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