Okay. Okay. Maybe I’ve not yet entered the rank of an old curmudgeon who’s always complaining, but I do have some concerns which I want to share.
I’m writing this before my Emmaus Bible College’s conference “Christian Ministry Seminars” which will be (was) held on Feb. 6-7. I will speak (spoke) on the topic “Anti-Intellectualism Isn’t Spirituality” and I hope it will go (went) well. Whew! I’m confused with these verb tenses!
For my fourth and final message I want to vigorously challenge the students at Emmaus on several areas of the Christian life. Let me divide my concerns into three categories:
(1) The Christian life in general: I’m deeply concerned with Christians of my generation who lived like they could simply glide to glory. Some did not take personal Bible study very seriously. Few (it seems to me) have a strategic prayer list that they go through on a regular basis. Very few have unsaved friends. Only a handful volunteer for work in the local church. Many don’t know what spiritual gift or gifts they have — so how can they be deployed in serving other believers? I’m equally concerned with this generation of young people who have far more and far more addictive distractions than my generation did. Social media tends to make people anti-social (just look at a family of four in a restaurant fixated on their devices rather than conversing with each other). TV programs on demand tempt us now at all hours of the day to watch whatever we want on whatever device we presently hold. “Binge watching” can consume hours upon hours of mindless “entertainment.” Someone has said, “If and when American civilization collapses, future researchers will sneer, ‘They entertained themselves to death.'”
Where are believers re-discovering the “spiritual disciplines”? Where is real mentoring going on? Even church leaders, it seems, appear to be content only that the one hour of the week (Sunday morning) “goes well” and is well-attended. But what about discipleship?
Are Christian leaders feeding the flock — and protecting them from unbiblical ideas which bring ruin to the soul? Which leaders are standing up and saying, “I’ve read the newest best-selling Christian book — and it’s dangerous and ruinous to your spiritual health. And here’s why . . .”?
(2) Ministering in our culture: We are not like Jesus. Let’s face it. He had unsaved friends. He was a friend of publicans and sinners. We usually aren’t. We excuse our friendlessness in a variety of ways. But the bottom line is — we don’t take the time and invest the energy to develop meaningful relationships with lost people. And we wonder why we see so few come to know the Lord. We surround ourselves with Christian music, Christian books, Christian wallpaper, and Christian cookies and we seem oblivious to those around us who don’t have a clue about the gospel. This is a day of good news — and we’re doing a great job of keeping it to ourselves!
Some look at the Christian life as if there is no room for FUN! It is all duty, drudgery, and discipline. Someone has said that the mentally and emotionally healthy are those that have learned when to say Yes, when to say No, and when to say Whoopee! Where are our “whoopees”? Where does the world see Christians having a blast, enjoying God’s good world, interacting with God’s creation with a thankful heart (see I Timothy 6 here. Michael Witmer’s Becoming Worldly Saints is also quite helpful in this area). Jesus did not say, “I have come to give death” but “I have come give LIFE and that more abundantly!” Some of us act as if Jesus gave us a misery pill and told us to go out and medicate the world!
(3) Christian careers: Some of us come from a background which criticized “denominational” churches. We’ve inherited a suspicion (sometimes legitimate) of professional ministers (= clergy) and rightfully challenge the idea of the omni-competent pastor. All believers have spiritual gifts and should be encouraged by the local church’s leadership to exercise those gifts for the building up of the body (Eph. 5). HOWEVER — we need qualified, trained servants of God in our local churches to help equip believers in their ministries. We need men who can faithfully and carefully teach the Word of God, women who can lead effectively in the areas in which God has called them, and young people who are developing the skills to serve our lost and dying world. We need Bible colleges and seminaries which provide excellent training for an impatient generation that will vote with its feet when the local church has poor preaching and unwise leadership.
Some Christian parents hardly blink when they decide to send Johnny or Susie away to college and graduate school for six or seven years to become an engineer or a lawyer or a physical therapist. But what about our church leaders? Three or four years in a solid Bible college plus three years in a reputable seminary appears to many to be out of the question! “Where’s the money in that?”, they might not ask out loud, but think to themselves.
I guess it all depends on what kind of currency we’re attracted to.