We all know an armchair pundit. Those who continuously yell at the TV when their favourite football team is playing, calling every play and foul, have all the knowledge in the world about football itself but have little to no experience in actually playing the sport. I think in a similar way, a lot of us are armchair Christians. Who, from the comfort of the sidelines, judge every play, call out every false teaching, debate relentlessly online, critique every sermon but when it comes to getting involved in the game, they care little about ministry, discipleship, missions, the Church and delighting in the Gospel. I think that a lot of us (myself included), have fallen in love with defending, discussing and debating the truth of the Gospel as opposed to cherishing, magnifying and sharing the truth of the Gospel. The Bible has a word for people like this, Pharisees.
Promising much, producing nothing
I recently just got back from my very first mission trip with Our God Given Mission. Whilst abroad we spent some time with some missionaries and served at the local church as well as some Christian aid agencies. As I spent some time with them, I was blown away by the sheer zeal and passion they had to share the Gospel. It was unlike anything I had ever seen. Here was a set of people, who for the rest of their life, were committed to leaving the comforts and luxuries of their own home, to move overseas to preach the Gospel to folk who were in desperate need of it. This was a group of people who cared very little about debating doctrinal issues online but instead were so deeply impassioned by the Gospel and their duty to share it as far wide as they could. What this trip made quite clear to me was that I think for a lot of us, if we’re being honest with ourselves simply love to just ‘talk’ about God. We love it. Every bible study, IG live and podcast is filled with people who have all these amazing ‘revelations’, discussions and debates about God. However, what I find more often than not, is that it’s all just talk, just Interesting empty conversations. Discussions but no discipleship. Here is what Jude had to say on the matter:
“They are like clouds blowing over dry land without giving rain, promising much but producing nothing. They are like trees without fruit at harvest time.” (Jude 1:12-13, NLT)
‘Promising much but offering nothing’, I think about this verse often, It really typifies our generation. We have access to information now more than ever, we have books, sermons, resources available at our fingertips. Long gone are the days where Christians would have to travel for weeks on horseback to even have access to the Bible. You would think that this increase in our ability to study the scriptures would lead to more Christians sold out to live a radical life. What I see instead, is more believers simply growing ‘fat’ in our knowledge. I find that much of Christianity in our culture has become more centred on discussing and debating truth as opposed to demonstrating truth. Don’t get me wrong, defending the gospel is a noble pursuit, Jude 1:3 calls us to guard the Gospel, Galatians 1:8 and 2 Timothy instruct us to guard the gospel and uphold it even when others deny it. However, as is all too often the case, we have to be wary that in our efforts to defend the faith, we do not become more invested in debating the gospel at the expense of delighting and living in the freedom it provides. Maybe you’re like me, where you enjoy dissecting, investigating and getting things right. When I became a Christian, theology allowed me to scratch that itch, immediately I fell in love with studying the Bible. One thing I’ve realised is that in my attempts to ‘get it right’ when it comes to matters of theology, I had created an idol. I had become far more concerned with knowing things about God as opposed to knowing God and making him known. As Christians, we must defend and guard the truth, trust me I know. However, we guard the truth because we cherish it. We must not cherish guarding the truth above cherishing the truth itself.
Get off your seat
We often treat our faith like our favourite football team, where we sit on the sidelines, we wear the jerseys, we cheer them on and argue with the opposing fans. We do the same with Christianity. We support our local church and denomination, wear Sunday clothes, we love discussing the Word and debating with those we disagree with, all the while remaining on the sidelines. Christianity is not a spectator sport. Now, I’m not saying you need to move to a jungle in Peru to be a missionary. That may be what God calls you to do. But what I am saying is that our allegiance to Christ doesn’t just affect how we think, but should change every aspect of our life. Faith isn’t just a theological exercise, we aren’t meant to simply think Christian things and have Christian conversations. Instead, we are called to turn what we believe into action.
The Church in the book of acts were not remarkable for their eloquent speech but rather their radical lives. These weren’t ‘special’ Christians, they were simply, Christians. As Burk Parsons would say, ‘The ordinary Christian life is a radical life. The ordinary Christian is not a complacent, passionless, nominal, or casual Christian, every Christian is radical because every Christian is united to Christ by faith and will bear radical, life-giving fruit.” This is the life we are called to live. The Christian experience isn’t just about going to church on Sunday, attending Bible studies, tweeting scriptures and going to worship nights. If that’s all we have to show for our faith then I think we have grossly missed the mark. The vibrant Christian lives we all want means leaving behind the comfort of your couch and laying your life down for real people and real causes.
“It is true that God may have called you to be exactly where you are. But, it is absolutely vital to grasp that he didn’t call you there so you could settle in and live your life in comfort and superficial peace.” ~Francis Chan
So you might be most learned in the scriptures, the wisest of teachers, the greatest of counsellors, but if your faith stops at your head and doesn’t reach your heart, making you more missional, more willing to lay down your life for the sake of others, more willing to meet the needs of your community, you are not a follower of Christ, you are a spectator of Christ.