I’ve been mulling over the things I brought up in the last post for several days now, and want to offer up some thoughts on how I see this problem manifesting itself more tangibly. If you haven’t read it, the issue I brought up was the consumeristic and knowledge-centered tendencies of current Christianity, and I wondered whether it might just partially be a result of the incredible, unprecedented access we have to sermons, books, training programs, and other resources as English-speaking Christians in the “West.” These are obviously great things in and of themselves, but I wonder whether they may be having unintended consequences on us and our faith.
What kind of consequences? Well, here are a few things that have come to mind this week. And just to be clear, I am guilty of every single one of these. I don’t have space to go into detail on all of them, but would love to hear your thoughts/additions/subtractions!
1. We critique sermons rather than letting them critique us.
How many times have you had the conversation after church: “What did you think of the sermon?” “It was ok, last week’s was better.” “Yeah, it was kind of [insert long list of specific flaws].” While I definitely don’t think we should ever listen to sermons uncritically, there is a difference between evaluating and filtering for truth, and critiquing every word and its delivery according to our own selfish desires. The preaching of the Word is not a lecture. The point is not to hear a new nugget of information ingeniously encapsulated in an alliterative format and memorize it. A sermon is the proclaiming of truths that our hearts need to hear, not just our minds. I think we should be asking and expecting to be challenged and confronted through preaching–not merely informed. We should be listening with humility, letting God’s Word critique us.
2. We become personally out-of-touch with the enormity of the claims of the Christian faith.
I could talk about this all day, but I won’t. The point is, we believe that GOD became a PERSON, DIED, and CAME BACK TO LIFE, ushering in an entirely NEW MODE OF EXISTENCE, REUNITING CREATION TO CREATOR. That is not a “duh” statement. That is an unbelievably huge claim! It is not the same thing as saying, “It looks like it might rain today.” And yet how often do we react to it almost the same way? I wonder if we hear statements like that so often that it has blunted the gospel’s force as it strikes us. As Paul Tripp likes to say, we’ve lost our awe.
3. We become out-of-touch with what we are saying in evangelism.
Problem #2 is plays itself out in many arenas, but none more so than in our evangelism. Jesus made incredibly strong claims during his time on earth. So much so that people tended to either not believe him or find his message too challenging to commit to. To hear the dispassionate and flippant ways that so many people share and talk about their faith, I can’t help but sometimes wonder if they know what they’re saying! When we ask people to believe in Jesus as Lord and to follow him, we are asking people to literally start a new life! Everything changes. There are things that are central to people’s lives and identities that they have to give up to follow him. That is a huge deal. What if we’ve read so many books on evangelism formulas that we have forgotten that? People (rightly) can see that disconnect from a mile away, and it makes the supposedly unbelievable good news we purport to share very hard to believe.
4. We become disciples of [insert high-profile pastor here] instead of Jesus Christ.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. No offense, but Driscollites are the worst.
5. We become de-skilled in our own study of the Scriptures.
Commentaries and sermon series podcasts are wonderful things. But it makes perfect sense to me to think that our ability, willingness, and quickness to turn to those things would stunt our own ability to study and interpret the Bible. I’m not saying we should ignore commentaries, or that everyone’s interpretation of Scripture is just as valid as everyone else’s. I just think it would probably be good for us to do some of the hard work of working through a text ourselves a lot more often. Not to mention that this is frequently the way we become Piperites or Wrightites, or otherites. We listen to what they have to say about a passage, and from that day on, read it only through their lens.
Again, there are more I could list. But what are your thoughts?