Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Young Fundamentalism - The Apathy Problem

The more that I write, the more I realize that people feel strongly that some things should change in what we will broadly call "fundamentalism". They point to things such as an over-emphasis on the externals, an idolization of leaders, and a lack of love as examples of things that should be given serious and immediate attention. But for most folks within fundamentalism today that is where things stop...at talking and complaining. Now, discontent is the first step toward change, but at this point I don't believe that the discomfort is great enough within the average fundamentalist church to spur the kind of groundswell of change that it would take to genuinely address the roots of these concerns. The question then becomes, if such elemental things such as love and idols are at stake, why aren't people clamoring for change? What is the reason for this inaction? It can't be apathy, because people do genuinely care about these issues. Why then is there no or slow change?

It is my belief that at least four factors conspire to form a continuing culture of status quo within our churches. So, here they are in random order:

  1. The Slave and the Wanderer - The children of Israel had two major stages before they got to go into the promised land. These stages were, slave and wanderer. The first generation had been slaves. Once freed, things got hard and they suddenly wanted to go back to Egypt, their status quo. The second generation knew nothing but wandering. That was their status quo. For them, however, the pain of wandering was greater than the pain of battling for something better. If this is the course fundamentalism must take. How many years of wandering must we endure in order to shed the desire to return to our status quo? How much discomfort must we endure before we are willing to do battle (with our own desire for comfort, not with people) for something better?
  2. The Bit and Bridle - I love going to the county fair and seeing the great draft horses. They remind me that there are things in this world that are bigger than me. Having always been the tallest kid in the class, it is nice sometimes to see something that towers over and outweighs me. Anyway, I digress. Here's the point. At this juncture in fundamentalism churches are interconnected not only by a common faith, but unfortunately have been tied too tightly by something that can be much more devious, MONEY. In our modern churches money has become the bit and bridle that has been used to keep other (usually smaller) churches and missionaries "in line". The fear of losing monetary support for a particular intra-church program, institution, or missionary has worked as well as a gag order in many situations. This causes a forced status quo that is uneasy for those involved...except for those who hold the reins.
  3. The Loudest Voice - We live in a day when no one wants to speak up only to get shouted down. Our churches have a few major  leaders with big personalities and even bigger opinions. Simply put, the loudest voice seems to always win, even if they are dead wrong. Many times the loudest voice is not challenged, even kindly, because some think that it would not be "loving". However, the thought occurs to me that it is less loving to placidly stand by and do nothing. You see, the loudest voice is usually not the most balanced voice, nor the most experienced voice. Most times, the loudest voice comes by way of their personality or the perceived "success" of their ministry. (another post will be given to the topic of success) Neither of these is a good criteria by which to pick a leader. Despite this fact, fundamentalism is divided into factions each with their own "loudest voices" demanding that all follow their version of the status quo.
  4. Fear and Uncertainty - There is always fear in change. Because no one is saying these things out loud we are afraid that we might be wrong. We are afraid we will lose friends. We are afraid that in our desire to promote positive Scripturally sound change that we will fall into the "loudest voice" trap ourselves. We are afraid that no one will listen and that we are wasting our time. We are afraid the challenge of Biblically balanced reform is too insurmountable. It is our own insecurities and uncertainty of our own position that keeps those of us who do "complain" about the church as it now is from taking action and making the church closer to what it should be in reflecting Jesus and His teachings. (You will never reach perfection in the church. It is the pursuit that matters.) It is our fear of failure and our fear of man that roots us to the status quo.
In time, the church will change. God knows I pray that the changes are closer to the Word of God and further away from opinion (especially mine), tradition, and dogma. (for more on this please see my new book titled, Before the Box: Freeing the Church to Emulate First-Century Christianity ) The question then becomes whether we will come to positive change kicking and screaming, or will we be thoughtful and strategic in the planning and implementation of needed change? No, thoughtful and strategic is not the same thing as inaction. If one is to be thoughtful and strategic he will come to understand the challenge and then seek and implement a well-reasoned plan of action. May God help us to do just that. God is not looking for revolutionaries within the church, but instead He is looking for quiet and thoughtful men of well implemented action. There is a difference.

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