June 2, 2021
Believing in God here and now looks quite differently than it did 500 years ago in Europe. 500 years ago, you were born, then baptized into the Roman Catholic Church. Everyone was. You believed in God. Everyone did (at least everyone that you knew). The church was the center of life, and the priest was the teacher, the scientist, the therapist and the authority. Life had structure. It was simple. Your options were few. Chances are, you did not attend school, at least not for very long. Your family needed your labor just to survive and survival was not assumed. Diseases and pestilences were many. Childbirth was dangerous for both mother and child.
It is 2021. Belief in God is not assumed, and the church is clearly not the center of life. Religious figures are often viewed with suspicion at best and often with hostility. Religion used its power to abuse people and now needs to be exposed for what it is and dismantled piece by piece. Sixty years ago, you could not expect to successfully run for office unless you were a member of a church. Thirty years ago, believers in God were tolerated. Today, you can expect ridicule for belief in God and shame for membership in a church. But, that’s okay, really. Christianity was never to be a convenience, but a conviction. You know it is a conviction when there is a cost to our profession of faith.
For years people have asked the question, “How can we attract people to our church?” The answers given had to do with programs offered, facility upgrades, marketing, and finding an appealing message. In other words, give people what they are looking for. But one searches the New Testament in vain for that question, much less those answers. What if people are looking for the wrong thing? What if our message is not what people think they want, or worse, demand? Faithfulness to the Scriptures is going to put us more and more at odds with our culture. Our culture is increasingly militant in demanding conformity and acceptance. This will bring challenges, but it will also bring clarity for us. Instead of asking how we can attract people to our church, we need to be asking how we can be a faithful church. Being a faithful church means that we have a greater understanding of what the church is, and are committed to that, no matter what.
The evangelical church, as a whole, has often bought into the methods of the world in order to share the message of the church. The verdict is in. The methods have won and the message has lost. However, a faithful church does not need the methods of the world and does not rely upon its approval for validation. We have Christ and the gospel. That is enough!
Grace and peace,
Sunday’s text: 2 Peter 2:4-10a