Like Moths to a Flame: How We are Killing the Church

December 14, 2010

Tuesday Re-mix –

I’ve never actually seen a moth burn up as a result of being drawn into a flame.  But I’ve seen them buzzing around my back porch light enough to get the idea.  It is a great illustration for how we are often drawn into the very things that will ultimately destroy us.  That has been the experience of the church in America.  We fight to obtain the very things that will ultimately weaken us and make us wholly ineffective.

I believe that the spread of Christianity in the early church was attributable primarily to two God-ordained circumstances: (1) persecution from outside the church, and (2) conflict from within, due to the differences among them.  Take away the oppression of the Roman government and Christianity does not have a reason to spread beyond Jerusalem except by mere happenstance.  Take away the vast cultural differences within the early church, and Christian doctrine never really gets tested and grown and purified, it never develops any of the Spiritual “immunities” to false teaching which it currently enjoys.

It is always funny to me, then, when we in the church spend so much time and energy trying to rid the world of both of these catalysts.  The church in America is actually fighting  for two things that will kill us: (1) political favor from the outside and (2) homogeneous culture on the inside.  I spoke to the second item in my recent post here.  I will only summarize that post by saying that, contrary to what many of us seem to believe in the church, diversity is actually our friend, i.e., our strength…not our enemy.  But what about the first catalyst?  What about persecution from outside the church?  History tells the story best.

Historically, Christianity has always grown stronger in the face of political persecution.  In the instances where Christianity has enjoyed huge political favor (such as being a State Church), it has grown little in terms of Spiritual depth and has grown even less in terms of geography.  On the other hand, where there has been persecution, Christianity has known nothing but growth.  Conservatively speaking, the persecuted church in China is estimated at 25 Million strong…this, in the face of nearly a century of  Communist government directly prohibiting Christian assemblies.  Here in America, where we have enjoyed 200 years of freedom to mold and shape Christianity in any way we please, our Spiritual intensity pales in comparison to China or South Korea or South America or any of a number of other third-world communities.  Despite boasting some of the greatest Christian leaders and teachers in the world, our American communities scoff at our hypocrisy and our lack of compassion.

In response to this demise, the church in America continues to pour its energies into fighting for political favor, as if it is both our right and our benefit to have the world see us as superior.  We fight to make the lost world act more Christian, and the harder we fight to make them act Christian without actually helping them into a relationship with God, the further we drive them away from the church.  We fight for our right to pray over the loud speaker at football games (while our brothers and sisters in China don’t even have the right to pray together in any setting) but do we really have a genuine desire to pray (which we are still free to do), or is it just a desire to be favored?  We fight to have history portray us as a Christian nation, but we don’t seem nearly as intent on actually following Christ in our individual lives.

I am wondering if there is a relationship between our political activism and our Spiritual shallowness.  I think there are still plenty of American Christians who are so disillusioned as to believe the American church is somehow leading the Kingdom of God on a global scale.  Wake up America.  It has been a long, long time since our church was “the standard” for Christianity around the world.  We are far too busy trying to moralize our country to spend any time or resources actually showing people Jesus.  We need to be good citizens of our communities, to be sure, but how much of our energies spent fighting the world around us should be redirected to loving the world around us and helping it see Jesus?  Like moths to the flame, we are drawn into political frays and our testimony is burning up before our eyes.

But here is hope.  The more time I spend watching and listening to the youngest generation of Christian leaders in America, the more I believe they understand the flames and genuinely desire to avoid them.  What’s more, I believe they understand what genuine compassion and Christ follow-ship looks like, and I believe they will lead us well in that regard.  I have great hope for the American church and am actually looking forward to being a part of it for the next several decades…if I can just get these flames on my tail put out.

© Blake Coffee

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7 thoughts on “Like Moths to a Flame: How We are Killing the Church

  1. tinaf07

    This is good post. Yes it really got me thinking as of recent I been on my own journey for the truth and I see that the churches in American make a mistake in thinking governments have everyone’s best interest at hand. In my political and even spiritual opinion it’s here it’s best that in our short lifespan we try our best to get more souls for Christ through Christ alone no government involvement whatsoever; we don’t need them taking the glory. Taking the glory is just another function of government as history and the bible will show. There’s really no such this as the “American Church” or “churches” for that matter for we are one body and one universal church of christ. We are just American church goers more like it. If we make divides we will be cut apart of the body off, that makes the rest of the body work inefficiently.

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  2. Tony

    Good post ideed. I think we need to sound this message loudly. Our faith is matured in suffering and persecution. I think if everyone got radical with helping the poor and proclaiming the Gospel to everyone around us we would encounter some folks opposed to our efforts. We may just just be too comfortable in out freedom.

    Tony

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  3. Tony

    Good post ideed. I think we need to sound this message loudly. Our faith is matured in suffering and persecution. I think if everyone got radical with helping the poor and proclaiming the Gospel to everyone around us we would encounter some folks opposed to our efforts. We may just just be too comfortable in our freedom.

    Tony

    Reply
  4. Brock S. Henning

    Excellent write-up, Blake. Every word of it makes sense. I realized the truth of this message while out of the country in 2009. I had the opportunity to meet with people serving underground in hostile countries, and I was blown away at their level of faith in the face of persecution.

    Thanks for taking the time to tell it like it is. (Found this over at The High Calling.)

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  5. Ann Kroeker

    You mentioned how we “fight for our right to pray over the loud speaker at football games (while our brothers and sisters in China don’t even have the right to pray together in any setting) but do we really have a genuine desire to pray (which we are still free to do)?”

    Made me think of a Philip Yancey book on Prayer I recently started. He said that he interviewed ordinary people about prayer. The results typically went like this: He’d ask, “Is prayer important to you?” “Oh, yes.” “How often do you pray?” “Every day.” “Approximately how long?” “Five minutes–well, maybe seven.” “Do you find prayer satisfying?” “Not really.” “Do you sense the presence of God when you pray?” “Occasionally, not often.”

    Interesting, isn’t it? We value it so highly, fight for our right to pray publicly, but in the end, feel rather blah about it all in actual practice.

    I’m glad you are sensing hope in the next generation and hope to see evidence of God moving in the church…and the nation.

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