Next to my desk, I have several small stacks of books. One of them is my “to-read” pile. Another is a frequently used resource pile and another one is simply several of the books I read in 2009 that have yet to find a permanent home on the shelves. I know it’s a bit quirky, but often, when I start typing fast, I turn my head one way or the other. Don’t ask why, that’s not the point. The point is that, I’ve looked at that pile of read books a lot lately.
Though the authors and viewpoints are varied, there is a general theme running through many of the books I read in 2009: something is wrong with modern, American Christianity. This doesn’t come as a shocker to many, but it is, nonetheless, interesting. What percentage of new “Christian” books each year are variations on this same thing? Though maybe in different tunes, everyone seems to be singing the same song: something is wrong. And yet the song goes on. I don’t remember the last book I read that said that we were getting things right and doing well, do you?
But let’s be honest, it’s easier to point out what’s wrong than it is to be part of the solution. After all, how do you turn a freighter, slowly, right? How do you right hundreds of years of consumerism, democratization, and performance-mindset? How do you compete with the NFL, Mickey Mouse and porn for your people’s attention? Everyone has an idea but few of those idea are simply to the point: preach the Word and love the people. You don’t try to “compete” with the megachurch down the road that spends millions of dollars on a youth building and thousands of dollars on sets they use for a month at the most because you don’t have that kind of money and you wouldn’t spend it on those things even if you did. You don’t try to outplay their band because they have “professional” musicians. You don’t try to outclass their speaker because he’s had the best marketing training money can buy.
If the Gospel truly is the “power of God for salvation” (Romans 1:16) and if Jesus meant it when He promised that not even the gates of Hades would prevail against His Church (Matthew 16:18), then maybe we could all save some trees and at least admit that there’s a problem. Everyone seems to agree on that. But the fact that so few people agree on the solution, and in fact, that many actually propose the problem as the solution shows just how jaded we’ve become.
I recently preached from Acts 13 and I was struck by the fact that after Paul and Barnabas preach in the synagogue, we’re told in Acts 13:42 that “As they went out, the people begged that these things might be told them the next Sabbath.” Wait, what? You mean the people were actually moved by the Gospel? They actually wanted more? Paul and Barnabas didn’t have to up the ante on their light show? They didn’t have to get that choreography down and get the coffee brewed just right? People wanted more of the Truth about Jesus?!
Now there’s a novel concept. Maybe we should try that. But just with a little more pizazz, right?