Free, Not Cheap...
Dr. Doug Posey
Last weekend, in my message, we considered briefly the results of a recent poll taken by Pew Research that surveyed 35,000 American adults, showing…
“…the Christian percentage of the population dropping precipitously, to 70.6%. In 2007, the last time Pew conducted a similar survey, 78.4% of American adults called themselves Christian.”
“In the meantime, almost every major branch of Christianity in the United States has lost a significant number of members…mainly because millennials are leaving the fold. More than one-third of millennials now say they are unaffiliated with any faith, up 10 percentage points since 2007.”
The drop in those calling themselves Christian was seen as “astounding” and not limited to millennials. Every demographic and geographical area in the U.S. appears to be declining in those claiming Christianity as their faith. Meanwhile, other religions like Islam and even atheism are on the rise.
It’s easy to understand why, especially among millennials, Christianity is not the label many would deem as acceptable to be worn in public. It seems that the left, the media and the movement that legalized same-sex marriage have successfully stamped the Body of Christ with a monolithic, negative perception of hatred. Meanwhile, this same community of people have concurrently been elevated to near-heroic levels by our secular culture. This juxtaposition of perceived bigotry alongside society’s admiration for a historically persecuted and abused minority on the part of the church makes it unappealing, to say the least, to want to be a part of that church. I believe this one issue, more than any other, has turned off, especially young people, to being Christian. Of course, it is also causing many churches to deny biblical teaching on the issue of homosexuality. Both are mistakes.
The answer is not found in denying biblical truth on hard topics. We need to love people—all people—and accurately present the truth as lovingly as we can. But, we know the narrow gate will simply be too narrow for some; people will trip over the cross and the cost of being a Christ follower will be too high.
For these, there will be churches that avoid controversial issues altogether. They overflow with people who attend but have made no real commitment. They like what they hear, so they show up. Their ears are tickled with topics like, 10 steps to a better [this] or more successful [that]. The sermon may encourage a change in attitude in some area, with promises that if you’re just nicer, calmer, friendlier and more positive, you can reap great rewards. Is that really what following Christ is all about? Where’s the cost?
Do people who make commitments to Christ really know what they’re signing up for? Unfortunately today many don’t, because the cost is kept well hidden. You can’t fill large arenas by telling people to deny themselves, pick up their crosses and follow Jesus. After the words, “Deny yourself,” the eyes glaze over, the ears deafen and the attention span evaporates for the typical “it’s-all-about-me” seeker.
So, many preachers teach as though Jesus promoted the candy-coated admonition, “Indulge yourself,” rather than His actual call to “Deny yourself.” And they craft sermons to help people believe that they can do just that and still be spiritual giants. It appeals to the flesh. It fills seats. But, it is not biblical Christianity.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a young German pastor who stood up to Hitler’s regime during WWII and was executed—hanged at the age of 39, just one week before Hitler died—for smuggling Jews to safety over the Swiss border, wrote the classic book, The Cost of Discipleship. In it he compares “cheap grace” to “costly grace.” He saw the slide of the German Lutheran Church into the self-indulgent, non-committal practice of cheap grace as being responsible for allowing the godless Nazi regime to take over the land of Luther. The churches had become filled with people who called themselves Christians but had no real commitment. They went through the motions but never counted the cost of being true disciples of Jesus. It’s free, but as every disciple of significance through the centuries has demonstrated, it costs everything.
Christians must know the culture to confront it and love those duped by its lies. We want to help you with that here at LOC. Thus, we offer this coming year’s Get-a-Grip series, with the best presenters we could find on “Christ and Culture.” Don’t miss it!
“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” ─LUKE 14:27 NASB