Workers are underestimated in their value, underemphasized from the pulpit, suspect by the lazy and sometimes warned by those of the new age of American Christianity. Why?
Through years of study and observation, and active involvement in ministry, I have some heartfelt theories. I believe the reader will be substantiate this by their own experience. There are three reasons why so little is produced in our churches today: 1) A misunderstood theology of salvation- soteriology 2) Security and 3) Laziness.
A proper understanding of the doctrines of salvation separates sheep and goats and obliterates the fears and slothfulness in His Body. From a tree you will know its fruits. One can determine that, if Christian works are not performed by the Church, then there is a problem. If you turn on a faucet and no water comes out, do you call this normal? I would say something is wrong. If we call it normal, maybe we have a grave misunderstanding of the work of Christ and His church. Either there are few Christians in the Church or those who attend misunderstand what the meaning and value of salvation is.
Today our churches fish for a certain catch. In fishing, a certain location, method and bait is used for a particular type of fish (I’m not a fisherman). We know that trout are in lakes and salmon are in the ocean (and at times rivers…please no fishing comments, this isn’t a fishing blog.). You get the idea! So, what are we fishing for?
Churches are making a comfortable place to come and enhance peoples families. Fine! We are fishing for middle and upper middle income families. Do not be surprised that this is what makes up the super majority in the church. Families go to churches that support their desire to have a good healthy family, which includes sound finances, good kids and strong marriages. Of course this is important but not at the exclusion of the mission of Christ. The mission is the reason!
Since families feel they could benefit from the church and the Christian religion, the church organizes around this school and tie their lure to capture snag them. It is a great strategy, but what about the mission?
The result of fishing for this “great” catch is that certain things fit well and others do not. Talks on morality are good, Biblical tenants on child rearing and family fit well. The topic of marriage and the roles in marriage are great. These teaching are fitting and what these fish want, but do they want the cross of Christ: sacrificial love?
It is hard to challenge these families to the sacrificial living exemplified by Jesus. He is great to admire and even worship but emulation? It is a challenge few are up to, emulation! Emulation is: well; extraneous, unpopular, and dangerous to the security the family. This is counter to why these families came in the first place! If latter they are given the full implications of the gospel, they are resistant, even feeling betrayed, as if given a bait-and switch. Of course, it is a whole package. This is way to heavy for most of these average sized fish. The pastor is intimately aware of the their phobia and as a result they get what you are fishing for; happy middle class families.
So let’s talk about the gospel they are lured with. It is a simple “Believe in Jesus and you’ll go to Heaven” and by the way, if you want to be more like Jesus, we have a whole set of choices to choose from: Kindness, honesty, courage…and the list goes on. Now some churches really go for it! They add to this that you must stop cussing, getting drunk, watching porn and other things, if you are going to heaven. (This list really makes a lot of women happy! They have been dying to have someone fix their husbands.)
Since security is important for the family, a message of self-sacrifice is unpopular. You can’t catch a lot of those fish telling them repentance means giving your life away for others like Christ did for us! This is left as a nice ideal to worship, but it is considered by many to be legalistic; an overlorded, cruelty imposed by the sadistic. Many would consider this outside the pale of orthodoxy and an enemy to the message of grace. But since these pastors are fisherman can they be trusted? (You know the legacy of fishermen and their fish stories.)
Asking for abundant giving, extensive time, personal care for others, downsizing a lifestyle, working with the poor or moving to a location in town where they could serve the poor for example, would be out of the question. This all requires faith and by its nature, puts you at risk. The faith they came to was about security for the family and eternity. This other message is risky. It is unpalatable, and incompatible for those whose ultimate goal is security. These anglers do not talk about it or live it because…..Yes! It will scare some fish off!
These fisherman are going to have to be satisfied with smaller catches.; quality not quantity. The gospel scares some fish and draws others. Let the Holy Spirit do the work! Our job is to articulate the gospel clearly, with the costs and benefits. It takes faith to believe what he said and do it!
The simple message should be like this: Jesus said to live a sacrificial life of love as He did. If you believe Him, do it! By this faith in Him, you will be forgiven your sins and a result be saved from Hell and delivered to Heaven forever. This is simple language and understandable to anyone. Maybe the catch will be smaller but the fish will be grade A!
1 Thess 1:3 We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. NIV
Paul was writing what he saw was important and needed to be fostered. The hope in Jesus empowers us to labor in love and faith. The result of Jesus’ gospel is an enduring labor of love as he demonstrated. He is called the living Word, the express will of God. It as if with His life He is saying “Now this is how you do it…Get to work!”