Apathy & The Modern Church

In recent years there are many Christ-followers who have come into the thought process, through false teaching, that following Christ means a one-way ticket out of Hell and nothing more. These Christ-followers, if you can call them that, are content to sit in a plush seat in an air conditioned building doing nothing but “soaking up the rays” of light and truth that come from the mouth of their pastor. If that is all following Christ has been limited to one will find themselves in a rather uncomfortable position upon reading the apostle Paul’s writings in Romans 12:1-2 and Ephesians 4:17-20. Paul lays down a picture of how one is to follow Christ that doesn’t line up with much of what is seen in the modern church. To simply sit doesn’t cut it according to these writings.

In the Lord’s name, I tell you this. Do not continue living like those who do not believe. Their thoughts are with nothing. They do not understand, and they know nothing, because they refuse to listen. So they cannot have the life that God gives. They have lost all feeling of shame, and they use their lives for doing evil. They continually want to do all kinds of evil. But what you learned in Christ was not like this.” [1]

Paul lays out some hard things to swallow in this passage for those who are Christ-followers and not living like it. He basically calls them ignorant and stupid people, saying that their thoughts are worth nothing of value. Paul abrasively reminds them that this type of living is not what Christ called them to.

This could be the case for the modern church in our current culture. Christ-followers have become immersed in the idea that they “go to church” to “get something from it” rather than becoming immersed in the truth that they should “be the church” and “give God their lives in worship."

Some might align this with what is called the Pareto Principle. The Pareto Principle says that 20% of the people in the church do all the work and are actually growing active members of the church body; they are “being the church”. Then the other 80% are consumers, like sucker fish on the side of an aquarium they gorge themselves on all they can get until they have doubled in size but done little more than slide around sucking glass. This is not how this passage calls the Christ-follower to live.

In the book of Romans Paul shows the Christ-follower the type of life that Jesus has called him to live.

“So brothers and sisters, since God has shown us great mercy, I beg you to offer your lives as a living sacrifice to him. Your offering must be only for God and pleasing to him, which is the spiritual way for you to worship. Do not be shaped by this world; instead be changed within by a new way of thinking. Then you will be able to decide what God wants for you; you will know what is good and pleasing to him and what is perfect.”[2]

Paul begs the believer in light of God’s great mercy, which is the salvation through Jesus Christ death on the cross, to offer their lives as living sacrifices. Sacrifices in the minds of these men and women would have meant something very different that what may come up in the mind of the modern church. Sacrifice to these people meant finding a lamb or a bull and slaughtering it. In the book of Leviticus in the Old Testament there is a long list of various rules and regulations and sacrificial ordinances that the followers of Yahweh were to adhere to. What did this word sacrifice mean under the new covenant that Jesus had set up when he died on the cross? How were they to offer themselves, as sacrifices, yet remain alive?

It’s no doubt that this way of thinking through the original readers for a bit of a loop. Paul tries to clarify a bit by stating that this living sacrifice is the spiritual way for them to worship. Before Jesus, the only way they could worship Yahweh the infinitely almighty God, was through the system of sacrifices that had been set in place. Jesus changed everything. He made a way for God become “intimately approachable”[3] by His people. It is through this that Christ made a way for the living sacrifice to be possible. This sacrifice wasn’t about the shed blood of bulls and lambs it was a bout the shed blood of Jesus and how to live a life that followed his teaching.

The problem with this living sacrifice thing is that some people thought they could take a break from the hard part of sacrifice, take the modern church and the Pareto Principle, and just cost on through. Or they felt as if they could do certain things saying it was for the glory of God when really it was to draw attention to them. Paul reminds these types of thinkers that this living sacrifice is meant to be “only for God”. He challenges them to a “new way of thinking” this requires taking the natural state of selfishness humans dwell in and giving that desire over to God as a sacrifice.

Christ-followers in the modern church seem to be thinking way too much about themselves than their sacrifices to God. Is this giving God everything? It doesn’t appear to be so. It seems like Christ-followers prefer to be fat and happy to growing in their relationship with their God and Savior.

So what is the solution? How does the church fix this problem? A dramatic rethinking of what “the church” is and how it operates must come into focus for Christ-followers. They must stop going to church and start being the church. It begins with asking questions like: “If a church shuts down, would the community know? Or care? Or be different? If the answer to those questions is NO, then the church isn't fully being the church... Hopefully this is changing.”[4]

[1] Ephesians 4:17-20 (NCV)

[2] Romans 12:1-2 (NCV)

[3] “Infinitely Almighty” and “Intimately Approachable” terminology taken from Louie Giglio’s book The Air I Breathe.

[4] A comment on a Facebook status by Michael Larkin the pastor of Cinema Church in Hartford, CT.

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