We Had a Choice, and We Chose…

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(Back in August 2006, I wrote a post entitled The Real American Christian “Either/Or. If you haven’t read that post, please do. Today’s post riffs on the ideas found in that post.)

I had an opportunity to drive to see my youngest brother in Illinois before he left to do linguistics field work and data collection in Alaska. My middle brother and his family joined me on the trek west. Having attended a local Bible college, that brother has volunteered as a youth minister at his church for so long that he’s into his second generation of teens.We talked about many topics on the drive to Carbondale.

 

While discussing the state of the Church today, he made the following statement:

If you take a look at the average Evangelical Christian family in this country, they may talk about choosing to follow Jesus, but they didn’t. They chose money. That explains everything.

George Barna, the pollster who routinely looks at the state of the American Church, has noted that Evangelicals are more concerned that their kids get into elite colleges than that those same children follow Jesus Christ. The reasoning for that seems obvious. Graduating from an elite college means a higher-paying job.

 

Yesterday, I made this comment about men:

I want to believe that a man can work a sixty-hour week, spend quality time with his wife and kids, be involved in his community, find time for leisure, and still be an effective disciple of Jesus Christ. The kind of man who prays big prayers and knows God intimately for those prayers. The kind of man who readily leads many others to his Savior and disciples those same people to maturity. I want to believe, but I don’t know any men like that.

 

I’m not saying that a man like I describe can’t have an earnest desire to serve the Lord. But I question the ability to follow through on that desire. It’s a case of allegiance. Two masters; which will the average 9-to-5’er (or 8-to-6’er, as the case is today) serve?

Every survey out there on the state of the Church in 2008 notes drop-offs in attendance, participation in activities, and general involvement. The Church in this country is in poor shape. We have more megachurches than ever before and less spiritual health.

Meanwhile, the lost are proceeding to hell in an endless stream.

Who is actually doing the work of the ministry today? It’s a handful of people, mostly full-time Christian workers. It’s hard not to look at the way we do ministry in America 2008 and not see that most of us have stepped out of the ministry role Jesus commended of us and handed it off to someone else accompanied by a small envelope filled with a few bucks “earnest” money. That passes for active ministry in most people’s lives.

And why not? We’re making the big bucks. Why not farm out our responsibility to someone else? It’s The American Way™!

But it’s not Jesus’ way.

As I noted yesterday, I want to believe that the average Christian man working a middle management job in some cubicle in Conglomo Corporation can make a difference for Christ. But I don’t see it. Hey, Bob, have you met the new guy in HR?I see that same man’s large suburban tract home, his boat, his trips to Disneyworld, his 401k account, but I don’t see any impact for the Kingdom. Not when all the accounts are tallied and the bill comes due. Yet this passes for acceptable Evangelical living in America 2008.

When asked if he would deny Christ, I’m sure that man would vehemently say no. And yet he appears to every day because in all the things that matter he’ll never choose Jesus. He’ll choose comfort. He’ll take the money and run. And he’ll make darned sure his kids can take the money and run, too, even if that means Jesus ends up the also-ran in his children’s lives.

I don’t want to think that it’s all about the Benjamins, yet it seems like it is. I know that I have difficult decisions to make in that regard, decisions I didn’t ever think that I—or any other man my age—would need to make. Perhaps our concessions to our Industrialized Age have forced our hands. Maybe no middle ground exists any longer. It just may be that all we can do is fall into line or else wind up scavenging for food from the neighborhood dump. Who wouldn’t want to avoid that fate?

And so we made our choice.

22 thoughts on “We Had a Choice, and We Chose…

  1. I would agree with the assesment that we in America have, in large part, chosen money over Jesus. We have come to equate God’s blessing with the American dream. I read “In His Steps” a few weeks ago and the choices made by the people in the church had a profound impact on their lives and on their community. Those choices caused a great deal of social and financial dislocation. I had to ask myself if I would be willing to do that myself. It’s something I struggle with. I want to put Jesus first, ahead of comfort and security, but how to do that in wealthy 21st Century America is a question I’m still searching for.

    • Fred,

      I struggle with the same feelings you express in your last sentence.

      In so many ways, we’re in a position here in America 2008 that we’ve made most aspects of the Christian faith theoretical. We’ll expound the theories like mad, but when push comes to shove, we admit the theories don’t work by the very way we live.

      We have to stop doing that.

      How? We need to start banding together to be countercultural. Lone wolves will not help us make a change, but a large pack of people who are fed up with compromise will.

