Selfism will end…
Just as quickly as Selfism became America’s fastest growing religion, the identify bubble will eventually burst on Generation Me. “I” is a false god and even the most dedicated Selfists know deep inside that “I” is not worth worshipping. In the innermost recesses of their minds, they don’t really believe that their personal version of “truth” is true. It would take more faith than anyone I know to trust fully in the validity of values, gender, morality and choices conceived entirely alone. Despite constant subliminal messages today in media, music and the Internet reinforcing the impenetrability of one’s own personal identity, it takes very little to remind someone of the mortality of “I”. The loss of a job, reputation or child instantly calls all self-perceptions into question. Self is empty because we were meant to be filled with the Holy Spirit, not “flesh”. Without Christ, “I” is all a person has so “I” has gotten blown out of proportion. But identity bubbles are fragile and Christ will inevitably pop them – through His Church.
The Church will #EndSelfism…
- End Selfism within their own Churches – Selfism won’t end without an intervention. Jesus is calling His Church to intervene. However, Selfism resident within the Church is stifling the fulfillment of that mandate – the Great Commission. Discipleship takes more time and effort than Selfism-infected (cultural, nominal) Christians are willing to endure. Implicit in “go” and “make disciples” is the assumption that the believer reading that command is already a disciple. Only disciples can make disciples. Churches are God’s instrument for making disciples, but pastors have become highly reluctant to ask churchgoers to make that level of commitment. “Christian” and “disciple” should be synonymous, but they’re distinct labels today.
- Adopt the Biblical Definition of “Church” – You and I are the personification of church – it’s not a place or a pastor. Responsibility rests with us to bring people to Christ, not to a church (building). Yet few of us love Jesus unconditionally, pray unceasingly, share their faith unapologetically, or serve those in need unreservedly. In other words, unlike disciples, we don’t look a whole lot like Jesus. The job of the corporate “church” is essentially to equip and send disciples to embody “church” in their respective circles of influence.
- Follow Jesus’ Model of Evangelism – Jesus initiated discipleship with compassion – healing and feeding to demonstrate His love through actions, opening the door to tell people who He was. We must follow suit because we can’t outpreach Jesus – and He knew words alone wouldn’t be enough. “Looking around at them angrily, for he was deeply disturbed by their indifference to human need, he said to the man, “Reach out your hand.” He did, and instantly his hand was healed!” (Mark 3:5)
- Lead the Way in Dying to Self – Selfism is for all practical and Biblical purposes the opposite of how Christians were meant to live. We must set the example for non-believers by exemplifying Romans 8, where Paul refers to self-obsession as living in the flesh: “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” That’s our true identity – to empty ourselves and be filled with the Holy Spirit to accomplish His plan, not ours. Finding identity in Christ versus identity in oneself is the critical decision each person must make. (2 Corinthians 5:13-17)
- Stop the Codependent Elevation of Institutional Church – Church itself has become the “self” that pastors, staff and members seek to brand and grow. In other words, church leaders appeal to the Selfism of current and prospective members to attract and retain them. “Nickels and noses” are the Selfism-driven metrics you’d expect of church that has redefined “church” to be the institution itself rather than the individuals (ekklesia). The redefinition of “church” has set in motion a vicious cycle that perpetuates Selfism in our churches and American culture, blinding church leaders to the need for compassion in their communities and for unity with other churches.
- Model Humility – Humility is the most important trait of a Christian. It differentiates Christianity from every other world religion – the admission that I can do nothing to close the gap between my Creator and His creation, reliant entirely on His mercy in sending Jesus to bridge that insurmountable divide. Selfism is the picture of the opposite – arrogance. Assuming a good human nature, Selfists believe that self, left to itself, will make the right decision – for them. Rather than grandstanding or pointing fingers at Selfists, Christians must model the grace and mercy that accompanies belief in a God who provided the ultimate depiction of humility. Yet many Christians lose touch with the value of God’s grace as they spend most of their time with other believers, cuss a little less and separate from those living the “sinful” lifestyle they used to lead.
- Move Toward Selfists, Not Away – Rather than pursuing “sinners” as Jesus did, too many Christians maintain both a physical and moral distance. Most of us don’t go near the dens of depravity many Selfists frequent to seek the “lost”. Morally, we speak out about what we’re against, rather than exhibiting well what we’re for (i.e. the Gospel, whose central tenet is love). In God’s eyes the distance between “us” and “them” is minuscule – we’re the same, created in His image, just forgiven. We too are sinful – but redeemed. Churches should reconnect with their communities, getting more involved in loving and serving those who wouldn’t dare darken the door of a church. Each of us is called to be “church”, even to those who stand for all that we’re against.
- Stand Ready to Give an Account – The day is coming, as it has before, when Selfists will recognize that our God is big and they are small. When disaster strikes, many quickly awaken to the fact that there are forces that go beyond their finite selves. When people reach the end of themselves, thrust well outside their comfort zones, coming face to face with the reality that they’re not as powerful and smart as they thought they were, they often are ready to find Jesus. The question is whether Christians will be well-versed and courageous enough to point Him out to them. A disruptive event is coming that will wake Selfists out of their collective stupor and compel them to admit that there are truths and absolutes – blowing their trust in themselves and mankind out of the water. When the World Trade Centers fell, churches across America were filled to the brim, at least for a month or so. America got “religion” for a few days. Prosperity breeds Selfism but disaster breeds dependence on God. Christians must be ready for that moment when it comes.
- Choose the Right Weapons to Fight the Culture War – The air war of dropping verbal bombs, fighting legal battles and trying to take over Hollywood and media has largely failed. Jesus waged a ground war first of love and service to non-believers, then swooped in to fight an air war with the gospel message once the ground war had sufficiently weakened the opposition. However, a ground war requires the right army – prepared, trained and properly motivated for battle – in other words, Powerful Christians living out prayer, care and share. Passive, Pensive and Private Christians are unfit for active duty.
- Demonstrate Radical Faith – Selfists in politics, media and entertainment mock the one group that at least in principle is most opposed to Selfism – Christianity. They characterize Christians as radicals in their objections to self-identification, a right that Selfists believe is inalienable. They’ve been successful in shifting public perception about Christians only because our church-centric Selfist tendencies have contributed toward our reputation as distant and judgmental. We could not be portrayed that way if we were radically transformed by Jesus, fueled by love to acts of radical compassion, and engaged in the world around us yet radically assured about the outcome, knowing God is in control.
It’s Your Turn…
When and how do you think the theocracy of “I” will die in America?