February 15, 2014 in City

Faith + Values: Don’t get mad, get believing

Steve Massey
 
About this column

Three times a month, community columnists weigh in on matters of faith and values. The column appears Saturday and features artist Donald Clegg, of Spokane; retired Methodist minister Paul Graves, of Sandpoint; and Steve Massey, a pastor from Hayden.

‘Just do it.”

Nike made a mint with its famous slogan. And Nancy Reagan did well with her anti-drug spin on the same sentiment: “Just say no.”

But it’s the Bible, not commerce or politics, that originated the notion that knowing things, without doing them, gets us nowhere.

“Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22).

Our religion is pointless unless it is transforming us into people who practice what we claim to believe.

Social observers tell us that many Christian churches are experiencing a profound demographic shift; people in their early 20s are leaving organized religion, though not abandoning their faith. They just don’t see the point of church anymore.

Some churches have responded to the trend by turning sanctuaries into entertainment venues. They focus intensely on production values and in-your-face cultural relevance as means to an end, attracting stray young sheep.

Perhaps a simpler approach is warranted. Perhaps a trend away from church is not really about a lack of big screens and trendy music and hipster ministers. Perhaps those forgoing church life have been helped along in their decision by religionists whose knowledge of scripture simply isn’t reflected in the way they live their lives.

Is it possible that some of our kids have sat through countless sermons on the importance of sharing our faith, but they’ve never once heard mom or dad mention the name of Jesus outside the walls of a church?

Is it possible that some of our kids have participated in myriad Bible studies about mercy and forgiveness, yet in the home there is ongoing bitterness and animosity toward others?

Is it possible that some of our kids have learned all the songs about God’s peace and strength, but at home they’ve rarely seen the quiet faith that quells anxiety and its ugly twin, discontent?

Those questions are easier asked than answered.

But if we’re willing to answer honestly, and personally, we might just enjoy a revival of true religion; religion that is not only words and songs and creeds, but an actual reflection of Jesus Christ in the world.

Some disclaimers are in order here. As a former 20-something, I know it’s trendy to be cynical, even in matters of faith. Also, I’m blessed to belong to a fellowship of believers among whom hearing and doing very often go hand in hand.

So do many of you.

But the aggregate opinions of millennials nationwide ought not be ignored.

A five-year study of 18- to 29-year-olds who have grown up in the church yielded this: One-quarter of them said “Christians demonize everything outside of the church” and 23 percent said the church ignores the problems of the real world.

It’s interesting that James’ encouragement that we be “doers of the Word” is accompanied by this warning: “be slow to wrath. For the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20).

Regrettably, the culture’s stereotype of Christians is often that we’re a group of religious people mad about stuff. We’re mad about abortion, mad about gay rights, mad about America losing its moral footing.

Certainly, sin ought to anger us. But it’s ironic, if not hypocritical, to be angry at “them” without examining “us.”

So much the better to be known as those who are radically and personally being transformed by the power of the gospel, willing to spend and be spent to bring the love and truth of God to others.

Of course, we’ve heard that scripture compels us to such love. And whenever scripture compels us to something, we really don’t need to study it more, or sing about it.

Let’s just do it.

Steve Massey is pastor of Hayden Bible Church (www.haydenbible.org). He can be reached at (208) 772-2511 or steve@haydenbible.org.


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