Shallow Faith & Spectator Christianity
In the south almost everyone claims to be a Christian. Churches abound. Someone once stated that in the town where he lived you could hold your breath from one Baptist church to another. As I drive from my house to the church – approximately 6 ½ miles – I pass four other Baptist churches. A Google search for Baptist Churches in Warner Robins, GA delivers 165 links. You would think that would translate to a community that eagerly embraces biblical values, yet in 2011 the people of Warner Robins approved the sale of alcohol in stores and restaurants on Sunday. It is not hard to see that, if those who call themselves Christians had gone to the polls and taken a stand on biblical values, the referendum would have been defeated. It appears that D. Michael Lindsay, assistant professor of Sociology at Rice University was right when he said that “religion in America is, indeed, 3000 miles wide and only 3 inches deep.”
When we begin to examine what has changed in our churches over the last 50 years it is easy to see that it goes far beyond technological advancements and worship styles. Something has changed at a much more fundamental level. In the past Christians would boldly stand for biblical values, now they promote tolerance, insisting that every man has a right to his own opinion. An attitude of indifference is noticeable as well – many believers no longer wish to be personally involved in the battle. In today’s world churches are acceptable only if they have all of the facilities and programs necessary to meet all of our needs, and keep us entertained while doing so. And please don’t say or do anything that will cause us to feel uncomfortable or guilty. In essence, many churches today exist as places for people to come to be served. Members are passive rather than active. Congregations have become mere spectators at a production designed to entertain them.
The biblical description of the New Testament Church is, however, quite different. The early churches (those described in the book of Acts) were filled with people who felt a sense of responsibility for the ministry of the church. Everybody was in some way involved in service. Ephesians 4 characterizes a church as being a place where every member has a specific part in the ministry. Verse 12 says that the church exists “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:” Members would come to church to learn how to serve and be a blessing to others so that the process could then be repeated. Physical growth in the church was the result of members fulfilling their role rather than slick marketing campaigns and dramatic Hollywood style productions. Worship was a priority and reverence was common.
Does that mean that our services need to be boring? Not at all. There is nothing boring about our God. As we learn more about our God two things happen: Our faith deepens, and our reverence grows. Church then becomes a place for active participation rather than passive observance, and our testimony becomes far more effective because our faith is no longer simply a label we wear – it is instead the life we live.