Wanting The Lions Back

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…

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8 thoughts on “Wanting The Lions Back

  1. Awesome thoughts. But how many of those 20 something dreamers are in college getting degrees to get jobs so they can get married and live the American dream in suburbia while they sit in the pews (or padded chairs) and talk about the good ole days when lions ate people? I think there are 41 year olds (you that old dude?) and 46 year olds that want to see the world shaken – but what are we doing besides holding a bible study, preaching with some multi-media, and singing worship songs and funding the occasional servant evangelism project where we give someone a coke and a smile and a sticker about our church? The people in many countries are persecuted because they take their faith to the streets when its against the law. Here its not – so what can we do to draw out the lions? I want it – you want it. What do we have to do – move to Iraq or Somalia?

  2. Dave,
    Just start “Loving God with everything and your neighbor as yourself.” If you do that, I promise the lions will come out and they will call themselves “Servants Of The Most high” much as Saul did.

  3. As Christians in America…we have it so easy…we have gotten soft.

    I bet many modern Christians couldn’t define evangelism. Their idea of witnessing to someone is inviting them to church and hope the pastor preaches a tear jerker of a message and then ask everyone to pray the sinners prayer.

    Does anyone remember the Christian comedy team “Isaac Airfreight”? They did a comedy routine called “Undercover Christian”. Funny…but true. (I know…I am showing my age by mentioning those guys)
    [BTW…my all time favorite one was “Rapture Hotline”]

  4. Quoted from Chris Elrod:

    I’m afraid they may be right…

    Hmmm… interisting point, though the Bible does mention both models of christian growth: in persecution (too many to mention) and in good times (Acts 2:42-47)

    Personally, those persecution time definitely brought the most impact in christian growth. I myself is a living witness when christians were persecuted in Jakarta riot in 1998. We had a christmas service couple months after that event in our burned down church and lit a candle in the giant christmas tree (made of steel wire). Each candle represented one church that got burned down. I can assure you that this ugly looking christmas tree was huge (around 2-3 storey high building) and it was so bright covered by these candles, around 2000 of them (I think that was the cumulative numbers of churches being burned for that period).

    It was a sad day, but because of that event, a lot of christians were actually strengthened, including myself.

  5. Well, I think that you’re right about 20-somethings not minding the current format of church, that the realness and authenticity of church is what they want to change. I do believe that Barna is somewhat still correct about people leaving the church to live out Christian life on their own because the conflict over changes is not necessarily over the changes themselves.

    I think the older generation that has “control” over the churches now fight the change not because of the style or format, but because the changes cause the lions to come out, as you say. They don’t want to be made uncomfortable by having to live the authentic dangerous Christian life. This is why I believe that the established church is set on a course of decline and that Barna’s predictions are somewhat likely.

    Great post, Chris!

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