Money buys happiness – for a little while. Retiring buys freedom – but it’s short lived. Remission buys time – but not much. Our hard work earns us money, investments enable us to retire, and doctors cure diseases. However, only Christ can purchase gifts that endure forever – eternal joy, freedom, and healing. Joy comes from security, and enduring security can’t be found in the temporal.
A few occasions come as close as earthly possible to authentic feelings of heavenly joy – the birth of a baby, miraculous survival of a near-death experience, or (as we’ve seen recently in Israel) release from captivity by kidnappers. Salvation is the sole source of eternal joy because Christ paid a ransom no one else could afford to free us from captivity by Satan, who holds the unredeemed hostage. The word “redeemed”, in Scripture and in history, often refers to slavery. We were once slaves to sin, but have liberty through Christ’s redemption. The price He paid was so expensive and excruciating, and our fates so hopeless and terminal, that we owe our lives to our Redeemer.
The futures of Christ-followers are secure. Jesus has reserved a room for us and granted us a guaranteed, permanent inheritance as children of His loving Father. Jesus reassures us continually of the security of our salvation, providing joy and contentment as we rest and trust in Him. Revelation 7:9-10 paints a beautiful picture of what we can be certain awaits because Jesus holds us securely in His grasp, “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.”
Although Jesus offers security, our nation is becoming increasingly insecure. Society is as uncertain and divided as it’s ever been about the direction we should go – morally, politically, economically, globally, and spiritually. Our (biblical) foundation has crumbled underneath America’s growing ranks of Nones (no religion) and Dones (with church) because Christians have become insecure (wavering in their world views) as churches became insecure (about their mission and viability).
Insecurity of Non-Believers
Non-Christians aren’t grounded in terms of identity or eternity. With no hope beyond this life, identity rooted in self, and happiness vanishing in an instant it’s not surprising that America is seeing record levels of suicide, depression and dependence (substance abuse). In their despair, the lengths some go to in order to mask the pain (e.g. promiscuity, gender dysphoria) often become their card-carrying identities (e.g. sexual orientation).
Many are not Christians because they don’t think God has the power to save them, either because He doesn’t exist or they’re unredeemable. Others believe they have the power to “save” themselves through their own goodness, essentially saying it wasn’t necessary for God to send Jesus to die for them. Arrogance devolves into insecurity as the reality of our frailty eventually comes to light. Security is found in humility.
Jesus is the sole purveyor of absolute truth. God’s Word is the only solid ground in a flimsy, post-modern world. America’s moral fabric deteriorates as society searches for worldly alternatives to God’s exclusive right to establish the rules for right and wrong…
- “Being true to myself” today has become more important than being truthful (true to others). A central tenet of Selfism is not worrying how “my truth” impacts or deludes others. Relativism collides with progressivism when ideals like “justice” and “human rights” inevitably wind up violating those principles for one party.
- Misplaced faith in fallible politicians, corrupt governments, and progressive professors perpetuates their lies, which is why #CastAnEternalVote proposes to redirect allegiance (from man to God) and partisanship (from lashing out to loving) in the months leading up to the 2024 Presidential election.
- Seeking to replace, replicate, or exceed God’s creation with our own, such as the human brain with Artificial Intelligence, bestows more power than sinful (government or corporate) leaders can resist abusing. Like the tower of Babel, God always eventually foils those ambitions and punishes the overly ambitious.
