Today, I'm tackling the fourth criticism outsiders have of Christians. It's that we are too sheltered. Interestingly, I also just read the final chapter in the book What Women Fear by Angie Smith. It made the issue of being too sheltered crystal clear in my mind. I hope I can convey what God showed me clearly here.
Busters and Mosaics (remember we are talking about those ages 16 - 29, although these two groups encompass more than that - for instance, I am 39 and a Buster), are very conversant and even comfortable with the subtleties and inconsistencies of life. They are not impressed with a faith that ignores or isolates itself from the complexities of life.
Kinnaman writes, "A faith that does not effectively address convoluted and thorny issues seems out of tune with a generation asking big questions and expressing candid doubts. Spirituality that is merely focused on "do's and don'ts" rings hollow."
This is truly sad because this particular generation needs help. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in people ages 15 to 24. In a 2005 study, 1 in 6 high school students contemplated suicide and 1 in 12 actually tried it.
Despite being tuned in and plugged in to a vast network of friends, they are often lonely and feel unfulfilled.
BUT, for this group, Christianity isn't the answer. Even though, we HAVE the answer, this age group is dismissing our faith as irrelevant and ineffective. According to Kinnaman, "A new generation thinks of Christianity as devoid of spiritual vibrancy, parochial, small-minded, and ignorant."
Would you turn to that as the answer to your problems?
The author of UnChristian is not suggesting we start frequenting strip clubs and "R" rated movies so we can be more relevant, but he is suggesting that our tendency to huddle together against life's messy and uncomfortable situations and people, is turning the younger generation off.
This isn't a new problem. Remember the Tower of Babel and the early church that wouldn't leave Jerusalem? Believers tendency to huddle together like sheep is nothing new, but it isn't any more pleasing to God than it was back then.
I read this chapter last night before bed, and then I got up this morning and read the last chapter in Angie Smith's book and the puzzle clicked into place for me.
We, as believers, do not fear God. In our own arrogance and pride, we have made Him small and manageable - able to fit in the box labeled faith that sits next to our other boxes labeled career, finances and plans. We have, in a word, made God tame, and Christianity, as a result, seems stale and unappealing - just a set of rules that makes no real difference in the lives it promises to change. As some of the people in Kinnaman's book described it - a spiritual social club.
Numerous verses in the Bible tell us the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. In fact, I'm guilty of saying that phrase flippantly myself because it is so familiar. I am guilty of being too at ease and comfortable with God, of blowing up my own importance and forgetting how big my God really is.
God forgive me.
Fear, in this case, really means fear. It doesn't just mean awe or reverence. It means, fall-on-your face, knees-trembling fear before a big, holy, all-powerful God. I am but a speck. I am not in charge.
God loves me, but He loves me too much to leave me in control of my life. Angie Smith writes that, "the greatest tragedies of life come when we turn from Him and rely on ourselves. It is an amazing gift to be able to fear the God who truly has the ability to change our circumstances."
Because we do not fear God, we think we are in control and need to fix things. This leads to ineffectual Christian lives that show no real answers to a hurting world. No wonder - in our own pride, we've decided we are in charge and we expect God to come along for the ride if He wants to. We've exchanged true obedience for spiritual sounding formulas and busyness because then we can still be in charge but appear "holy."
There is no power in a life where I am in charge. No wonder outsiders dismiss us.
There is a direct link between fearing God and truly obeying Him. The result of obedience is wisdom which in turn leads to peace and healing - in other words, REAL change because of our faith, not just surface changes that don't impress a new generation, but instead, strike them only as more slick advertising for something that doesn't really work.
I will leave you with a quote from Mike Yaconelli:
"I would like to suggest that the Church become a place of terror again; a place where God continually has to tell us, 'Fear not'; a place where our relationship with God is not a simple belief or doctrine or theology; it is God's burning presence in our lives. I am suggesting that the tame God of relevance be replaced by the God whose very presence shatters our egos into dust, burns our sins into ashes, and strips us naked to reveal the real person within. The Church needs to become a gloriously dangerous place where nothing is safe in God's presence except us. Nothing - not our plans, our agendas, our priorities, our politics, our money, our security, our comfort, our possessions, our needs... Our world is tired of a people whose God is tame. It is longing to see people whose God is big and holy and frightening and gentle and tender...and ours; a God whose love frightens us into His strong and powerful arms where He longs to whisper those terrifying words, 'I love you'."
Let's stop showing outsiders a God who is small and tame. Instead, let's show them who God really is!
"Who is this King of Glory? He is the Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory!" Psalms 24:10
~ Blessings, Bronte