When I watch just a little bit of news, I encounter a treasure trove of topics to reflect on. Personally, I watch FOX, not that they don’t have a bias in reporting the news, they do — definitely conservative — which is where I lean; but, I like that they are honest about it. I’ve noticed other networks claim to be unbiased, but it’s a claim that has no basis in truth or reality. That said, you might not be aware of some of these stories if you watch only the other networks. I have seen the elimination of drinking straws because they are apparently evil, the city of Austin, Texas considering a name change because historically Stephen F. Austin owned slaves, and then there’s the 43% of millennials who quit their jobs after two years so they can experience life at a more leisurely pace because of the unfair and demanding expectations in the work place requiring they actually show up for work on time (designated by the employer) and put in a full day. How unfair.
In a similar vein, I have noticed we are having more difficulty with applying words like “DEDICATION”, “PERSONAL REPSONSIBILITY”, “ACCOUNTABILITY” and “INTEGRITY” to the living of our lives. Such words used to be important, and not just as words, but as the ways we related to the people around us.
Maybe that’s why when I came across an interesting and revealing statistic I made a connection with some real concerns I was addressing at a gathering of Christians last weekend. According to reliable data, 90% of ALL Christian churches (regardless of denomination) have memberships of 350 people or less. Yet, a little over 50% of ALL Christians hold membership in large, “mega” churches. Why is that the case, one might ask?
I think it’s because in a large church it is easier to be a Christian without the weight of being dedicated to service in furthering God’s purposes in the world. In addition, it’s easier to avoid holding oneself to personal responsibility for the things we do in our relationships to God and one another and accepting accountability for our actions before God. Allow me to express myself more simply. In bigger churches with large numbers of fellow members, we can keep our anonymity. Someone else will do the work we should be doing and are commanded to do by God in His name.
Look, too many churches, large and small, have members and not disciples. Members show up to church on Sunday morning (or when for convenience sake worship is held) pick up their “I am a Christian” name tag, find their seat, listen to the service and the preacher reminding them of God’s love and how we are all going to heaven, put their check in the plate (if finances allow) and, when the service is done (as if service in God’s name is ever done) head for the door making sure to put back their “I am a Christian” name tag so it’s ready for the next time they come (which might not be for weeks). Crossing the threshold as they exit into the real world, they again resume planning on how they will serve those worldly demands and desires. Disciples, on the other hand, come to worship to be recharged so they can go back into the world proclaiming, living and witnessing to the good news of Jesus Christ and the salvation He makes real to those who truly believe in Him with an active faith.
Now, I admit, I’m being somewhat flippant in my defining of “members”, but only a little bit. Christians, disciples not members, whose faith is real hold words like dedication, personal responsibility, accountability and integrity to be measures of their faith in action. It is what they do. My fear is that we
have created a generation, and maybe several, that want God on their terms and not God’s. Dedication to God must be convenient to our schedule, personal responsibility isn’t important because it’s the other guy’s fault anyway, no one is accountable for their own actions since there are always extenuating circumstances, and integrity is too costly to worry about.
Being a Christian disciple demands hard work and surrender to God’s will. It requires our involvement now, not at some time of our making. Serving God is not always convenient, but it is always rewarding. I realize I might be generalizing the attitude of millennials. After all, 43% isn’t all of them, but it sure is a big number, big enough to be concerned about. Nor do we know what kind of impact those attitudes will have on the generations to learn from and follow them. I do know this, when defining an active member of the church equals coming to church once a month when it fits the schedule as opposed to every week, there’s a problem and I don’t think it’s with God.
And those are my thoughts. God bless.
Pastor Lee R. Harder