Fat Christianity

In a recent study conducted by Willow Creek Community Church, findings revealed startling evidence concerning the evangelical church’s understanding of Christ-centeredness. After exposing the ineffectiveness of church programs as the premiere pathway to spiritual advancement in prior surveys, new data is suggesting Christians who consider themselves to be Christ-centered serve and give less than believers who do not or are unsure. Talk about hard to fathom, let alone swallow. The idea itself not only steps on the proverbial toe, but opens up a giant can of worms. Is this a widespread epidemic or specifically tied to certain denominations? Is the matter a result of lost vision based from poor discipleship? Or are we incorrectly supplying “program” in place of a better alternative for those hitting a certain point on the road to spiritual maturation? So many questions, so few answers. Thus, as I appraise my thoughts, please note I do not wish to stereotype the sanctity of God’s dwelling place; however, I do believe it is fair to draw observations from trends and be guided by the Holy Spirit to discern truth and direction.

As we dive into the enigma of the upside-down church, let’s ask ourselves a basic leadoff question: Although the church may be winning souls, are we perpetuating the Lord’s victory by an authentic demonstration of God’s love? Or are we creating mini-cultures throughout the world, deceiving people into equating “being fed” to growing in the Lord? For many are actively seeking God, but are growing disinterested once the high of “first love” fades. And as apathy knocks, many Christians are beginning to view the church as either a catering service or a health clinic. Yes, God is our deliverer, but a relationship with Him is more than consuming truth. Yes, God is a God of healing power, but a relationship with Him is more than medicating brokenness. What keeps us from realizing such an ironic cycle? Why can't we see how our manufactured attempts at intervention with  indifference always compounds the loss of vertical momentum and deep-to-deep satisfaction?

Somewhere in the reaching in, reaching out and reaching up, we have to be constantly mindful of our Christ-centered paradigm. Like mind, heart, soul and strength, one’s belief in the Christ-centered life should be continually open for molding and shaping. But when we blindly place roadblocks in the way of vulnerability and humility, we’re essentially spitting in the eye of meekness and telling God we really don’t care about inheriting the earth. And we wonder why God doesn’t give us territory we desperately desire. Hello! It’s called grace, ladies and gentlemen.

Let the record show I advocate increased participation in church program functions; they have a place in the house of God; however, when a body of believers assumes the spiritual discipline is equal to the sum of knowledge obtained through small groups and service groups, is “shallow” being inadvertently subbed for “hallow”? We have to re-evaluate perspective on what Jesus meant when he gave us the blueprints to living a Christ-centered, God-fearing life:

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” ~ Matthew 6:33 (ESV)

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” ~ Mark 16:15 (ESV)

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” ~ Romans 12:1-3 (ESV)

"But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, ‘In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.’ It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.” ~ Jude 1:17-23 (ESV)

We need to remember Christ-centered living is an emotional pursuit, not a pursuit to emotion. Unfortunately, many are inverting the two right off the back, re-routing a journey to God’s heart back to themselves. And with priorities flipped, absorbing a feeling-driven Christianity is becoming a more serious reality. Do we not see how individualized spirituality robs us of the joy found in giving light to others? Do we not realize the premium on passion as the pinnacle of a Christ-centered lifestyle is part of the reason our light is dim? Yes, intimacy is a primary component of the Christ-centered walk, but since when does byproduct take the lead over source? Are we hungry for Jesus or intimacy with Jesus? We can desire a feeling of closeness with a person, without really opening ourselves to valuing the relationship. To be Christ-centered is to live with Christ fully engaged in both action and word; it’s not a measure of how close we feel. Besides, what's the point in feeling the presence, if we won't respond to it?

It’s time we wake up and smell the brew of God’s heart. For we are fed so we can burn. We are equipped so we can tackle the peaks in our lives. Why veil God from the inspiration we crave? He is the inspiration! Why separate program and experience? God is learned through a balanced blend of both! We must run the race God’s way and not put ourselves in position to quit without realizing it. We need to understand real faith requires deep employment of the deep truth we hunger for. For when our new life begins, we’ll be judged not on intake alone, but how we applied the intake (i.e. the knowledge, intimacy and spiritual disciplines) in reflecting Christ to others.

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