Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Fighting for a lost cause

For some reason, there are any number of Christians who suffer from a moth-like attraction to a lost cause. You can see this in how they spend year after year butting their head against a wall as they try to save a dying church or liberal denomination or apostate parachurch organization. What should we make of this?

1. Some Christians have a sentimental attachment to the church or denomination they grew up in, or the "Christian" college they attended, or some other "Christian" institution they had a role in. This is only natural. There is a point, however, when our social allegiance comes into conflict with our theological allegiance, when it’s time to cut the apron strings. Like Abraham, God us calling us out of Ur, out of idolatry.

2. Some Christians can’t distinguish between the church as a divine institution, and a variety of denominations. Now a denomination is just a man-made convention. Its rationale is purely utilitarian. Ideally, a denomination exists to exemplify the church. But if a denomination ceases to exemplify the church, then it is time to cut our ties, to cut our losses, and join a more faithful fellowship.

3. Some Christians suppose they have a divine duty to save a dying church or apostate denomination. They confuse the salvation of souls with the salvation of an organization. An organization is just an abstraction or legal entity with official positions in a formal chain-of-command.

A Christian organization exists to save the people, the people do not exist to save the organization. Our calling is to follow Christ, not a bureaucracy--especially when the bureaucracy refuses to follow Christ.

In fact, by remaining in an apostate church, they support it. Liberals are very generous--with everyone else’s money. The collection plate is filled by the faithful, not the faithless. Conservatives subsidize liberal theology and liberal activism by remaining in a liberal church. Cut off the source of funding, and liberal agenda dies of attrition and malnutrition.

4. Some Christians don’t k now how to count. It’s all about votes. If you don’t have the numbers on your side, forget it. Sorry to sound crass, but life isn’t fair. A minority of conservative activists can’t overcome a faithless or spineless clergy in league with a faithless or spineless laity.

Jesus talks about a wise commander who sizes up his own army and the opposing army (Lk 14:31-32). To keep fighting procedural skirmishes or quoting Scripture to unbelievers is a poor stewardship of your God-given time.

5. Some Christians feel an undue responsibility for others. But I am responsible for my own actions as well as the actions of those under my authority. I am not responsible for those over whom I have no ultimate control. They are responsible for their own conduct--or misconduct, as the case may be.

There is a difference between surrendering to the enemy, on the one hand, and staging a strategic retreat, on the other. You still stand your own ground, but on a battlefield of your own choosing.

You don't win by losing. You don't win by fighting an uphill battle on enemy turf. You don't win by putting yourself at a tactical disadvantage. There is no honor in delivering yourself into enemy hands. That does nothing to advance the cause of Christ.

6. Some Christians project th eir lack of guile onto unbelievers. Because a Christian believes in fair-play, he may imagine that if he wins fair-and-square, then the unbeliever will play by the rules in turn.

7. Apropos (6), some Christians forget their theology when dealing with unbelievers. Because they are well-intentioned, they project their pure motives onto the unbeliever--as though the unbeliever must be well-meaning too. But Scripture warns us against the untrustworthy character of unbelievers--especially outright enemies of the faith.
Some believers play the chump time and time again. But being duped by enemies of the gospel is not a theological virtue.