Dear God, I heard two different pastors today say, in essence, “The church is soft.” The first was Andy Stanley’s September 13, 2020 Sermon (Be Rich 2020). Here is a quote from it:
“[Questions regarding COVID-19 that ask if these are the end times or if God is punishing us and we need to repent] are not the kinds of questions that first-century Christians asked when faced with similar circumstances. And, just my opinion, I think our fascination with these kinds of questions reveal, in some cases a limited knowledge or a limited understanding of history and of the suffering that people in other parts of the world have had to navigate for generations, and that many people were navigating in this generation before the appearance of COVID-19. Which makes me wonder–perhaps the question we all should be asking is this one: Why, why do Americans, and I’m including myself, why do Americans have such a low pain threshold? Because we really do, don’t we? Me included. And part of the answer to this question is, ‘We are so blessed. We are so resourced. We’ve been so protected.’ And those of you who have traveled to different and difficult regions of the world, you know this to be the case. You know that us Americans have high expectations of how we expect or deserve to be treated. We don’t want to be told no. We feel like we have the right to do pretty much whatever we want. In fact, think about this. The fact that fights have broken out and guns have been drawn over wearing a face mask in Walmart, on airliners…I mean, that should tell us a little something about our low tolerance for discomfort.
Later, I was mowing the lawn and couldn’t decide what I wanted to listen to, so I pulled up some recordings I have of Chuck Swindoll teaching a survey of the different books of the Bible. This was probably recorded in the 1981-ish time period. In the one on Acts he said:
“May I interrupt this time to say something straight to all of us? I don’t think we are tough enough in this generation. Now there are some beautiful exceptions, and you who are tough, you who are resilient, you spur us on when we get weak. But for the most part the church is getting a little flabby. Getting a little lazy. We get a little persecution that washes over us and, oh my, we’re ready to close up the book, and walk away and say, ‘Leave it to somebody else.’ I long for that pioneer spirit that didn’t just simply make this country great, but it made the church great. Some of those soldiers of the cross. Those warriors of the land. Those who refuse to lay back and let the responsibility rest with just a few off there in the limelight. People who rolled up their sleeves. Stout-hearted Christian men and women who put it together and stayed to the task. If you find yourself a little lazy, a little laid back more than you once were. If it’s beginning to bother you get a big dose of the book of Acts.
The order in which this all came up for me this morning was first listening to Andy Stanley’s sermon based out of Acts while I was working out and then I decided to listen to Chuck Swindoll’s survey of Acts while I was mowing the lawn. It’s interesting that both of them, when comparing the modern American church to the church in Acts, said the modern American church is soft.
I still think back on an editorial I read for a Christian back in the 2016 election cycle. He said that Christians in America have made an idol out of the Supreme Court. We vote for a President who we think will nominate the justices we want, and then we sit back and wait for them to do our work for us. There are two problems with that strategy: 1.) We abdicate our need to get involved and 2.) the conservative-leaning court often votes against what the conservatives wanted (e.g. it was a conservative court that ruled on Roe v. Wade). For for pro-life Christians, are we ready to do the work to support women and help them NOT choose abortion and, should something happen and abortion be outlawed in parts of the nation, are we ready to step up and work to help those children and their mothers?
Another question is, should church leadership hide from religious persecution. Should we want a government that will protect us as Christians, or should we want to experience the struggle of the church against the culture because it is the struggle that makes us stronger? As Swindoll put it, we are flabby. Said another way, we are fat and happy, and that’s a dangerous place to me. And when I say, “We,” I’m right in there with the rest. One of my biggest weaknesses as a leader at work is that I shun risk for safety. How much does my desire for safety limit my willingness to hear what you might be calling me to do.
Father, help me to not run from risk, but to prudently determine your will for me. Help me to shun self-pity when it comes to how I (or my church) am treated by society. Help me to embrace the responsibility to innovate under your guidance and provision. Help me to accept personal failure if it means advancing your Kingdom.
In Jesus’s name I pray,