Sunday, November 28, 2010

Are We Fans or Disciples?

“When the New Testament was written,” writes Michael Spencer in Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to Jesus-Shaped Spirituality, “it was dangerous to be a fan of Jesus. It wasn’t wise to wear a Christian t-shirt. The latest Christian music wasn’t playing on anyone’s iPod. Christian gift stores and book nooks couldn’t be found. Christian conferences didn’t fill ancient stadiums with first-century believers who came to hear celebrity Christian speakers.”

The reality, Spencer says, was far different: the constant possibility of being arrested, you and/or your relatives imprisoned. Your last pastor was likely martyred. You were accused of political treason. You faced economic ruin. You were a target and blamed for everything from assassinations to earthquakes. And there was no New Testament read.

One might say that the believers of the first century were closer to the believers in the illegal house churches in contemporary China than they are to the Christian consumer culture we live and breathe in North America.

Spencer entitled this chapter “The Evangelical Sellout,” and the sellout he emphasizes is the sellout to consumerism, American style. The “menu” he describes for believers in a consumer culture is a demining one: Christian music and concerts, shopping for the coolest megachurch with the “celebrity communicator they’ve hired as pastor,” the Christian conferences and festivals, Christian magazines and movies (and books), Christian radio, the vast array of specialized Bibles, Christian self-help classes. Reading this chapter is an exercise in heaping burning coals on one’s head; my own hair feels more than slightly singed.

Why this matters, and matters urgently, is that, appearances notwithstanding, the evangelical church in North America is in serious danger. And the danger doesn’t come from the neo-atheists in academia, the ACLU,, George Soros, Planned Parenthood, the New York Times or Nancy Pelosi.

The danger, the real threat, is within.

For some weeks now, Nancy Rosback at Nance Marie has been leading us in a discussion of Mere Churchianity; her post on chapter 16 can be found here. Also see Fatha Frank’s posts at Public Christianity and Melo’s at Humming Softly.


Anonymous said...

"The danger, the real threat, is within."

Agreed, with one qualification. Part of the reason for the danger within is hiding our talent, and the master in the parable was not happy with the servant who did it (Mt. 25:24-30). His response to the servant's laziness was to take the talent from him and give it to the productive servants.

I don't like the implications of this parable for the contemporary American church either, but we are in danger of being passed over or set aside because we haven't put the master's money on deposit with the bankers so that he should receive it back with interest.

So as you note, we shouldn't be pointing fingers at the enemies at the gate (ACLU,, etc.) but remembering that we have to give account to the master for the grace he's given us.

richd said...

Hmmm...when's the last time I took a risk to follow Jesus? "Liking" the fan page isn't quite what He had in mind.

The real enemy wants my heart--those external foes are irrelevant, but the true enemy delights when I battle them.

Jerry said...

I have been discrding the fluff for years now but it the vaccuum that seems to rule the day. I often find myself praying the Jesus prayer desperatly as a door back to my first love.