The Genericazation of Christianity

607564955_e17d35ddd4OK — so “genericazation” isn’t really a word.   Perhaps I should use “generification” since that is a real word, but that word doesn’t quite describe my thoughts on the subject.

Maybe some of you are like me — maybe you have become weary of watching the one true, historic Christian faith develop into something it is not and was never intended to be.  I have watched modern Christianity evolve over the last half-century into something unrecognizable and foreign to true, knowledgeable believers.  Christianity’s many rich theological doctrines are continually being subjected to man’s shredding words and mangled opinions.

Some of the historic doctrines of Christianity are tossed aside because of human desire and private opinion — some of them are banished from sermons because they are seemingly unkind and unjust — and some of them are distorted and perverted to more pleasantly suit the eye of the beholder and the ear of the listener.

Many people have a deep desire to know Christ.  We should!  We were created to worship and to serve our Creator!  We long for Him — He is the center and core of our being!   Often however, it seems the desire to follow Christ is only as deep as our desire to create a Christianity of our own making, defined and designed by our own sinful hearts.  Our beloved faith is being repackaged as a generic sort of religion which pleases the human heart, tickles human ears and attracts human eyes.  Numbers of attendees matter more than truth and the accurate preservation and teaching of God’s Word.

While there is always room for differences of opinions on doctrines that may not appear clear — that’s not really what I’m trying to discuss right now.  No single human being on this planet has it all right.  Not even R.C. Sproul is right about every theological issue and I respect just about everything he says as biblically accurate.  We are fallen human beings – we fail and we fall — constantly.  God opens the eyes of some and for some, He does not do so.  No doubt confusion will occur within the Christian faith.  This is to be expected.  We live in a sinful and fallen world.

What is not to be expected is to watch the continual erosion of our faith by those who are called to lead.   It’s being done in a generic, innocent sort of way — stamped and approved by Barna’s research to give it authenticity.  A perceived generic way to teach has evolved — a perceived generic way to reach the masses — a perceived generic way to “do ministry.”

I don’t doubt for a minute that intentions are more often than not genuine especially in the beginning of a leader’s ministry.  Evangelism drives our hearts.  We want many to be saved before Jesus returns.  The problem occurs when in the desire to reach larger and larger numbers of people, we sacrifice truth in the process.  What good does it do to reach huge numbers of people for Christ if the words we use to reach them are false and misleading?

The teaching of the gospel has been laid aside in order to offer encouraging words about life issues — how to be a better person — how to stay married — how to be good parents.  While these are all important issues, the Bible reminds us that it is the gospel message that should be taught each and every Sunday as a reminder to believers about the focus of our faith.

We forget so easily.  We need to hear the gospel message constantly lest we forget what that message is really about.  We need to remember Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf.  We need the source of our faith to remain intact.  We need our Christian pastors and teachers to teach and to exhort the Word of God to us because we are a lazy laypeople.  Our pastors have a calling –to be faithful to the gospel message of Christ and to teach it accurately to those entrusted in their care.  All else should be saved for private counseling sessions where our humanness can become intimately exposed and mentored.

This frustration has nothing to do with the battle between contemporary worship and traditional worship.  This is a battle for truth.  This is a battle for the preservation of God’s Word.  This is so much bigger than our personal preferences regarding music, don’t you think?

I’m hungry for the Word to be taught in our Christian churches.  Willow Creek is way off base in their analysis.  Mature Christians don’t need to be taught how to be self-feeders so that the pastor can continue to teach pablum to the masses.  Most mature believers have already become self-feeders on their own because their pastors aren’t being faithful to their call.  I am a self-feeder not because I want to be but because I have no choice in the matter.  I want to know my God.  I wish I didn’t have to do it alone.

I used to make excuses for our teachers because (and I mean this sincerely) — most of them are wonderful men and women of God.  We will always have our share of Ted Haggards and Jimmy Swaggerts to deal with and expose but how can the everyday Christian expose error when they don’t even understand their faith in the first place!   Christians who have studied the Bible can see right through those ruffians but those who are sitting under pastors who are not teaching the deep things of God are lost in their lack of discernment.  The risk is great for these followers.

No, it is the everyday, honest pastor and teacher that is befuddling my heart these days.  I love them as my brothers and sisters in Christ.  I appreciate their efforts within the church to serve.  Yet, in their humanness — in their desire to grow the church — they have lost the centrality of their calling in the mire of daily activity.  They have lost their first love — the gospel message of Christ.

Last Sunday I was in Orange County — a large metropolitan area filled with churches.  Desiring to worship God on the Lord’s Day, I searched the internet to find a suitable church to visit.  It’s a wonderful thing to have the mp3s of each pastor’s sermons online, ready and available to hear.  I went from church site to church site, slowly becoming discouraged with the words that flowed through my speakers.  Finally, after a lengthy search, I found only 2 churches worthy of attendance.  We chose the closest one and indeed worshiped the Lord that day.

Sadly, the church was tiny. The other one was a little bigger but not by much.  Here, in two very small churches, God’s Word was rich and flourishing!  Yet in the plethora of larger churches in that area, the Word was negligible and almost non-existent.  There were plenty of sermons to hear about Earth Day and how environmentalism should flourish in the church.  Imagine!

I learned a lesson last Sunday.  The Word of God is still here as He promised it would be but it’s not necessarily in churches that are thriving and growing.  It is more often found in small, faithful congregations who are consistently preaching and teaching the gospel message Sunday after Sunday, week after week.  They make a conscious choice to do so instead of using pleasantly entertaining stories to increase the size of their coffer.  In the little church I attended last Sunday, I watched as the children sitting in the congregation recited the Nicene Creed by heart — because they heard it every Sunday.  This church was serving God well — yet few people in that locale appeared to be noticing.

God bless faithful pastors who serve congregations who can barely support them financially.  Their reward will be great.  Sadly not every community has even a tiny church like this for true believers to attend.  Thankfully, with the advent of the internet, most of us can feed on the rich message of Christ delivered by faithful teachers who treasure the Word of God, but I wish I could have it all — the Word of God and community.

My heart wishes that God’s Word, faithful teaching and community could co-exist into the beautiful body that God desires for us to be.  Pray that it will be so once again.

Psalm 119:1 – 16

Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD!
Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart,
who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways!
You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently.
Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!
Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.
I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules.
I will keep your statutes; do not utterly forsake me!
How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.
With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes!
With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth.
In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.

Image by Robert Stinnett (under Creative Commons Attribution License)

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