Confusing Dross for Gold


As I write, 53 is staring me in the face. I used to think that was old. Or at least, likely to place you in the group of “not with the times.” Out of touch. Maybe even a little confused by all the cool, happenin’ stuff the kiddies dig. You with me, man? Groovy.

So, recently…

I watched a 47-minute video on the simplicity of the Gospel in which the preacher didn’t once, to my recollection, state what the Gospel was. And if I was somehow lost in my befuddled dotage for the one time he may have briefly zoomed through it, he certainly did not go into any detail. Instead, he regaled us with numerous stories about the bang-up job he did personally ministering this mysterious gospel-thingy to random people he encountered. I wondered if those people got a clearer picture of the Gospel in those encounters with him than I did in the video.

My son said that in a similar meeting his group talked about the origins of Cain’s wife. Because teenagers around the world are giving up on a personal relationship with Jesus and wandering away from the faith because no one shared with them the facts behind Mrs. Cain’s being.

I sang a “worship song” that had me beseeching for the rain to fall on me. Or us. The plurality of the intended recipient(s) of that wetness is unclear to me now (again, the beginnings of dementia, I believe), as is the intent of being rained upon by what/whom and for what purpose. Still, after I was done singing, I felt like a full-blown pluviculturist.

Meanwhile, the media is telling me that Christians are up in arms—heaven knows my arms are tired from always being up about something—because of Starbucks’ red holiday cups. Of course, this has friends of mine who aren’t Christians belittling that up-in-arms-ness, whether actual Christians are upset by this or couldn’t care less. Somewhere, a Christian is miffed, so this is news and must be reported upon.

Somewhere else, a pastor is up-in-arms (there we go again) about consumeristic Christians picking and choosing churches like they pick which roast of coffee (served in a Christless red cup, no doubt) they prefer. Then those ingrates stop coming every week, like they’re supposed to. Because, consumerism. What sinners in need of repentance! This, of course, blames the people in the pews for reacting to the various marketing ploys hatched up by certain church leaders in an effort to draw more folks to their church rather than to the church across the street. Call it “The Great Church Growth Arms Race” (or “Mutually Assured Destruction, Christian Style”—as the case may be), as church leaders add one more thing they think will grab folks and then blame those folks for succumbing to the lure.

{ Insert colorful expletive here }

SlagWhen I was a kid, my brothers and I collected rocks. We even had a cool display of different types of raw gemstones and minerals.

One day, I encountered one of the showiest hunks of rock I had ever seen. It had layers of color, shimmered in the light, and featured weird, bubbly extrusions. Fascinating, but I could not identify it. A meteorite? Whatever it was, it just HAD to be priceless.

At a gem and mineral show, a lapidarist informed me it was a piece of slag.

The term the Bible employs for slag is dross. It’s waste left over from smelting precious metals. As leftovers from the real thing, it may look cool, but it’s still waste and therefore worthless.

I wonder if somewhere along the line, we Christians, in an effort to refine what we knew to be gold, wound up valuing the dross instead. I can’t make sense of life anymore unless I come to this conclusion. Nothing else fits.

After a while, you wonder if you’re the one off-kilter. That there’s something wrong with you when you find dross and recognize it for what it is, but everyone else thinks it’s beautiful and valuable. You begin to doubt if you still have all your aggies, jaspers, and swirlies.

I think the world is getting stranger, especially for the discerning Christian. More and more fellow Christians will confuse dross for gold as life gets more bizarre, and the discerning folks will be left baffled by their fellows’ confusion.

Nothing good ever comes to the person who says in public, “Hey, wait a sec, that ain’t right….” At least from an earthly perspective that’s true.

At one point, I questioned whether we should say anything. Perhaps silent, internal acknowledgment proved the best response.

But now, I think born-again Christians who are led by the Spirit must graciously, winsomely, and lovingly point out to fellow Christians that that object of admiration their fellows hold in their hands is most likely waste and not the pure gold they should treasure.

