Recently a pillar from my childhood church committed suicide. This tragedy was one more in a series of flame-outs by members of the Charismatic church I grew up in. As a pre-teen I was drawn to their fervent expression of following Jesus. As the years have passed, I’ve grown more and more disillusioned by the disparity between their youthful zeal, and eventual decline. It’s not just moral failures either. There is a general lack of enthusiasm among some who didn’t flame out. And many of them espouse conservative politics as much or more than Jesus.
A young participant on a forum made similar observations about the adult Christians of his childhood. Here is his question and my answer.
I’ve been raised in a Christian home. My parents are Christians. The people I’ve hung out with my whole life are Christians. As I get older, (I’m currently 18) I’ve noticed that many of the Christians I grew up with don’t seem too concerned with following Jesus in their lifestyle. While they arrive at Church every Sunday, and talk about being Christians, in an ultimate sense, it doesn’t seem to me that their motivation for anything really comes from love of Christ. I won’t judge about whether these people are saved or not. I’m content to leave that part up to God. My question is: how might I spur these people on to the point where love of Christ <em>is</em> their ultimate motivation for whatever they do? How can I somehow help these people to value Christ as they should? Is it enough just to “set the example” by my own lifestyle? Or is there an active way I can go about this?
When I was your age, I was passionate about the problem of lukewarm Christianity. I was especially frustrated that reaching out to nonreligious people wasn’t a priority. The churches in my small town sponsored a community “Singsperation” whenever there was a 5th Sunday in the month. People from all the churches gathered to share songs. I was totally into Keith Green at the time. As a piano player I loved his style. And was challenged by his message. So, I learned the song “Asleep in the light” and sang it there. Some lyrical highlights:
“Jesus came to your door, you’ve left him out on the streets.”
“Jesus rose from the dead, and you can’t get out of your bed.” etc. etc.
Needless to say, it wasn’t well-received. “Who does he think he is? He’s 16. He can’t judge us.”
The bottom line, though, was that I was also singing to myself. The Church as a whole, including me, is often apathetic. Her individual members get complacent in the comfort of their soft chairs, and polite sermons. We are kept passive by a form of Christianity that isn’t expressed by radical imitation of Jesus. And a lack of intention leaves our faith susceptible to slide off into irrelevance.
The only way people stop being comfortable is when they become uncomfortable. If you want to make a difference in people’s lives, it’s OK to make them uncomfortable. That doesn’t mean being a jerk, or condemning. But it is OK if the things you say, and how you live your life draw attention to Christianity being more than an intellectual assent to dogma, commitment to a holy book, membership in the correct religious club, and obeying the right rules. Christianity is about laying down your fishing nets, and following Jesus with your whole life. That will be attractive to some, and push others away. But people will be challenged to make their life more like imitation of Jesus.