We all know that they really don't mean it. But you have to start somewhere. One day they will no longer be under my care(and control) and I pray that they grow into people who don't have to be forced to say that they are sorry when they mess up. In this stage of their development, we recognize that my five year old is not prepared to make his own life decisions and go off on his own. Will he be prepared to one day live without dad guiding him? I can guarantee one thing though, if I infantilize him from today until he is 18, he will really struggle making decisions on his own.
In our lifetimes we have seen one of the most radical cultural and sociological shifts to have ever occurred in such a short window of time. Only 50 years ago it would have been virtually unheard of for someone to not at least claim some sort of allegiance to Christianity. And membership in at least some sort of denomination was a given, especially if you were going to be "somebody" within your community. Today, the fast growing segment of the "religious" population are the "nones". This means that people who have ZERO religious affiliation are rapidly outgrowing an ever shrinking involvement by the populace in churches. Only around 50% of Americans even go to church consistently.
Now, before this motivates you to go posting some sort of viral meme on Facebook about how if we let kids in school have bibles there would never be a school shooting EVER EVER EVER again....let me tell you something.
This is a good thing!
This might be a great thing!!
For centuries involvement in a church and self-proclamations of a Christian faith was a non-negotiable. Like a five year old following rules they didn't care about, many people went through the motions because they had no choice. Charles Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers, was arguably one of the most famous pastors in the 1800's. To this day his wealth of teachings and sermons are inspiring future generations of church leaders. And he estimated that less than half of his congregation was really saved. And that is why he made a point to regularly preach the gospel.
Back in the 1800's.....
When everyone claimed they were a Christian.......
One of the most influential pastors of the past two to three hundred years, was fairly confident that half the people who called him their pastor didn't really get the Gospel.
The Church in the West, and particularly America, has been co-opted by interests and motivations that are not generally in alignment with scripture and the Gospel. It was the nations biggest country club. If you wanted to get ahead, you better get on the board at your local "First Baptist Presby Methodist Church of Christ Redeemer" so that you could make friends with the other movers and shakers in town. Presidential hopefuls had to make pilgrimages to make nice with famous church leaders so they could signal to everyone that they were just like them.....Nominally into that Jesus fellow.
What was the result of the Church being hand in hand with power? People who care about power running the Church.
With the growth of the internet, more and more stories are popping up about horrific leadership abuses, coverups and church implosions. There are even compelling(and damning) research papers that delve into why the pulpit attracts people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder at an exponentially higher rate than they exist in society in general. As long as the Church can be seen as a gateway to power and money, people who want power and money will gravitate towards the Church. Which only leads to more and more people saying, "I'm done with this".
Ok. Enough of the bad...
Christ did not come to establish an Earthly kingdom where all of his buddies got to be in charge of everyone else. Jesus had to even correct one of their moms in Matthew 20:20 when she specifically asked that her little special angels be given cushy roles. Instead, Christ established His Church for the purpose of proclaiming the good news and to make disciples of every nation. And in practice it was to be accomplished through serving others sacrificially(Matthew 20:16--First last, last first passage), while knowingly accepting persecution(Matthew 24:9---you will be persecuted and the nations will hate you because of me passage).
Does this sound like many of our churches or leaders today?
We are a lazy Church in America today. We have had it so easy for so long we just want to believe that everyone should just see it our way. And, if we face even a modicum of "persecution" we raise millions of dollars to politically fight our enemies and elect people who give us just enough lip service that we think they will at least vote the way we want them to.
When the Church in America stops worrying about losing its power, or its perception of prestige in our communities and nations, THEN it can get focused on what it exists for. Proclaiming Christ crucified! And when that becomes the heart beat or our churches, they WILL have less political power, and perhaps even less money. But guess what? Then we will stop finding ourselves led by people who were there for the money and power!
I don't want people coming to church just because they have to. No more than I want my son to only say he is sorry because I told him to do it. We should all desire that people have their lives radically, and permanently, changed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When we stop relying on power and control to get people to act "right" we can begin to do the real work of letting the Gospel change them from the inside out.
You will be shocked to know that signs like this are not turning around the
fortunes of the American Church