      • A large group banding together to be counter-cultural will take some major changes in a lot of churches. Many churches only get together on Sunday, and gather in large buildings with a large number of programs, and a large budget. There is a lot that would have to be given up in our churches if we really were serious about being counter-cultural.

        But, like most revolutions, a small start that grows may be enough.

        • Fred,

          Especially today, a fancy church building is a huge anchor around the necks of the congregants. I wonder how it truly pays back. In a lot of ways, it hinders people from helping others financially since so much money is needed to pay for an expensive building.

  2. Dan,
    Question: has there ever been a time in the history of the church (past the first century) when this hasn’t been the case? Narrow is gate…

    • SLW,

      I think there has been. I don’t believe that our lives today were exactly like they were a 100, 250, 500, 1000 years ago. The precedents aren’t there.

      Are all men and women subject to the same sins? Yes. But this does not mean that we aren’t worse than before. Nor does it mean we should settle and throw up our hands, saying, “Well, you know, that’s the way I guess it’s got to be?”

      That’s hopelessness—and the Church of Jesus doesn’t settle for hopelessness. Nor are we supposed to run away from a challenge.

      Remember, Nehemiah still built the wall.

      • Yeah Dan, I realize some of the details are different, but the love of mammon, the securing of it, the maintenance of it, the multiplying of it are age-old problems. I think you’ve described our culture today and it’s love affair with mammon accurately enough, but I see that same mammon focused attitude infecting the founders of this country, the settlers of the west, and labor and the entrepreneurs of the industrial age. I see it in the mercantilism of the colonial era, and even the guilds of the middle ages. I wish prospering believers throughout time gave me some reason to believe that we could have our cake and eat it too, but alas, I have grave doubts. Maybe I should just push to get my cut (the tithe) and go with the flow., but no, you are absolutely right about not flying the flag of surrender. If the OT, and history in the west since, is any clue, the only sure antidote for the “fat, dumb, and happy” syndrome (perhaps that should be spelled sin-drome) is social upheaval and economic reversal, but I can’t bring myself to wish for that.

  3. connie

    I agree totally that the “almighty dollar” doesn’t lack for worshipers in this day and age. But please remember that a Christian is or should be a Christian in the workplace. The business world IS a harvest field. Too often we think that only things done within the four walls of the church building count for serving God. Not so!

    My husband is in management at a real estate company. I know for a fact that he is like a pastor to those he works with and is responsible for. He has even been able to minister in a real way to his boss-a boss who not only allowed but asked for hubby to get one of our pastors into the building to pray for the business and those therein.

    Workers are called to be a light in the workplace! If Christians would be known for their excellent work and excellent character in the workplace, what a difference they could make!

    • Connie,

      I always hear about sharing Christ in the workplace, yet from my own observations I’ve found that it either doesn’t happen as much as we like to say it does OR it has little to no long-term effect.

      Now this is not to say that your husband is not effective in that role, only that, in general, few people are

  4. Dan,

    Why would you expect anything different from Evangelicals when the expectations from the pulpit for men are similar to that of their wives?

    The harvest is plenty, but the workers are few.

    Not sure where you are going with this, but right now, I’ll just say Amen.

    Blessings,

    Don

      • Dan,

        In your linked post, you talked asked “… what soul-stirring, repentance-laden prophetic message can be expected from a man who’s always thinking, How can I make more money so my wife can buy more of the stuff that makes her happy?”. Isn’t that a similar expectation of men from the pulpit – “How can they make more money so that we can afford bigger buildings and programs”?

        Don

  5. It would be so easy for me to sit back and applaud you for what you have said in this blog. Unfortunately, for me personally, it’s not the church, it’s me. I have lived 100% reliant on the Lord in my early Christian walk to today where I am not “filthy rich” but financially comfortable. Yet, I have also compromised my faith, settled for second best and replaced Christ with self and selfishness on the way to “security”. I have no confidence that I could say I’d never deny Christ because I’m too much like Peter that way. I just hope I never do. So I thank you for your blatant honesty but can’t blame the church when I have only myself to blame.

    I don’t know how much I’d be willing to give up without being afraid and bound by fear. I just hope that I could if I had to. So I apologize to you that I am one of those you are writing about. I hope you will forgive me.

  6. Hi, Dan,

    Talk is a good place to start – when one has been challenged about the situation in which one finds oneself. “Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honoured his name.”

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