As a Christian myself, I look at our American church with a mix of admiration and disgust and disappointment. In the end, when my passionate anger dies away, what is left is that lingering sadness.
I don't want to sound like I have all the answers because I don't. But I think we're doing it wrong, guys. Our focus is all off. Even our well-intentioned efforts are only making it harder for us in the end.
I shared this link awhile ago, but the idea has stuck with me.
There are two ways to read the Bible. The one way to read the Bible is that it’s basically about you: what you have to do in order to be right with God, in which case you’ll never have a sure and certain hope, because you’ll always know you’re not quite living up. You’ll never be sure about that future. Or you can read it as all about Jesus. Every single thing is not about what you must do in order to make yourself right with God, but what he has done to make you absolutely right with God. And Jesus Christ is saying, “Unless you can read the Bible right, unless you can understand salvation by grace, you’ll never have a sure and certain hope. But once you understand it’s all about me, Jesus Christ, then you can know that you have peace. You can know that you have this future guaranteed, and you can face anything.” (Emphasis added by myself)See, this is the problem I have with Christians (including myself). We're so focused on "me". Even as we try so hard to be good people and to follow God, we're so focused on what we have to do, how we have to act, how we need to talk. It has even affected how we read the Bible, how we interpret grace.
Tim Keller from LSU
There has suddenly become this laundry list of things that we need to have accomplished in order to "level up" in Christian society. Somehow this unwritten list has evolved to include:
- Missions Trip to Third World country
- Reading the Bible all the way through
- Daily devotions
- Emotional, passionate worship sessions
- Using Christian lingo/phrases in everyday conversations
The point of being a Christian is to have a growing relationship with God. That's why He sent Jesus down. He didn't send Jesus down because we sinned. He sent Jesus down because He wanted to be with us and sin was in the way. God wants to BE with us. While a relationship with God will change us and make us better people, that isn't the point; they are just the results.
We've become so obsessed with some sort of measure for our faith. If you do X, Y and Z, it proves you have a stronger faith. We want to make sure we're sure we'll go to heaven. But that's not faith at all. Understanding God's grace allows us to have that sure and certain hope, not some laundry list.
As a result, the American Christian culture has become self-centered and self-focused. The finger is pointing inward instead of pointing outward. Our focus should be on strengthening the church, leading the lost, comforting the broken, and growing the Body.
I look around the Church here in America and see people coming for God to help them out, to have God help them feel better. Yes, God does bless His followers, but its a two-way street. It's a relationship, after all. God is calling us to help Him out. He doesn't need us, but He wants us. He gave us His son; the least we can do is give Him our lives.
Soli Deo Gloria.