When we last spoke before Christmas, we introduced the hashtag #EndSelfism to combat the official theocracy firmly established in America today. Self-deification, or intolerance of opinions that conflict with another’s personal view of truth, is now the state religion enforced by government, employers and social media. As evidence, dare to articulate a dissenting view against gay marriage, transgenderism or abortion and face possible employment termination and public humiliation on Facebook. Replacing God with ourselves has granted individuals supreme power to invent a personal moral code, self-identify as male or female, and do anything else as long as it doesn’t burst someone else’s identity bubble.
The goal of #EndSelfism is to start a revolt against this entrenched theocracy. Winning this battle requires addressing the underlying root cause for the rise of Selfism in America – the failure by the Church to lead in standing against self-interest, instead gradually adapting to the “flesh”. John 3:6 says, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit”. The diminishing acknowledgment and reliance on the Holy Spirit in our churches is attributable to church growth strategies that appeal to “flesh”. To illustrate, Selfists elevate “self” to the level of “spirit”, leaving no room in their “religion” for the Holy Spirit. Likewise, churches in their fight for survival and growth have elevated institutional interests, making “church” the “self” that defines its own distinct interpretation of truth, leaving little room for the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the path to #EndSelfism is obvious – Christians and churches must take the lead in emptying themselves of self (flesh) and be filled instead with the Holy Spirit.
#EndSelfism is not about pointing a finger at Selfists – those who don’t know Jesus. I’m much more concerned about how churches and professed Christians are contributing to the proliferation of Selfism. The purpose of my blog has always been the same as Jesus’ stated reason for coming to earth, “Then Jesus told him, ‘I have come into the world to give sight to those who are spiritually blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind.’ John 9:39 (TLB) Jesus had a much bigger issue with those criticizing “sinners” than He did with the “sinners” themselves. Jesus wasn’t surprised that non-believers didn’t follow the Father’s laws when they didn’t believe in the law Giver. But Jesus did hold believers to a much higher standard, particularly related to His greatest commandment and requirement – love and humility.
Yet Selfism is alive and well in most churches. Churches implicitly advocate Selfism as they seek to retain members by catering to their selfish desires (e.g. for an “experience”) rather than challenging them with God’s desires (e.g. to “go and make disciples”). The latter is why Meet The Need exists – to equip churches to “go” and “make disciples”. For example, during the Christmas season Meet The Need took steps to #EndSelfism through Joy of Giving, launching an Engage364 city movement, building a new disaster relief platform for a large denomination, continuing our national hunger relief project with Feeding America, and mobilizing churches and ministries across the country to serve struggling families in Jesus’ name.
The Grand Irony…
Selfists want little to do with Christianity. In our last blog post, we showed how Selfists have one primary interest – protecting their freedom to live in sin. “They hated the heavenly Light because they wanted to sin in the darkness. They stayed away from that Light for fear their sins would be exposed and they would be punished. But those doing right come gladly to the Light to let everyone see that they are doing what God wants them to.” (John 3:20-21) Under the guise of love, compassion and justice, Selfists vehemently defend the right of each and every individual to determine his/her own moral compass and reject anyone who defers to a higher moral authority than themselves.
Selfists label all talk of moral absolutes as judgmentalism and bigotry, claiming the only “sin” is claiming that someone else has “sinned”. Ironically, this is an area where non-believing Selfists have more in common with Jesus than churchgoers. Selfists point their criticism almost exclusively at those who criticize “sinners”, which is exactly what Jesus did. Also, while Christians today surround themselves with like-minded believers, Jesus was accused regularly of fraternizing with undesirables because “sick people need a doctor”. As Christians redefined “church” as a place and not as individuals, we separated from the world and decried the downfall of American culture from within the confines of our “4 walls”, thanking God we’re not like them. Would Jesus see Christians today as those who think they are “well” and “seeing”, when in reality they are as sick and blind as the Pharisees at which He directed his ire? Rather than expecting society to live up to our expectations, we should first bring them to Jesus as Jesus did – leading with compassion and then telling them who He is and what He expects of believers.
On the other hand, many churches have gone to the other extreme – falling into a different form of sin by adopting Selfism to attract Selfists who felt ostracized by churches. In an effort to make them feel more comfortable, pastors speak little about sin and uphold no standards for churchgoers – not even the Great Commission. In fact, they intentionally appeal to self-interest by emphasizing what God can do for them and rarely addressing what He requires of them. They have stopped using words that convict like sanctification and accountability, reduced salvation to repeating a phrase, and minimized “discipleship” to small group fellowship meetings. But it’s backfiring – some of those churches may be growing but few are building on-fire disciples of Jesus Christ.
No, the path to #EndSelfism is not more Selfism. Instead, it hinges on decentralizing and equipping disciples who live prayer, care and share lifestyles. The Holy Spirit lives inside individual members, not the church building. #EndSelfism must begin with the Church, which is you and me.
It’s Your Turn…
Have you seen examples of Selfism within your church?