Today is one of those articles that I am going to try and say something that I don’t really know how to say. I really have struggled over the years to articulate this reality and find myself struggling today again to find the words to express something of value.
My pondering began with a simple question, “How is it possible for Christianity to be perceived as unspiritual?” The gospel is simply the Lordship of Jesus. When a person believes in Jesus, they are indwelt by the Spirit of God, the third person of the Blessed Trinity.There is no Christianity without the Spirit. Yet, as I look around the body of Christ, there seems to be way more examples of unspiritual Christianity then there are spiritual ones. Now when I speak about the need for Christianity to be spiritual, I mean “of the Spirit” in the simplest of terms. Not even necessarily the expression of spiritual giftings. I am talking about the basics of love, joy, peace, kindness, gentleness, patience, goodness and self control (Galatians 5:23). I am talking about lives that are lived out in the simplest aspects of agape love and service. I am talking about the ‘shalom’ of God being at work and being outworked through the body of Christ. Concepts such as agape, simplicity, service, unity and peace-making are in my mind.
As I survey much of the Christianity around today, I don’t see much of this. So I started to wonder why. Why is so much of Christianity look so little like the life of Jesus? I see much personal politics, attack-dog disagreements, sin cloaked in religion, bickering, jockeying for position, niches and cliches. It is so common for people to rise up in churches if they are charismatic or sychopantic rather than having a Jesus-formed character.
So I am going to list a few reasons why this may be the case. Instead of commenting on each of them, I will simply list them and let you all have fun with them.
1) When information is king
2) When theology is not translated to the street level
3) Classic Self-salvation plans
4) Cultural Idolatry
5) A lack of any focus on spiritual formation (true biblical discipleship)
6) A western individualistic focus rather than community formation
8) The Curse of Affluence
9) The Influence of Business Practices upon Church Leadership
10) Tax-exempt status
11) Church as entertainment
I think you articulated it well, Daniel. And it’s depressing. 🙁
Maybe we should all go on the mission field, where the hunger is amazing.
Only half kidding…
Sorry to be depressing ;-(
I agree about the mission field. That’s a whole other way of living
Very depressing, but how much different was it in the days of Josiah (not taking technology into account). I re-read the passages on Josiah this morning and his actions (removing the idols) and reaction (to reading the law of the Lord) and how he confronted the unspiritualness he faced.
Joel 2:13 came to mind
Thanks, Daniel – I don’t see how #10 is relevant to the discussion. I think # 5, 6, 7 are the heart of the problem. When these are neglected and not intentionally pursued, a vacuum is created where the other dynamics you list crowd in. When you leave the things of the Spirit – # 5-7, you end up with all the flesh of the rest of the list. The only way you can have an unspiritual Christianity is if the Holy Spirit is being resisted and quenched and grieved. It would be easy for me to point at others where I think this might be happening. I need to take the log out of my own eye first.
“This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” Dan, I think that the behaviors you describe are found in those whom John saw as walking in darkness. I also think that if you replace the words lie and liar (pseustes) in 1 John, with the words “fake and faker, you get closer to the truth. Those who sin and say they are in fellowship with God are faking this fellowship. The sad thing is that they may not even realize it. (speaking from experience, unfortunately.)
Good list Daniel.
But I too don’t get #10. Does it mean we render to Caesar what is his, BUT ALSO RENDER TO GOD WHAT IS HIS (no exeption). 😉
So true, when the seed of the gospel (being made alive in Christ, which involves the counting the old self dead to sin) is uprooted, true growth can’t happen. We grow in religion which seeks to replicate spiritual life, but on self-power.
But the indwelling Spirit, causing us to cry Abba, yearns within us jealously, and forms within us character that reflects our God, through trusting him and repenting of sin.
I put down #10 on the list, not because I necessarily think that tax-exempt status is bad. But Biblically any time you marry following God and empire, there is an effect (however inconsequential it may be). So that specific reason or thought is one that is a bit farther removed, but I do find myself concerned with it, maybe for no good reason 😉
I think if push came to shove most, if not all, of the men in the circles I run in would forego the tax exempt status of the church if this meant the muzzling of the truth. Right now, the benefits certainly outweigh any liabilities or restrictions.
I totally agree with you. Maybe not though across the whole swath of Christendom, but surely, I hope in our, and other likeminded, tribe.
Well, Bill, I think you would agree, we are in a mission field….. and increasingly more foreign to the mind of Christ.
I think #5, the lack of spiritual formation (true biblical discipleship), is a big reason why there is so little that resembles Christ in the church. We are probably among the best fed generation[s] in the entire history of the church, but the transformation into His image is dis-proportionate. Spiritual formation is a misunderstood concept in some circles, but I think that it is the practice of spiritual disciplines whereby we grow from knowing about God to knowing Him (Philippians 3:10).
It is unfortunate that we often equate maturity with a good understanding or head-knowledge of the bible. Spiritual formation is much greater than the sum total of memorized bible verses.
A little late to the party, but I think all 11 are relevant factors, especially #5. The lack of genuine, intentional, relational discipleship is what grieves me, along with the disinterest in it from a commitment standpoint.
It can be disappointing and depressing, but i think Jesus can relate (Jn 6:66).
This lack of discipleship has been the most difficult thing for me to accept since coming off the field (full-time) 6 years ago. Even though I’ve kept pursuing and doing it, I find a disinterest after a while, a complacency…apathy.
But…unless pastors/leaders persevere in it, the church will continue being weak and unspiritual. Of course, that’s exactly what the Lord Jesus ran into, and it should be no surprise to us in the time we live in. Perhaps that’s why the Lord asked, “When the Son of Man returns will He find faith on the earth?” (Lk 18:8)
Here’s a good article I just came across on discipleship— http://tw.gs/UXs1Z