What does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul~ Deuteronomy 10:12
I am a competitive person. I am so competitive, in fact, that I inevitably feel like a dirty fraud anytime I am required by circumstance or social custom to repeat the ridiculous axiom we have all heard at least a thousand times:
It doesn’t matter whether you win or lose; it’s how you play the game that really counts.
It’s not that I have no regard for the concept of sportsmanship. I do. It’s just that the above-mentioned axiom is not true all or even most of the time. In some instances how well you play is irrelevant if you don’t actually win the game.
Whether or not one wins or loses a game of baseball or checkers is irrelevant in the grand scheme of history. However, repeatedly being bested by a two-year-old child in a battle of wills could have long-term, possibly even eternal consequences.
Christianity is locked in a battle with radical Islam for the hearts, minds and souls of the young and searching. Radical Muslims are actively engaged in powerful a recruitment campaign aimed at converting young, aimless Westerners to their worldview.
Terrorists are peddling a skillfully crafted bill of goods. They promise purpose, significance and tight-knit communities. Islam offers fixed standards of morality to guide people through life in a complex and ever-changing world.
It’s becoming clear that in some cases the hucksters are playing the game better than we are. Young people with noble intentions are buying into a belief system that will end in earthly bondage and eternal judgment.
Despite expending untold millions on youth Pastors, coffee bars and programs designed to attract and keep young people, Christian Churches are losing nearly eighty percent of their young adults following graduation. Meanwhile, thousands of Europeans, Canadians and Americans are forsaking Western freedoms for the cause of Islam.
In a misguided attempt to reach the un-churched, Christians have watered down the very truths that people are starving to hear and Islam has slipped into the void created by our foolish neglect of truth. It’s not too late to turn the tide, but there are three key things we must stop doing if we want to win this game.
Stop acting friendly and strive to be inclusive
Christian churches have worked tirelessly in recent years to create welcoming and friendly environments. Leaders have spent countless hours training volunteers to be approachable and friendly. Friendliness is great but it’s community that the world is crying out for. Community is created when Church members go beyond outward friendliness and invite people to become a part of their day-to-day lives. Community and the accountability that comes with it is the key to life-changing discipleship. Authentic community can only occur when folks know and trust one another well enough to comfort in times of trouble and correct wrong behavior when necessary.
Stop peddling salvation and start teaching people to obey Jesus
Forgiveness has become the end game of the Christian experience. Many have converted to Christianity without ever learning the crucial discipline of following Jesus. Forgiveness of sin is a benefit of salvation but not be the end goal. Following Jesus requires death to selfishness and a great deal of effort. Self-sacrifice and effort result in lasting change and a deep sense of purpose. Change and purpose occur because Jesus calls us to live beyond ourselves. He takes us to new heights of sacrifice when we heed that call. Youth are crying out for a sense of purpose and yearning for a cause worth sacrificing for. We can give it to them by teaching and modeling the hard work of following Jesus.
Stop treating conviction and judgment as if they are the same thing
Judgment and conviction sometimes look alike, but they are entirely different. Judgment declares one guilty and deserving of hell. The severe nature of judgment can leave people feeling hopeless and condemned. God is the only one who can rightly judge. Conversely, conviction is a tool that God uses to drive sinful humans towards repentance. Conviction is the sense of guilt that all people feel when they transgress God’s standards of right and wrong. The Church has become so fearful of seeming judgmental that we have dropped discussion of anything that might possibly cause conviction. Our trepidation has left no room for the Holy Spirit to convict the hearts of people.
For decades now Western Christians have attempted to attract converts by dropping standards and watering down the gospel. It’s becoming increasingly clear that our efforts have failed. It’s time for Christians to get back in the game. The only way to this is to form communities that foster accountability, teach people to follow Jesus (rather than “get saved”) and by communicating truth in a way that leads to conviction rather than complacency.