It’s been over four months since my last blog post. Why? In a nutshell: GTN has been in the middle of the single most significant growth in our eight years. By God’s grace, we’ve added 24 new staff in the last 9 months – going from 40 staff to over 60. Along with managing the growth, we have implemented five substantial (and much needed) organizational structures and systems to help deal with the current and future growth in a healthy manner. All that to say, I’ve been running at a fairly fast clip.
On top of all this, we currently have another 8 to 10 couples that are in the process of potentially coming on staff in the near future. God is certainly on the move…and we are on our knees.
Thanks for your patience…and prayers.
Now for my blog post for this week….
A few years ago, Chuck Colson wrote an article entitled: “Beyond ‘Jesus and Me’.” The article described “Christian culture” in America today in a poignant way.
What is the Christian faith all about? One thing’s for sure-it’s about a lot more than your, or my, personal happiness.
Christian Smith of the University of North Carolina…a sociologist, has studied American Christianity in depth. In his book Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Life of American Teenagers, Smith writes that the “de facto dominant religion” among American teenagers is what he calls “moral therapeutic deism.”
According to this “religion,” God created and watches over the world but otherwise is only to be called upon to solve problems. All He requires is that people be nice and fair to each other, “as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.” Not surprisingly, “the central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.”
Smith notes that moral therapeutic deism is “more than a little visible” among conservative protestant teenagers. And it’s not only teenagers. As theologian Albert Mohler has pointed out, what Smith describes is a belief “held by a large percentage of Americans.”
This kind of pabulum is the logical outcome of reducing the entirety of the Christian faith to “Jesus and me.” This Jesus does not challenge the way we see the world, much less how we live in it because He wants us to be happy; so He sanctions our desires.
Of course, as I’ve argued in my most recent book, The Faith, this Jesus bears little, if any, resemblance to the Jesus of the Scriptures and historic Christianity.
Back in the Fall of 1993 (when our young church plant was only three years old) I preached a series of sermons (six month’s worth) entitled: “Consumer Christianity: Moving from Man-Centered Living to God-Centered Abandon.”
I began the series with this statement: “I believe that we (the Christian church nationwide) have bought into the ‘man-centered, consumer-driven, convenience-oriented mentality’ when it comes to the church in America… and it’s not honoring to God.”
The first passage we looked at was 2 Timothy 3:1-5, where it says…
“But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self,…” (NASB)
Here are several of the quotes that were peppered throughout the series…
“So while the church may seem to be experiencing a season of growth and prosperity [my note: which, by the way, it was back in the early 90’s], it is failing to move people to commitment and sacrifice. The hard truth is that we have substituted an institutionalized religion for the life-changing dynamic of a living faith.” (Chuck Colson)
Colson goes on to say, “I have long been bewildered by the paradox Gallup describes as ‘religion up, morality down.'”
It reminds me of what the Apostle Paul writes in Titus 1:16, “They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him…” (NASB).
“The roots of the church’s identity crisis are found in the consumer mentality so pervasive in our culture. Aside from those hierarchical denominations that assign members to the parish in which they live, most Americans are free to choose which church they will join or attend. And choose they do.
Ask people what they look for in a church and the number one response is “fellowship.”
Other answers range from “good sermons” to “the music program” to “youth activities for the kids” to “it makes me feel good”. People flit about in search of what suits their taste at the moment. It’s what some have called the”McChurch” mentality. Today it might be McDonald’s for a Big Mac; tomorrow it’s Wendy’s salad bar; or perhaps the wonderful chicken sandwiches at Chick-Fil-A. Thus, the church becomes just another retail outlet, faith just another commodity. People change congregations and preachers and even denominations as readily as they change banks or grocery stores!”
As someone once put it: “We are not selling a product to a consumer, but proclaiming a savior to a sinner.”
Gregory Lewis once said, “God is not a product to be pushed, but a King to be obeyed!”
The late Leonard Ravenhill, the well-known writer on revival, once said: “The church in America is 20 miles wide but only one inch deep!”
I have always been intrigued when traveling through the Majority World as to how Christians in most of these countries have no concept of what we refer to here as“church hopping.” In most of these nations, there is only one church within a several mile proximity (with no cars to get around) that they can attend – they haveno choice! And they learn to make it work – and learn to grow together as a body through the good times and bad times.
In the beginning of John chapter 6, we see Jesus feeding the 5,000 and then walking on water. The next day, on the other side of the lake, he runs into some of those that he had fed the day before.
Pay close attention to what the text says in vv. 25-26, “When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.'”
In other words, Jesus was saying to them: “You’re not converts. You’re consumers. You’re like stray cats that follow, not out of any attachment to a new owner, but because they remember who fed them last.”
Remember what the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3? “…in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self…”
Next week I’ll share a few more quotes and thoughts from my 1993 series on“Consumer Christianity: Moving from Man-Centered Living to God-Centered Abandon.”
And finally, a quote to ponder…
“God’s primary concern is our holiness, not our happiness.”
(Note: In the coming weeks I will also be wrapping up the last few blog posts on “10 Lessons I Wish (as a pastor) that I had Known, Understood, Believed and Lived 30 Years Ago” and then combining all 10 lessons into one single PDF file for pastors, church planters and other young leaders to use and pass along).