by Chris Elrod
Last night I had an incredible conversation and Bible study with a bunch of young 20-somethings that are impacting their generation and culture for Christ. We were talking about the stoning of Stephen and how that amazing story is a direct contrast to what Christianity has become in America today.
These were not young people that ran from church or looked to rebel from denominationalism. They were not spiritual exiles quietly living out the weak conclusions in Barna’s “Revolution“. These were committed young followers of Christ that were sick of the ease with which Christianity in the United States has become.They have grown tired of the glitzy lure of attractional techno-palaces and disillusioned with the hollow promises of missional wannabes. They are fed up with the latest emergent book-tour guru and the soft-spoken mega-church Mister Rogers. They want Christ-like reality. They want difficult discipleship. They want the cost of following. They want cause. They want action. They want…the lions back.
In America we have multi-million dollar churches on every street corner. In other countries small groups of Christians meet secretly in basements. In America we can have an endless choice of Starbuck flavors before the worship service. In other countries Christians forage for food because the government has taken away everything they own. In America we have church campus parking attendants and courtesy trams. In other countries people walk for days just to hear the Word of God spoken. In America we can purchase a Bible in any WalMart. In other countries entire sections of Scripture are memorized because Bibles are confiscated. In America we take offering to purchase two-story video screens. In other countries an offering is taken to support the family whose Christian father or husband is residing in a “re-education” camp. In America pastors gather together for multi-media pep rallies and conference freebies. In other countries pastors gather together on the cold floor of a jail cell to pray for one another and nurse each other’s torture-induced wounds. In America the church has been replaced with easy-to-access, consumer-driven rock shows. In other countries the lions have been replaced with firing squads, public hangings, community stonings and gruesome beheadings.
American Christianity in the 21st century is no longer something to fight for, give blood for or lose life for. It is an advertising tag line for the politician. It is an easy bankroll for the airwave “prophet”. It is a cheesy subculture for the religiously fat. It is a spiritual juke-joint for the communal needy. There is no cost. There is no danger. There is no cause. There is no commitment. Christianity in the U.S. has become a feeble, jelly-like mass lying on the sands of culture jiggling back and forth whispering, “Notice me…notice me.”
The heart of a 20-year-old Christian is different than the heart of a 41-year-old pastor. They do not believe that we need another church plant in suburban America. They do not believe that we need another addiction-defined therapy group. They do not believe we need another pop-culture infused worship service. They believe that we need persecution. They believe that we need incarceration. They believe we need hardship. They believe we need a public coliseum. They believe we need the lions back.
I’m afraid they may be right…