By Robert Tyson
Director of missions for Robertson County Baptist Association
On Dec. 12, Ross Douthat, an opinion writer for The New York Times, wrote an article entitled the “The Return of Paganism.” Douthat is Catholic and a theological conservative. He is concerned that the Christian church has lost its focus. He means church members, along with some ministers, are substituting the biblical gospel with other gospels. They substitute Christ’s suffering with Joel Osteen’s feel good gospel. They substitute Christ’s and the Apostles’ sacrifice of self with the prosperity gospel. They substitute God’s mandate to preach Jesus with a desire to turn the Bible into a self-help gospel.
Douthat is right. The Christian church has become like a plane whose engine no longer runs; at best it sputters.
He writes, “Here are some generally agreed upon facts about religious trends in the United States. Institutional Christianity has weakened drastically since the 1960s. Lots of people who once would have been lukewarm Christmas and Easter churchgoers now identify as having “no religion” or being “spiritual but not religious.” The mainline Protestant establishment is an establishment no more.” (“The Return of Paganism” by Ross Douthat, www.nytimes.com).
We need to answer some serious questions. Questions like: Are we in Christianity for ourselves or for Christ? Are we trying to make the church about our success or Christ’s success? Are we determined to control Christ or determined to let Christ control us?
All the while, the church sputters. It sputters when we make church about anything other than following Christ. It sputters when we expect Christ to tell the Holy Spirit to bless anything unless it is about Christ. It sputters when the yardstick for measuring the Holy Spirit’s involvement is anything other than Christ being lifted up. Every other yardstick will mislead us. The yardstick of numbers can mislead us. The yardstick of whether the preacher is exciting can mislead us. The yardstick of whether or not the Bible is read can mislead us. The church’s engine starts running with power when it allows the Holy Spirit to empower it for Christ.
In 2019, my prayer for the church is for it to measure itself on whether it is doing what it is doing for Christ. The hope of the world is found in Christ. Therefore, the hope of the church is found in Christ.
In 2019, my prayer for our association of churches, who have entered into new structure, is to measure what we are doing by whether we are doing it for Christ.
The heartbeat of every new team member is to personally and collaboratively do what they do for Christ. Therefore, the church will be encouraged to follow Christ. B&R