What's Happening to the Church
by Josh Hickok*
A religious leader has been taken into custody after a twenty-year-long spree of sexual assault. The ______ Church divided on the same sex marriage issue. Over half of Church-going young adults lose their faith in college, and studies show they are among the leaders in alcohol related abuse. Headline after headline, story after story, professing Christians make a fool out of Christianity by behaving more ungodly than the crowd they preach to. What impact does this have on the authority and truthfulness of the message given by Christ two millennia ago? Was there a defect in His teaching, or is this something that the human nature is forever witness to – our fallen state? These questions must be confronted by every believer – both in his personal relationship with God and his active duty in the community.
Society often points to the many misses of the “Christian” body to support and justify their own behavior. After all, if God’s own followers are allowed to be sexually irresponsible, indifferent to the poor and the suffering, and act no different than the rest of the population from Sunday afternoon on through the rest of the week, no wonder they feel they are “good” people. However, Paul tells us that that “no one is righteous” (Rom. 3: 10). If that is the case, then what right do we have to tell someone to clean up his or her act? The answer is simple – we tell them that God tells them to repent. It is obvious that we do things wrong (at least, it was until recently), Christians and non-Christians.
Does this mean we have an excuse to do things wrong? Absolutely not! Again, Paul writes in Ephesians that we are to “Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise… Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is” (Eph. 5: 15, 17). God wants us to clean up our act, and to be the city on a hill (Matt. 5: 14). This brings us to the hardest part of the whole deal – why, then, do so many in the church do this?
There are a few conclusions, some obvious and some sobering. The first is that there are a lot of “baby” Christians. While this is a real possibility, it’s not likely that the church is full of a bunch of young people with a short history of involvement in the body of Christ. This entails an obvious conclusion- perhaps there are a lot of baby Christians, but not necessarily young ones. This seems to be a real danger. It means that many people go to church once or twice a week, nod their head and drink the spiritual milk, but never make any real progress. This could be because they aren’t willing to step out of their comfort zone and into a serious commitment (which should make one concerned for their eternal standing) or the other real possibility that the church leaders aren’t giving them any “meat” to chew on. Every Sunday millions of people go to a service to hear a sermon that delivers a few jokes, features a preacher with a lovely personality, and gives either seven or ten everyday pointers on how to be a better person. There is no talk of such things as the rising population of cults in America (such as Mormonism) or of the dangerous (possibly heretical) views of God’s nature that is permeating even the most orthodox of Evangelical circles (namely, open theism). We are taught to love our neighbor, but not what the real meaning of love is (especially tough love). In other words, the world sees a bunch of people not coming to grips with their faith and its implications, but people who never learn how ferocious a combatant sin is and how real its effects are. We are sending kids to do a soldier’s job.
The second possibility, depressing though brutally frank, is that there are many people who do not believe what the Bible says. Now, we must distinguish between knowing and believing. Knowledge is almost like an object – it is fact, stark and unforgiving. Belief, on the other hand, is more of an action, or at least entails action (either mental or physical). Someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder may very well know that his hands are clean (due to the fact he’s washed them forty-two times straight), but he doesn’t believe it. That’s the difference between a professing Christian and a true believer. While the former may think this way or that, due to the way he or she was brought up, it has yet to sink in, and the comfortable atmosphere of people in the same boat as this person allows an extremely easy “out” instead of confronting the conclusions of his professed faith. The Bible repeatedly speaks of our salvation changing the way we act – the outside evidence of an inside makeover. So whatever the actual standing these people have with our Creator, the outside world sees no difference. And like Grandpa always said, “If it looks like a skunk, smells like a skunk, feels and sounds like a skunk, it probably is a skunk.” I’ll end this part on that note.
What you can do…
The easiest way to start a fire is to find a flame. There is a lot of straw in this world, and is just so happens that the Lord has placed one heck of a match in our hands – truth. People are either attracted to it or repulsed by it. Don’t worry about what people think of your actions. As long as you are doing it God’s way (speaking the truth in love – always important!) people will notice, and they know when you are being genuine. Remember, if a small band of fisherman in a small backwater country can change the entire world, how about a church of one hundred people?
*Inspired by my wife
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