Monday, February 4, 2008

Church Leaders: Culpable

---by Tristan Emmanuel

I've just spent a week in a conference with some of the top social conservative minds in North America. It was a truly remarkable experience. But there was also something sad about the event.

In repeated discussions with conference attendees over coffee, lunch and during other social times, I was struck time and time again by how inept the leadership of the evangelical and conservative Catholic strains of Christianity have become when it comes to defending the faith.

Not only was it clear from my conversations during this week that church leaders are not defending the faith – they are also not equipping their congregants for the daily battle of ideas in our culture.

Unfortunately, too many Christian leaders have deliberately made peace with the creeping socialism and the rampant secularism that are all around us. Instead of teaching their congregations the important truths that extend beyond the pabulum of having a "personal relationship" with Jesus, the leaders in today's seeker-sensitive churches have avoided inculcating a full Christian world and life view.

That's not to say that the "personal relationship" isn't important. Of course it is. It's fundamental. But that "relationship" doesn't exist as an end in itself. It is supposed to bear fruit, including fruits of personal responsibility, public morality and other cultural out-workings.

But too many of today's church leaders are reluctant to talk about this. We have been repeatedly told that "doctrine divides." But what is really behind this sentiment isn't so much love for the "lost" but fear that the "bottom line" will be affected. Unfortunately, the real horror behind the leadership vacuum is that the modern church has become a "big corporation" in which the standards of political correctness, and not truth, drive the marketing arm of most seeker-sensitive churches.

Of course, it's not just the leadership class. The Bible tells us that people will discard sound teaching and itch after falsehood. But I think it's more than just a lack of interest in sound teaching or a concern for bigger collection plates.

Christians have become lazy. While the leadership may be falling down on the job, individual Christians aren't exactly engaging the culture either. There are several reasons for this. One is apathy. Laziness. Many people literally can't be bothered to get their minds outside the comfort zone of a "me-and-Jesus" brand of Christianity that is so intensely personal it has no broader implications for issues of justice, public morality and civil governance. These are the people, for example, who have bought the lie of "separation of church and state," the ones who chastise other Christians for trying to have an influence in the culture. (And if you don't believe these people exist, I would invite you, metaphorically speaking, to have a look at my e-mail inbox.)

But the final, and saddest reason people don't engage – as Christians – in the culture wars raging around them is the fact that they don't know how to. They're not getting the training. They're not being "equipped." They don't know how, for example, to counter the argument that Christian thought should have no influence in civil government. They stand with mouths agape when their critics tell them that Christians are no different from the Taliban when they try to "impose their values" on the rest of society. They don't have a clue how to mount a coherent response to the tautological tripe and polemic piffle of poseurs like Richard Dawkins and his "God Delusion."

And simply put, the reason for this lack of knowledge and understanding is that too few of the pastors in the church today possess either the intellectual acumen or the necessary zeal to meet the challenges of secular humanism head on.

I worry for the future of Christianity in North America. While of course I acknowledge that God is in control, the Bible does say that the Lord will not be kind to religious leaders who fail to take their responsibilities seriously. In Hosea, the prophet utters the familiar words: "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." But he is addressing the religious leadership of his day when he continues that thought in the very next line: "Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me."

That's one of the reasons I do what I do. I don't want to be rejected by the Lord of life, and I couldn't care less about the "bottom line." It may be nice to be popular with the masses, but at the expense of Divine rejection? I think not.

But even more fundamental than my own spiritual preservation is the concern I have for the modern church. I run an organization in Canada called "Equipping Christians for the Public Square." One of the ideas behind the organization is to advocate on behalf of beleaguered Christians who find themselves the object of Human Rights investigations because they have spoken truth in the public square.

I have often thought that in an ideal world – where the church was doing its job – my ECP Centre shouldn't be necessary. After all, churches should be advocating for brothers and sisters who find themselves on the wrong end of the law simply because they have spoken truth. The price of political freedom is free speech that gives offense. After all, what can be more offensive than the Gospel's call to unrepentant sinners – be they abortionists, homosexuals or philanderers?

Unfortunately, last week's event again convinced me that there's a crying need out there for the kinds of things the Centre does. In fact, it has set me to thinking of expanding the work into the United States of America.

The fact that so few pastors are actually equipping their congregants with a consistent Christian world and life view that manifests itself in "salt and light" activity – or in advocating on behalf of those who are subject of hate-crime investigations – tells me there is room for this Canadian to start equipping the saints in America.

2 comments:

Wm Mallory said...

But the final, and saddest reason people don't engage – as Christians – in the culture wars raging around them is the fact that they don't know how to. They're not getting the training. They're not being "equipped." They don't know how, for example, to counter the argument that Christian thought should have no influence in civil government. They stand with mouths agape when their critics tell them that Christians are no different from the Taliban when they try to "impose their values" on the rest of society. They don't have a clue how to mount a coherent response to the tautological tripe and polemic piffle of poseurs like Richard Dawkins and his "God Delusion."------



boy, I sure do agree with this analysis!!!! Christians are not equipped... Nor can they give an intelligent arguement for the defense of the Faith.

srhoyle said...

exactly. and a big reason is that America's pulpits are filled with folks who aren't equipped to equip!

"too few of the pastors in the church today possess either the intellectual acumen or the necessary zeal to meet the challenges of secular humanism head on."