Watchman Nee, a twentieth century Chinese church planter and teacher, said:
“What is the normal Christian life? We do well at the outset to ponder this question. The object of these studies is to show that it is something very different from the life of the average Christian. Indeed a consideration of the written Word of God — of the Sermon on the Mount for example — should lead us to ask whether such a life has ever in fact been lived upon the earth, save only by the Son of God Himself. But in that last saving clause lies immediately the answer to our question.” – The Normal Christian Life
What comes to your mind when I say the word, “Christian”? Do images of church services, moral prohibitions, or “family values” project themselves onto your consciousness? According to a 2007 Barna study, here is what comes to mind when non-Christians who are age 16-29 hear that word:
- 91% said antihomosexual
- 87% said judgmental
- 85% said hypocritical
- 78% said old-fashioned
- 75% said too involved in politics
- 72% said out of touch with reality
- 70% said insensitive to others
We might want to blame prejudice fostered in the media for these results, but 84% of the respondents said they had Christian friends. To some degree, this distorted picture of Christianity on display in the minds of non-believers has been painted by the average Christian.
The American brand of Christianity repels those whom Christ came to save because it is abnormal. Why would such a perversion exist? Perhaps we could list many reasons but one stands at the root- consumerism. Simply put, Christ calls people to “come and die;” the church calls people to come and sit. Jesus confronted people and because of that, “many turned back and no longer followed him.” We see no record of Jesus chasing them out the door to better explain what he meant. He simply turned to the few who were left and invited them to leave if they wanted to. The church on the other hand placates because the leaders fear that people will leave and take their money with them. Should not a Christ-like church regularly experience defections of the disgruntled?
Those in church leadership must, by the power of the indwelling Spirit, hold up and aspire to the high bar of Christ-likeness. That is the normal Christian life. We must fearlessly confront average Christians and reject those who would pay us for a manufactured messiah. We must invest in the few who are ready to give all and ignore the many who just want to give some.
It won’t be easy. Few will choose this path of their own accord. However, I believe there is coming a time when many will be forced to choose. Lord, hasten the day!