A Modern Malaise Infects Contemporary Christianity

Photo credit: deathtothestockphoto.com It's really nothing new. Others have written about it. But last week I saw it in a startling way, as I listened to the Sunday morning message and watched it unfold. The speaker set the tone of his message with music, art, and poetry, but it didn't go as planned.

The speaker is known for his dry, British wit, and people began to chuckle and laugh out loud. He desperately tried to set a serious tone, but it was a battle. Why the battle? What was going on?

What's going on?

At first, I could see the speaker try to overcome the expectations of the regular church-goers. Because they were used to his humor, they missed the point. He pleaded with us to see things differently, "Really, I'm not trying to be funny!"

Even after he overcame the initial resistance, I could see the deeper problem. We, contemporary American Christians, are conditioned to expect entertaining anecdotes and monologues from speakers. Many people seem to only respond to what entertains them or stirs them emotionally.

There is a place for humor, storytelling, and emotion in public speaking, for sure. But should it take center stage? It's reasonable to expect more. The message last Sunday was on the problem of disconnect in loneliness and the need to wait upon God.

[bctt tweet="We expect entertaining anecdotes and monologues, rather than sound teaching"]

A not so modern malaise

I wonder. Have we lost the willingness to grapple with serious topics and deeper spiritual thought? Are we too wrapped up in our "what's in it for me" heart attitude? Do we have spiritual ADHD, unable to focus attention on much more than our smart phones, which seem to make us dumb and numb?

It's not a new concern. AW Tozer voiced his concern about this in the 1950's. CH Spurgeon expressed similar concerns in the 1800's. And Jesus encountered it with His faithful followers.

It's not an issue of intelligence, nor spiritual disinterest. It's deeper than that, and it's correctable. Contemporary Christianity is infected with the modern malaise of mental and spiritual laziness.

[bctt tweet="Have we lost the willingness to grapple with deeper spiritual thought?"]

Our problem

Our mental and spiritual laziness causes disinterest, which leads to disengagement. This state of disengagement leads to a disconnection with the Lord and His people.

Let's face it, it's easier to hear trite truths, than to ponder the depth of God—all He is and does. We want immediate resolve to our dilemmas, and seek what gratifies and satisfies for the moment, because it requires little from us.

We like what's superficial since we can take it or leave it. We tend to shun what requires commitment. Why? It's easier. But what's easier now will cost us much in the long run.

[bctt tweet="Let's face it, it's easier to hear trite truths, than to ponder the depth of God"]

The path of least resistance

What concerns me most is when I realize that I get caught up in this easy-cheesy way. I'm reminded of the Scripture that caught my attention in my pursuit to know God. It stopped me short as I realized I'd been going on the wrong path.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (Matt 7:13-14 NIV)

When I find myself struggling to resist what I know is destructive, I know it's time for a change. Change requires commitment. Commitment takes us on a different route than the path of least resistance. The path of least resistance leads to mediocrity.

No panacea for this malaise

There is no cure-all for this malaise, nor are there any silver bullet-points to follow. Mental and spiritual laziness requires commitment and perseverance to overcome.

The goal is to develop mental and spiritual discipline, but not the steeled-will variety. It needs to be a living discipline based on relationship. This is what Jesus was after with His first followers, and He still pursues this with us, His contemporary followers.

[bctt tweet="Mental and spiritual laziness requires commitment and perseverance to overcome"]

You are probably familiar with the basics of a healthy spiritual life—the Bible, worship, prayer, service, and fellowship. But these need to be pursued within the natural flow of our relationship with Jesus. Jesus reminded the Pharisees of this—

“You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!" (John 5:39 NLT)

And so also, worship, prayer, Christian service and fellowship need to be relationship-based, not checklists to be ticked off when completed. The natural outflow of a healthy spiritual life—evangelism and disciple-making—should also be relation-based as we continue as followers of Jesus.

It's time for a change

Here's a challenge that goes beyond New Year's resolutions. Resolve to be faithful in your commitment to follow Jesus—wherever He leads you, and however He does it.

Not a believer yet? Then consider the path you've been on—where is it leading you?

Spiritual and mental discipline will develop in a natural way, as you and I walk with Jesus in His way. It's not complicated, but it does require commitment and perseverance. Go for it! Move beyond mediocrity.