Apostasy and Pastoral Preparation for the Conflict Ahead

If pastors aren’t preparing God’s people for the conflict that is already upon us, then we aren’t doing our jobs.

We really do face a conflict in days ahead. Many Christians still mistakenly believe that electing the right politicians will somehow save them from the cost of discipleship. But it is becoming clearer every day that such will not be the case. The presidency of Donald Trump may have brought a welcome respite from some of the more radical forms of legal marginalization (e.g. Equality Act, Left-leaning Supreme Court). But is there any real evidence that this is anything more than a respite? I don’t think so.

 

David French has an insightful column analyzing the apostasy of yet another Christian celebrity. French writes:

As our culture changes, secularizes, and grows less tolerant of Christian orthodoxy, I’m noticing a pattern in many of the people who fall away (again, only Sampson knows his heart): They’re retreating from faith not because they’re ignorant of its key tenets and lack the necessary intellectual, theological depth but rather because the adversity of adherence to increasingly countercultural doctrine grows too great.

Put another way, the failure of the church isn’t so much of catechesis but of fortification — of building the pure moral courage and resolve to live your faith in the face of cultural headwinds.

French is certainly correct that people are falling away in large part due to a failure of moral courage. There is no question about that. Nevertheless, I would take exception with one part of his analysis. When it comes to “catechesis” versus “fortification,” it’s actually not an either/or but a both/and. There are lots of churches failing at catechesis, and there are lots that are failing at preparing people for the cost of discipleship. Both of these things are happening all at once all across evangelicalism.

I think the coming conflict, however, is going to weed out such churches. In other words, evangelical churches and ministries that are awash in pragmatism and self-help pablum are not going maintain their strength when people have to make a choice between following Christ and keeping their job or their friends. The squeeze on cultural Christianity is already underway, and those congregations will dwindle. The children in those congregations will leave the church in droves. This is already happening.

Bottom line: The churches that are actually handing-on the faith (catechesis) and that actually have a disciplined congregation (fortification in moral courage) are the ones that are going to fare the best in the days ahead. The rest will eventually fall to the side.

There is one part of French’s column that really rings true and that I hope every pastor pays attention to:

In my travels around the country, one thing has become crystal clear to me. Christians are not prepared for the social consequences of the profound cultural shifts — especially in more secular parts of the nation. They’re afraid to say what they believe, not because they face the kind of persecution that Christians face overseas but because they’re simply not prepared for any meaningful adverse consequences in their careers or with their peers.

French is correct that American Christians aren’t prepared for what is coming. Fellow pastors, it is our sacred duty to get them prepared. If we aren’t preparing God’s people for the conflict that is already upon us, then we aren’t doing our jobs.

I have been thinking about this a lot lately because Christianity is fast becoming disfavored in our nation. We really do face a conflict in days ahead. Many Christians still mistakenly believe that electing the right politicians will somehow save them from the cost of discipleship. But it is becoming clearer every day that such will not be the case. The presidency of Donald Trump may have brought a welcome respite from some of the more radical forms of legal marginalization (e.g. Equality Act, Left-leaning Supreme Court). But is there any real evidence that this is anything more than a respite? I don’t think so.

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