You know the church is in trouble when everything must be reduced to either a tweet, a meme, or something no longer than a sentence in order to get the message across. If it’s anywhere near a paragraph, whatever it may be, that’s too long for most people’s attention spans. They’ve got TikTok videos of dumb people doing dumber things to watch, and your attempt at nuance regarding godliness, virtue, and righteousness is cutting into that time. If you’d be more considerate and just post ‘Jesus Saves’ on your Facebook wall from time to time, with some flowers or butterflies in the background, then maybe people wouldn’t think you were so stuffy.
It’s not just America or the world that has been dumbed down to the point of watching for drool to spill out of someone’s face; the church has too. It’s a supply and demand issue, and the masses are demanding quick, easy, and pain-free salvation delivered to their front door, and if you can’t deliver, there are hundreds who can or say they can, so there. I’m waiting for them to offer a money-back guarantee: If you don’t make it to heaven, we’ll send you a refund, guaranteed. Like money would matter at that point.
All that discipleship, spiritual growth, and maturity stuff was for people who didn’t have YouTube and Minecraft. You can’t expect this present generation to put in as much time discovering Jesus and the Gospel as those who didn’t have the internet. Just tell me I’m saved, I’ll send you a check, and I can go on about wasting my life away as though time wasn’t a finite thing that slips through your fingers at a frightening speed.
Tell me I can do all things, but leave out the part about denying myself and picking up my cross. Tell me I’ll be blessed going out and coming in, but leave out the part about repentance. McDonald’s gives it to me my way, why can’t you? Haven’t you heard that the customer is always right? Give me what I want, or I go across the street. And that’s how we’ve come to a place where the sheep dictate terms to the shepherds, and the shepherds, at least the unscrupulous ones, do as they’re told because they have retirements to consider and Florida condos to pay off.
Can you even blame them, though? I’m sure some of them started out enthusiastically enough, wanting to see souls saved and lives restored, but after the twentieth or thirtieth reprimand from sister Bertha who doesn’t appreciate all the references to gluttony, and sister Anita, who doesn’t appreciate his use of the word sin, especially in relation to transgender folk because she has a nephew who just realized he was a girl, the bile builds up, and the light in the eyes dims.
It’s easy to blame the shepherds. No, I’m not talking about the wolves in shepherd’s frocks; I’m talking about the genuine shepherds. The ones that started out preaching the truth but were backed into a corner by the sheep and the deacon board and didn’t have the strength of character to walk away. It’s easy to rationalize, I promise. If they fire me, they’ll just hire somebody else who will preach what they want to hear, and I’ll be out of a job. Maybe, if I stay, I can throw a nugget or two of truth in there once in a while, and they won’t notice.
Just as a democracy can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse, a proper church with a shepherd leading his flock can only exist until the sheep discover they can control the purse strings and keep the shepherd from feeding his family if he doesn’t fall in line.
Yes, the natural inclination is to say he should trust God and preach the truth. I agree wholeheartedly; some do it, and they have my deep respect and admiration. However, why can’t we lay some of the blame at the feet of the sheep who grumble any time the pastor quotes a Bible verse or attempts even a minimal exegesis on a controversial topic? Why can’t we lay some of the blame at the feet of the elder boards who call a meeting any time someone feels even remotely offended by the Bible?
2 Timothy 4:3-4, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.”
Who is Paul referring to when he says ‘they’? It’s not the shepherds but the sheep. The sheep will not endure sound doctrine, so they will search for shepherds who will tell them what they want to hear. They want to be fed, but they want to be the ones who decide what’s put on the plate.
Due to being in ministry for over three decades, I have more than a handful of pastor friends. We talk on occasion, and recently, every conversation I’ve had ended with an admission that they were feeling run down, constantly attacked, close to breaking, or some other variation of a soul in distress. These are good men who have kept the truth alive, who sacrificed for the cause of Christ, and who continue to preach the Gospel in a world that’s growing exceedingly antagonistic toward it.
If you happen to be in such a church with such a pastor, I would ask that you not be silent when they are being needlessly attacked but stand up and defend them. I would ask that you be the Aaron to their Moses and help lift their weary arms because they are human, and they hurt, and they bleed just as readily as you. A little grace goes a long way. At least, that’s what I’ve come to discover over the course of my life in ministry.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea, Jr.
Posted on 22 August 2023 | 11:20 am
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