“Bless her [pea pickin’] heart…” “You have a blessed day now, ya hear?” “Have you been saved?” “Do you have Jesus Christ in your heart?”
Just a sampling of my favorite theologically inaccurate phrases!
Young evangelicals have been the popular subject of debate recently:
-how the evangelicals have won the battle but lost the war with the millennials
-how they won the World Vision financial battle over the changing tides of the LGBTQ community (but lets be serious, the tides changed decades ago, they were just catching up…)
-how the evangelicals are constantly in search for the real and true Jesus
-And most hilariously, how Jesus is WHITE (not a man of middle eastern heritage…but who really watches Fox News and takes what they say seriously, anyway? Well, ok. Maybe some people do.) [Did anybody bother to fact check that one…because I’m pretty sure Fox News didn’t…and won’t…]
Lets just set the record straight. The youth of the church ARE NOT fleeing in droves, the so-called millennials are NOT fleeing away from the church like God sent the Exodus plague upon it. Rather, it is a statistic denominations in a panic throw out at session and classis meetings four times annually in an attempt to inspire fear in their congregations – to evangelize, to go on mission trips, and to realize something is changing. But is anything really changing? In reality, statistics and polls show that the biggest exodus from the church among young adults was in the 1990s, and the number of young adults present in the church is roughly the same as it was in the 1970s – not so bad, right? In actuality, no!
This “change or die” mentality of orthodox Christianity (in other words, everyone who does not identify as “evangelical” in the United States) might not be the healthiest of mentalities, especially for a church that has survived for thousands of years as a result of its deep roots in history, theology and orthodoxy. If one were to look at the evangelical traditions, they don’t have the benefits of thousands, or even hundreds of years of tradition upon which to lean on. Most are just leaning on a few decades, little to no theological foundations and a literal (and rather antiquated, not to mention politically loaded) interpretation of scripture that doesn’t speak to the issues, faith and lives of the modern young Christian.
Don’t believe me? Consider the following statements, used most commonly by the evangelical contingency:
“You will be hated by all for my name’s sake.”
“If anyone does not hate his father or mother, he cannot be my disciple.”
“If any man will be my disciple, let me take up his cross and follow me.”
“For this cause, shall a man leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife.”
Lets face it: Christians are known more for what they’re against, what they preach loudly against, who they condemn, than what they do…in the name of Christ. Their words speak FAR LOUDER than their actions, which is definitely NOT the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, or at least the Gospel I heard preached every Sunday growing up.
Step back for a second and bluntly examine your personal actions. When was the last time you held the door open for someone intentionally. Really looked them in the eye when you held the door open, gave them a kind and compassionate smile. Yesterday? Today? Last week? When was the last time you intentionally looked around to offer a hand of assistance to someone who looked like they needed an extra lift? Was it within the last week? Month? Semester? When was the last time you brought a meal to someone who was ill, without them asking you to bring them a meal? NEVER? Hmmm. Food for serious thought.
A Christian community is not truly living into the Gospel of Jesus Christ unless it is whole, and looking out for each and every limb, mended or broken, screwed up, wounded, or perfectly beautiful. Whether we like it or not, there are people in our community who require our help, and help requires taking a moment or two out of our day to lend a hand. Yes, that means NOT watching an extra movie, not getting an extra Starbucks Coffee for yourself, but maybe one for someone who looks a bit down instead. It means looking around for someone who needs to feel a sense of community, to feel the peace of Christ. For someone who might need a prayer, or a hand held, a pat on the shoulder.
If you look at the statistics out there, it isn’t the evangelicals (or even ex-evangelicals, who left the church because of its confining, back-breaking, often contradictory values and so-called morals) who are starting the groundbreaking, grassroots mission organizations who are making a difference, but rather those who come from orthodox backgrounds.
The most effective agents of hope don’t have Twitter accounts, don’t use hashtags or 140 characters to record their latest random acts of kindness, to seek laud and honor for their actions. They have never blogged, never used the word “social justice,” even. The idea of identifying their actions as “Christian Charity” is foreign, and if told that this is what they were doing, they might cringe and back away. They silently carry on their deeds, usually and commonly under the radar, as this is exactly how they believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ is best carried out. Further, they serve the least of these, doing so in peace and solitude under the banner of seemingly antiquated, crusty, dusty orthodoxy. They elect not to push aside or couch this tradition, not because someone told them they must not, or ought not, but because its importance is what binds them together in such a silent ministry to others.
Be an agent of hope – don’t preach the Gospel of Nice, don’t be a dumb millennial (cringing, I refuse to associate with that label), or whatever generation you are, just moseying through life without any grounding. Don’t preach a Gospel that is watered down, lackluster, or anything but raw, authentic and wholly of Jesus Christ. Don’t let one part of the body of Christ down, be separated, or feel disconnected in your watch. Don’t be the person who is constantly, “woe is me, my life is simply dreadful,” and let your blessings fall by the wayside when others need to be lifted up. Be the uplifter, but in silence. Don’t be the person that looks for laud and honor in 140 characters, or in a status update. Random acts of kindness are best examined and praised by God alone, not by the world at large, followers and those you follow, friends and buddies, likes and commenters.
Be an agent of love. Be an agent of kindness, and be an agent of orthodoxy. The church is not dwindling, nor is it dying. It is alive and well, so long as we continue to let it – in the preaching of the Gospel, in praying, and in our actions. In continuing to evoke God’s name, in continuing to come to the table, and refusing to live according to a simplified gospel of nice, which is watered down, false and lives according to a vending machine god. Demand quality, demand love, and demand the God who created and reconciled in grace and love. This is the only Gospel worth engaging with. Be an agent of THIS Gospel.
No buddy Jesus, no buddy God. No buddy Holy Spirit. Just Gospel. Just ministry. Just raw, humanity engaging with the God who cares. Plain and simple.
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