wrong. Our faith lies in the hard truth that Jesus rose from the dead, not in the new Hillsong tune or a prophecy for a harvest from a televangelist praying through the TV. It saddens me deeply that for many Christianity is seen as no more than a Christianized version of life’s pleasantries. I may even venture to guess this is an effort to spare ourselves from preaching a Gospel that offends. It’s easier to surround ourselves in positive “Christian” content than to devote ourselves to the Gospel. Then we wonder why young folks with honest questions are leaving the faith. We’re presenting a caricature that Christ never called us to preach.
If the church has nothing but the self in mind I fear it will be a long time before our culture breaks away from that. If we don’t shake off the pursuit of pleasant diversions we may end up looking at far darker things that offer a firmer ground for them.