By Daniel Bobinski
Have you ever visited a third world or developing country? Maybe you have, but there’s a good chance you haven’t. Research shows that 40 percent of Americans have never stepped foot outside the United States, and those who do often travel to other developed countries.
My reason for asking is to check for a frame of reference. If you’ve not visited a struggling country, you probably don’t realize how much we Americans live like kings.
Yes, we hear much about poverty in the U.S., but every time I’ve returned to the United States after visiting an impoverished country, I am amazed at how even our poor live like kings compared to other parts of the world.
Why am I bringing this up? Because I’ve recently realized just how soft and impotent the western Church has become. Yes, you read that correctly. I’m suggesting that, as a whole, our American Church isn’t doing as well as we might think.
The Apostle Paul wrote that early believers were acting like “mere humans” when they said, “I follow Paul,” or, “I follow Apollos.” Still, to this day, mankind can’t keep itself from being tribal. Instead of people following “Paul” or “Apollos,” today people are Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Adventist, Congregationalist, Anglican, etc., etc. And each of those has their own divisions, too!
What if we chose to be neither Protestant nor Catholic, but simply, “Followers of Jesus?”
We’re too comfy
As I implied earlier, the abundant blessings we’ve received in western civilization may actually be hurting the church. That’s always difficult to hear, because as humans, we like our creature comforts. But think about it — the early church was pretty much just hanging around Jerusalem. It wasn’t until Stephen was killed (Acts 6 and 7) and persecution increased that the early Followers of Jesus spread out. If it wasn’t for that persecution, it’s a safe bet the gospel wouldn’t have traveled as far as it did, as fast as it did. Persecution causes growth.
Sadly, western Christians today quickly complain when a service has gone five minutes too long or when the coffee pot is empty after the church service. This is a lamentable commentary on the body of Christ.
I fear that the western Church is maintaining a form of Godliness but denying the power thereof.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to put a guilt trip on anyone. I’m just saying most of us enjoy our creature comforts, and we don’t want to be bothered with “Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth.” Or even our neighbors.
We’re not good at making disciples
In the Gospel of Matthew, the last instruction we receive from Jesus is, “[G]o and make disciples of all nations …” I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The western Church doesn’t do a very good job at this. We’ve defaulted to letting a pastor run the show, and things like mentoring and disciple-making are often given low priority, if not abandoned altogether.
My suggestion here is to take matters into your own hands. For example, Oswald Sanders has a book titled, “Spiritual Discipleship: Principles for Following Christ for Every Believer.” Its 20 chapters explore the common knowledge and attitudes needed to be a Follower of Jesus, and each chapter concludes with several application / discussion questions. If you want to grow into a stronger disciple, why not get together with two or three other people and discuss a chapter a week?
When you’re done with the book, find two or three other people and go through it again. Any good discipleship book will do. Or, take a book in the Bible and discuss it verse by verse. The idea is for us to get out of our comfort zones and start challenging ourselves to make a bigger impact for the cause of Christ.
The joy set before us
Imagine for a minute you are the holy Creator of the universe. Nothing that was made was made apart from you — including two creatures we call Adam and Eve. When these two decided to ignore the one rule you created for them, they became unable to live with you. You are holy, but they became corrupt, and the two don’t mix. Separation needed to occur, but you had a plan all along: You would become like them. You would then allow yourself to be brutally tortured and killed, buying a reconciliation — an inheritance path so they could return to fellowship with you.
It is because of love you chose this. You originally created Adam and Eve so you could experience the joy of relationship — joy being a byproduct of healthy relationships — but because of Adam and Eve’s actions, that joy was greatly diminished.
That’s why the writer of Hebrews tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus, saying, “For the joy set before him, he endured the cross…”
Put another way, the Creator of the universe wanted to experience deep joy again in His relationship with us, so He sacrificed Himself to make a path for restoration.
Overcoming obstacles to joy
My friends, I dare say the American Church has become soft. Can we sacrifice some comfort for the cause of Christ? The times are such that I don’t want to be seen by God as lukewarm. Each of us has a choice. Can I challenge you to make sure there’s oil in your lamp (Matt 25) and engage the world more for the cause of Christ? With the dawning of a new decade and the joy set before us, I want to encourage every Follower of Jesus to do exactly that.
Daniel Bobinski, M.Ed. teaches teams and individuals how to use Emotional Intelligence (more info at MyWorkplaceExcellence.com). He’s also a home fellowship leader, a homeschooling dad, a best-selling author, and a popular speaker at conferences and retreats. Reach him at [email protected] or (208) 375-7606.