At this point, you may be thinking that I'm wrong about this one. (And maybe I am; it wouldn't be the first time.) You're thinking I'm wrong because you sit in your church every Sunday and your church really is talking to you about all the things Jesus promised - eternal life, hope, love, community.
But is your church pointing you to the Christ who promised these things or is your church promising you these things themselves?
It's a very fine line, one that we're walking every day. We're not the first generation to have to do so. We won't be the last. But we cannot deny that there are millions of Christians in the church who are expecting their churches to give them what Jesus has promised.
Because that's the way the church talks.
The church talks about Christianity in terms of what it can do for you, not Christ in terms of what He has done. The church talks about the rewards of giving your life to Christ, but it is not talking about what Christ has done to deserve your life. The church talks about eternal life as the reward for your faith, but it's not talking about amazing grace that is the gift freely given.
The church is clouding herself in a bunch of Jesusy-sounding talk, but she's not pointing back to the actual Jesus in any real, meaningful way. He's an idea to today's church, not a person; a doctrine, not a deity.
And, inevitably, the world is growing weary.
The world is growing weary because the church cannot deliver on her promises. She cannot give you what Christ has promised, no matter how good her words sound. She cannot even give you herself...because she is depending upon you to complete her. At her very core, today's church is insecure, and it's because she has put her power in her pews, not in her Promiser.
It's hard to say that. It hurts to say that. I grieve when I have to say something like that. But it's true. Today's church is offering you herself and depending on you for her very survival...and somewhere in Galilee, the Son of God is dripping beads of blood-sweat and weeping for you and for her. Not that we notice any more.
You can see this insecurity in the way that we fear. The number one thing God tells us not to do in His Word is to fear, but we can't seem to help ourselves. There are all kinds of narratives about the troubles facing the church, and we see every single one of them for real. And it scares us.
It scares us that our numbers are dwindling. It scares us that our values are waning. It scares us that our world is pressing in from all sides. It scares us that the day may be coming where it may not be so safe, at least in the West, to be a Christian. And our reaction to this has not been to lean harder on Jesus, but to build stronger our walls. The church is trying to turn herself from a refuge into a fortress, not because the world demands it (Jesus said we would have trouble; He never said we should fear it) but because our own insecurities do.
And in doing so, we're stepping into the sandals of the One who walked the dusty road and trying to take the Christians without requiring the Cross.
Which is how we've ended up with millions of Christians sitting in the church, members of a growing social club, who don't know any real thing about Jesus, who look into the mirror and see gods, and who are waiting on the church to deliver them.
If this doesn't grieve you....