Since Christianity has, in many ways, become nearly indiscernible from secular culture, a sub-sub-Christian culture has started rallying against what might be called mainstream Christianity. Their message rails against the wealth of the American church, and it criticizes its methods and questions its motives at every point possible. When you hear a Christian talk about the “American church,” you are likely also hearing a tone of disdain and sarcasm.
The language being used in this movement has yet to take on explicit, war-like rhetoric. Instead, “underground” Christians tend to use words and phrases that might more closely resemble those found in periods of revolution. Many may forsake the title “Christian” as a form of rising against some mainstream Christian machine. American Christianity, to them, seems far beyond saving.
Like a Marxist revolt, though, such revolution within American Christianity faces the problem of determining the kind of thing it hopes to establish in the aftermath. Time often reveals that ideas which, in the heat of the moment, seem revolutionary are often incredibly miscalculated attempts to bring about change. When something within a culture, and that something usually cannot be adequately named or even described, gets dried up, people scramble to bring it back. That something can be called inspiration or motivation, but these terms fall a little bit short. The symptoms, however, do seem to be rather obvious; a plateau has been reached, and the feeling of progress has ceased.
Any time we get this feeling, whether it occurs within us personally or we sense that it has enveloped our institutions, we become nervous. When it seems as though our forward progress has been stopped, we panic at the idea of our going backwards. So, we attempt to stall our own decline through means of rapid change. The problem is that several of the processes that we attempt to renew are the very processes which have delivered us so far down the road in the first place. Here, I speak vaguely because this process affects individuals, organizations, as well as countries.
When we think about the periods in our lives where we grew the most, we often think back to times of great struggle, heartache, and pain. Somehow, from the midst of severe tribulation, we recognize that God helped to bring us up from the ashes. Like muscles that have been torn and rebuilt, we feel stronger. Once the feeling of atrophy hits us, we imagine that the necessary step is to return to those periods of great trial so that, through perseverance, we might grow stronger.
We believe that we have become too comfortable in our present situation, and we mistakenly think that it is comfort that has caused us to stall. So, we blame the prosperity rather than understand that because much has been given, much is required. In Jesus’ parable, we find that more was given to those who have proven themselves responsible (Matt. 25:14-30).
So we should not be too hasty and assume that we must experience some sort of pain that rattles our comfort. God does not allow pain to touch our lives because he longs to see us suffer, but because God does not like to see us still. A comfortable lifestyle allows for a many more avenues for complacency to set it, and therein lies the issue. When we find ourselves comfortable, we ought not try and shake off our feelings of peace or even luxury. If that struggle is what we need, then allow God to bring it. The Lord does not seek to remove from us prosperity; he wants to use it.
Complacency is our enemy, not comfort. If wealth–financially, spiritually, or intellectually–restricts us to ivory towers, then we have paved a path toward devastation. Do not, however, shun yourself simply for having much; for having much is never the problem. The condition of your heart is the problem, and that condition can rear its head whether your stomach is full or empty. Instead, do what you can with what you have by serving God with all that has been given to you.
Fight complacency, not comfort.