|2Tim 1:7||For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.|
My walk with God has been a very interesting and frustrating adventure this year. I’ve offended quite a few people, encouraged others, and have learned a lot along the way. He’s really been working with me on finding balance between pig-headedly offending people for its own sake and rolling over like a timid little wimp. I’ve been finding that there certainly is a balance to be maintained. For this post I would like to call out the timid side of that scale. Something that has been weighing heavily on my mind this past year has been the fact that boldness has almost entirely vanished from the Church in America.
The majestic conquering Lion of Judah has been replaced in the hearts of many believers by a domestic house cat. True Biblical Christianity has been belittled into a pathetic shadow of its former self. I like to call this shadow wimpy Christianity.
I believe that the reasons for this problem are more numerous and the consequences more far-reaching than I could ever articulate in a single blog. Nonetheless, I’d like to point out, in no particular order, three main causes and three main effects. I realize that this list is by no means comprehensive, but it’s simply what’s been weighing on my heart the most.
Cause #1: A diluted form of the Gospel.
Now, I’m probably going to be stepping on some toes by saying this, but it is my conviction that what is often being preached in churches all accross America is not the true Gospel, but is a watered-down version that has been robbed of its full power for the sake of popularity and paletability. There are a lot of churches that focus on winning converts even to the extent that they ignore key elements of the Gospel such as repentence and the wrath of God. The Gospel is more than a Sunday-school sinner’s prayer! The Gospel is the life-transforming power of God.
The gospel that is being preached in many churches accross the nation is a gospel of convenience, of non-commitment, and of comfort. But I assure you, the true Gospel is not convenient, it is not comfortable, and it demands commitment, in fact it demands our lives. The lie that is being marketed is this: just say this prayer and you’ll be saved, no strings attached! People say the words and walk away believing themselves to be saved when in fact they are still in peril of hellfire, because they have not truly given their lives to Christ. True belief in Christ is an exchange: His life for yours. His righteousness for your condemned wickedness. In order to receive the eternal life that Christ offers, you have to surrender your own. That is indeed what He demands (Mark 8:34-35).
The fact is, a watered-down gospel which only requires a one-time prayer instead of a life-time commitment is only setting up people for spiritual failure. You cannot succeed at anything that you do not commit yourself to. Countless people have bought into a gospel that requires nothing from them and therefore they meet that requirement. The ultimate effect of such a half-hearted gospel is a bunch of half-hearted, half-commited Christians. The true Gospel produces dedicated, courageous disciples.
Effect #1: Counterfeit Christianity.
The effect of such widespread insufficient preaching has been a multitude of converts with very few disciples. A good number of people have been converted into something they don’t even understand. That is why between 60% and 80% of Americans call themselves “Christians.” Somewhere along the line, many of them have come to think that the word means nothing more than praying a prayer once and being a good person, or simply a social standing that you are born into.
You can see this play out in the massive number of young people that abandon the faith in their college years. I’m sure you’ve heard the statistics. Depending who you ask, you’ll hear that 30% all the way to 90% of Christian kids lose their faith by the time they are finished with college. You know why I think that is? Because they never had it in the first place (1 John 2:19). So many of these kids prayed a sinner’s prayer, went to church, learned to be good people, but never learned to follow Jesus!
A lot of youth in America learn a lot about Jesus, but never truly meet Him, because they don’t hear the real Gospel. Sadly, even when they hear the real Gospel, they often do not hear the reasons why it’s real. They are given empty beliefs, so that is what they retain. That right there is the catastrophic effect of a diluted gospel. A fake gospel produces fake Christians. And quite frankly, wimpy Christianity, that is, a Christianity without commitment and without consequences, is a fake Christianity. That’s the simple fact of the matter.
Cause #2: Aiming to please men instead of God.
Galatians 1:10: “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.”
This is one of the more interesting causes in my mind, because it is tied together with something that is actually good. I must say that I highly commend the Evangelical movement for seeking to be loving and considerate to those that disagree with them. That is certainly a Christ-like attitude and one that should not be rebuked. However, the problem I see is that sometimes such an attitude has been taken too far and has lost its value.
What I mean is this, I see far too many Christians trying to find as much in common with secular culture so that they can have cordial dialogue instead of confrontation. The problem here is that I’ve noticed a trend in the lives of my friends that do this: they almost never use that dialogue to share the Gospel, they only use it to “build relationships” and to make people think that Christians are actually pretty cool and relevant. They go to absurd lengths to avoid any kind of argument, even if that means throwing away valuable tools like apologetics. They’ve adopted the mindset that offending unbelievers is always bad because it “drives them away” and that friendly compromise is the only way to get anywhere.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there are certainly times when offending unbelievers is indeed wrong, and it’s not something to be sought after for its own sake. However, the problem arrives when Christians become too cowardly to tick some one off for the sake of the Gospel. I am convinced that one of the biggest reasons courage in the American church has nearly disappeared is because we have become enamored with the opinions of the culture. We want to be liked and therefore we are too scared to say something they won’t like. The Gospel is offensive by nature, we have to accept that truth as Christians and we must therefore not be afraid to offend people.