Insecurity of Today’s Christians
Unlike non-believers, the identity of Christians should be our status as children of our Father in heaven, not our personal characteristics, activities, or preferences. So we should be secure in each of the following…
- Knowing our Father will never forsake us and will undoubtedly welcome us home after we leave this world
- Caring more for our souls than our bodies because the former will survive the latter, at least until our bodies are fully redeemed and glorified
- Having confidence “that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” such that our joy is unflappable
- Keeping our eye on the prize because our destination is secure but the path we travel on the way there is full of twists and turns
- Living for the line and not the dot, for what is unseen not what’s seen, since our lives are short and the afterlife is everlasting
- Doing now what we’ll be doing for eternity (praising, serving, and loving with peace in all circumstances), and no longer doing what we won’t be doing forever (greed, lust, selfishness, worrying)
- Dying to self and surrendering all to the One who paid our ransom because we know how the story ends (i.e. Who is coming and where we are going)
Yet churchgoers in America have become insecure. Those foundational principles for security (in Christ) – having certainty in our eternity that fuels our sacrifices in the present – are no longer expectations in most churches. Most have significantly lowered the bar on biblical imperatives such as compassion, evangelism, discipleship, and sanctification to attract and retain “consumers”. Therefore, Christians don’t stand out in a crowd for living like Jesus (loving and serving) but for looking like Pharisees (legalistic and judgmental). Treating members like “customers” rather than Kingdom employees has also lowered standards for biblical understanding and beliefs. Christians have become insecure about what they believe, questioning the veracity of the Bible. In fact, a recent study by the Barna Group found only 17% of regular churchgoers (and only 2% of millennials) possess a biblical worldview (of family, the value of life, creation, faith practices, sin, accountability, repentance, human nature, and personal lifestyles). That figure is staggering yet hardly surprising when Barna’s research also uncovered that only 37% of pastors hold and teach a biblical world view.
Root Cause: Insecurity of Churches
The insecurity of America’s churches has made non-believers, Christians, and our world less secure. A church’s insecurity is a self-fulfilling prophecy where worries about numerical growth or survival often lead to strategies that grow one church at the expense of others. Transfer growth doesn’t the grow the Kingdom (total Christ-followers or churchgoers) – in fact, most practices employed to promote church growth reduce the overall size of the “pie”. The number of churches in the U.S. has dropped from 400,000 in 1983 to 350,000 in 2023. Meanwhile, 80% of American congregations have shrunk or plateaued. Of the 20% that are growing, 16% are pulling from other churches and only 4% are due to conversions. Roughly 2.7 million Americans leave churches every year. Those alarming statistics accelerate the vicious cycle of insecurity – decisions based on insecurity driving away attenders and further alienating non-believers, causing greater insecurity for churches…
- Seemingly competitive practices reflect poorly on the unity of the body of Christ, making church look to the naked eye much like a business
- Centralizing around a place and events insinuates we still need to go to a “temple” to be in God’s presence, an attractional convention intended to die when Jesus did (and the veil was torn) and the Holy Spirit began to indwell each of His followers
- Treating people in the pews more like “customers” than the embodiment of “church” and rarely discussing the Holy Spirit, retaining an Old Testament power structure by diminishing the individual’s authority, potential, and purposes
- Rather than equipping and deploying disciples, fostering dependence by assuming our discipleship and evangelism responsibilities, reducing our role to extending invitations to a church service to hear the Gospel from a “professional”
- Finding comfort and security in assets (e.g. buildings), routines (e.g. services), leaders (e.g. charisma), and engagement (e.g. in church activities), afraid to break the mold as if those were what’s keeping people around
- Feeling a bit insecure when a popular multi-site church plants a new campus down the road, scrambling to plan how to differentiate rather than how to collaborate
Christians will become more secure and, as a result, lead more non-believers to find security in Christ when churches and their leaders find security in…
- spiritual growth of members, not offering “cheap grace” by repeating a phrase
- fostering radical transformation, challenging members to take bold steps of faith
- moving beyond knowledge about God, seeking revelations that bring security
- looking toward eternity, living courageously today knowing this is not our home
- entrusting Great Commission responsibilities to churchgoers, where they belong
- teaching that salvation is secure, guarded by Jesus in the safest of all locations
- reassuring members that their identity and eternal significance are found in Christ
- preparing for eternity even through painful circumstances, rejoicing in them
- fighting the culture war with love and compassion, not an verbal air assault
It’s Your Turn…
It’s time to start showing how secure we are in Christ! The 2024 Presidential election is great chance to #CastAnEternalVote, loving and uniting in response to hatred and division.