In an age when all correction meets with anger, it is certain that such speaking will not generate thank you’s, but it must be done. Again and again and again. Or else, we will all lose our minds, and quite possibly our souls too.

The ChristCon Con


Each week in North America, thousands of Christians gather together in hundreds of different Christian conferences scattered across the continent. In the course of a year, millions will attend thousands of these Asleep in the Light ID Tagconferences to hear celebrity preachers preach, learn from massively credentialed Christian teachers, and enjoy fellowship with likeminded believers.

Yet we have no revival.

Pastors, worship leaders, and Sunday School teachers will attend conferences for pastors, worship leaders, and Sunday School teachers. Men, women, couples, singles, seniors, and youth all have conferences geared to their unique needs. We have countless denominations conferencing to handle policy and chart the future of their group.

Yet we have no revival.

We sponsor conferences on theology, ecclesiology, purity, pastoral care, eschatology, hermeneutics, biblical archeology, and any topic within Christendom we can imagine. We even have conferences on evangelism.

Yet we have no revival.

We drop millions of dollars on airfare, trainfare, boatfare, and gasoline to get to conferences. We line the pockets of innumerable conference speakers, teachers, facilitators, and facility owners. We have the monetary equivalent of the GDP of a small African nation to spend on lodging, dining, and even sightseeing within conference host cities.

Yet we have no revival.

On the other hand, in China, where the flames of revival burn white-hot, the Communist Chinese police hope against hope that the Chinese house churches will start arranging conferences. What better way to round up renegade Christian leaders by the conference-full, bind them in shackles, and toss them into some prison hell-hole—some never to be heard from again.

But born-again Chinese Christians know better, so they don’t hold conferences.


Chinese Church: No Christian conferences. No one attending conferences. No money spent attending conferences. Yet revival gloriously blazes on.

North American Church: Thousands of Christian conferences yearly. Millions of people attending conferences. Untold millions of dollars spent attending conferences. Yet we have no revival.

Concerning the status of the North American Church and its love for conferences, the Bible supplies us an apt phrase: Chasing after wind.

I make no pretense toward the prophetic, but I have a word for us all:

One day, you and I will stand before the Lord at His Judgment Seat and He will ask us if we told the lost about Him, discipled others to spiritual maturity, fed the poor, clothed the naked, attended the sick, and visited the prisoner.

But He won’t be asking how many Christian conferences we attended.

Some will object to this post. I simply ask this: Are our churches so weak that we can’t disciple anyone to any reasonable level of maturity, so we have to send everyone running off to a plethora of conferences to take up the slack? If so, we should instead be staying home and fixing our churches with prayer, fasting, and faces-in-the-dust repentance. But do we do this? No. We pack people off to conferences. And as we’ve seen, we have thousands of conferences and yet we have no revival.

Do we understand how seriously we’re squandering the Lord’s resources? If we did, we’d get serious about this Faith we supposedly hold dear and stop treating it like a hobby (with fancy conferences that make us feel good about ourselves—yet accomplish next to nothing eternal).

What if each of us took the money we had allocated to yet another conference on our calendars and instead used that money to pay for medical care for the uninsured single mother with four kids who lives down the street? What if we took the weekend we would have spent with our posteriors planted in some padded theater seat soaking up a message we already know from yet another “gifted” speaker we’ve heard a bazillion times already and instead spent that time fixing up the house of one of the elderly in our congregation? What if we actually took all the things we’ve already learned about Jesus and put them to use telling others about Him and doing good works in His name so that when we have to stand before Him we look like sheep, not goats?

Perhaps if we raised the bar for those who get to attend conferences. Perhaps if we set a standard so that before we’re allowed to attend another conference we must help lead five people to Christ and disciple them to some semblance of Christian maturity.

Funny thing is, if we did that, I suspect that many of us would be asking what the point of conferences is anyway. Maybe then, our love for Christian conferences would be replaced by a love for the lost and for the brethren.

And then we would have revival.