Effect #2: Excessive devotion to compromise.
It kills me to see so many in the Body of Christ that are more devoted to compromise than they are to their King. Such a love of compromise quickly reduces Christianity to an indistinguishable hodge-podge of ideas. For example, relativism is now in high fashion, and doctrine is now often considered boring, irrelevant, and even legalistic. The Christian climate is becoming one of extreme tolerance, even to the point of embracing ideas that are the very antithesis of Christianity. We are too scared of offending people to stand up for the truth.
In many Christian circles, truth is considered unknowable because people disagree on it, and all ideas hold equal weight. A lot of people have begun considering it the highest expression of arrogance to claim that something is right and something else is wrong. This minimizing of truth has a devestating effect on the Church for a number of reasons, but one I’ve noticed is that it robs us of our identity. Compromise has made American Christianity wimpy because it made us forget what we stand for, some have learned to compromise so much that they’ve become confused and uncertain about the basics of what it means to be a Christian. It’s made us wimpy because we don’t know what it is we’re supposed to stand for anymore, not to mention we’ve forgotten how to stand even if we knew what we were standing for. Excessive compromise breeds a loose grasp on the truth, which in turn destroys any semblence of confidence.
Cause #3: Replacing men with dudes.
1 Kings 2:2: “Be strong, therefore, and show thyself a man.”
As I’ve already ranted about here, here and here, I think one of the biggest problems we are facing as a culture is that we are being overrun with guys when we need men. The simple fact of the matter is that boys are not being raised to grow into men. The result is that there are a number of guys in their 30s and 40s that are still in their adolescence. Boys are getting mixed signals about what it means to be a man. Some are being taught that they can be heroes by sitting on their couch and playing video games, and that being able to choke down more booze than the other guy makes them the better man (see Isaiah 5:22). Others are being taught that it’s cool to look feminine (hence low-cut v-necks and skinny jeans, yes, I went there), and that they need to be “in touch with their feelings”.
Boys are just not being taught to grow up, and many are being taught to aspire to womanhood instead of manhood. Yes, that’s harsh, but it’s the truth. Personally I think one of the largest problems with the Evangelical Church at large is that it has become effeminized (hence over 60% of church attendees being female), and therefore a good number of the men are missing. Churches have gotten very comfortable about talking about the love of God, which is great, but they’ve been acting embarrased about the wrath, and the justice of God. A lot of churches make out Jesus to be some super sensitive, almost womanly, figure, and they just totally ignore the fact that He is the greatest Warrior of all time.
If the fact that God is divinely masculine is ignored, then the fact that the men of the church are made to be masculine will also be ignored. Dudes are given free-reign to be slackers. They are not challenged to be masculine. They are not challenged to get their acts together and take responsibility. If boys are not taught to be men there will be no one to step up and take the God-given responsibility of Church-leadership. Without responsible men, without leaders, the Church will always become a shadow of what it is supposed to be. Men are meant to be the strength of the Church. If there are no men, there will be no strength. See here for a pretty sweet video about this.
Effect #3: Lack of leadership, responsibility, and chivalry.
I am sure few would argue the point that we are living in a culture where most college students and twenty-somethings are wallowing in a life devoid of purpose and responsibility. A lot of women lament the death of chivalry and the laziness of their children, boyfriends, or spouses. All of this is because there are too few good men to drive the culture. You can argue with me all you like, but history has shown time and again that it is primarily men that shape a culture. Dudes will never impact the world. Only men can do that. The Church needs courageous, responsible men to step up and steer her.
The Church in America has lost most of its courage and conviction because it has lost most of its men. Will the real men please stand up? So much of Christianity has become utterly spineless because it does not have the men to show what it means to stand up for something. Please don’t think I’m only talking about “defending the faith”. Standing up for Christianity goes far deeper than apologetics. It encompasses everything. The very name of Christ is to be defended. Men need to stand up for it with their lives, not just their arguments.
If men do not step up and lead the way by taking responsibility, by holding fast to the truth and opposing error, and by actually doing work for the Kingdom in the ways of love and compassion, Christianity in America will become nothing but an empty shell. If there is no leadership in the Church, it will be nothing more than a nice activity on Sunday morning or a sweet discussion in the coffee shop. Wimpy Christianity thrives in America because convicted, courageous men are dying out.
So I suppose my point in writing all of this has just been to say this: following Jesus is more than a sinner’s prayer, more than a humanitarian cause, and more than a dialogue of ideas. Following Jesus involves commitment, it involves steadfastness, and it involves courage. There is nothing wimpy about Biblical Christianity, and I think it is long past time that we big farewell to Wimpy Christianity.