In God’s grace, He’s littered life’s highways with street signs pointing back to Him. It takes a tremendous amount of distraction and cognitive dissonance to ignore creation, conscience, the “God-shaped hole” in our hearts, and our impending demise. Rather than follow the signs, non-believers put on blinders, speeding down the road, rarely looking too far ahead. To obscure the “bridge out” warning off in the distance, our relativistic culture discredits Christianity based on the exclusivity of our claim that Jesus built the only bridge to the Father.
No matter how hard they try to ignore the flashing signals, something is not quite right…
- as spiritual “orphans”, not children of our Father, they search for identity in political, social, occupational, or sexual preferences
- the dysphoria of being “fatherless” leads to what we observe among America’s youth today – depression, escapism, promiscuity, addiction, and suicide
- despite appearances, the fields are ripe for harvest because deep down few believe “my authentic self” is genuine or “my own truth” is viable
Our caution signs are going unnoticed because most Christians don’t understand the core assumption behind unbelief – their premise that human nature is inherently good. Any strategy for reaching the “fatherless” (no identity) and “faithless” (no purpose) must account for the key to Satan’s roadmap – the lie that mankind is “flawless” (no sin).
The Football Field
Media portrays Christians as self-righteous (feeling superior), ignorant (rejecting science) and unkind (lacking compassion). Meanwhile, Christians tend to view the world as evil (less moral), uneducated (academically), and misguided (malleable). Both assessments contain elements of truth but miss the underlying reality behind our division – the fundamental disagreement over who is good and who is bad…humans or God. That dividing line is what separates us, tearing our nation apart.
As long as Christians misinterpret the basis for the direction society is heading, flawed assumptions will continue to generate bad strategies for reaching it. Imagine the chaos of a football game where neither team, on both sides of the ball, knows the playbook. The field of play is the debate over whether or not humanity needs a Savior. The division is so pronounced that it’s formed two teams competing head-to-head, trying to advance the ball down the field in a game they don’t fully understand. No Christian would be surprised by the actions and behaviors of contemporary society if we realized they are attempts to conceal the traffic signals by elevating mankind to the point of eliminating our reliance on God for grace and forgiveness…
- Position government and science as savior, the ultimate sources of funding and healing
- Defer to society’s values, not those taught by our fathers or our Father in heaven
- Break down “traditional” families by conflating genders and discounting biblical marriage
- Surrender to the authority and ideals of political parties and professors, not Scripture
- Subscribe to characterizations of historical Christian leaders as bad and today’s enlightened leaders as good
- Trust in the goodness of people to do the “right” thing:
- Individuals know their actual gender better than Obstetricians (or God)
- The Taliban won’t slaughter innocent people
- The unintentionally pregnant will do what’s best with “their” bodies (presuming the secular notion that we “own” our bodies)
- Crime won’t increase if police are removed
- Drugs and trafficking won’t cross an open border
- Criminals won’t commit more crimes if they are freed
- Everyone will make good decisions on how to spend government handouts
- Canceling the “intolerant” or feigning offense will demonstrate our “goodness”
Framing human nature as good “frees” wide receivers to run whatever routes make them happy, unaware they’re hurting themselves and their teammates, dragging them further from their Creator and toward dependence on those who don’t have their best interests at heart.
This is certainly not a game, it’s not a competition, and it’s not about beating anyone else. Christians want to see all come to an intimate knowledge of our Father. Humanity’s universal fallen state should have put all players on the same team, looking in the mirror, not lining up to tackle individuals and groups with whom they disagree. But we’ve engaged in the game of defining who is good and who is bad. By labeling and vilifying the other “team”, both sides strap on helmets for a winner-take-all contest.
By appearing to think we’re “better” than “them”, a “Team World” has formed, sensing the self-righteousness and condemnation of “Team Jesus”. Over time, Christians and churches turned the ball over, making non-believers feel morally superior. Secularism is now on offense and Christians are back on their heels, watching “Team World” rapidly advance its agenda toward the endzone. Unfortunately, we’ve had the wrong offensive strategy for decades, following a playbook designed by offensive coordinators who didn’t recognize the common ground all humans share – our sinful nature. We made players on “Team World” feel judged, flagging them for committing penalties when they didn’t know our rules.
Ironically, Jesus was frequently accused of fraternizing with players (“sinners”) on the opposing team, showing compassion because he knew no one was truly “good”. Our head coach wasn’t about winning or losing, but sorrow and service to help “lost sheep” find their way to the Father. Yet many churches hold pep rallies, emphasizing “victory” and reassuring followers they “win” in the end. As a result, players run out on the field feeling pride and comfort in being on “Team Jesus”. Or recognizing we’re playing defense now, Christians became defensive. There’s no need to defend our faith – God is perfectly capable. Jesus turned the other cheek rather than defending Himself. The best defense is always a good offense, but we’ve been giving out directions to our churches, not to the Father.
Instead of making disciples and showing compassion, we threw into double coverage by reducing evangelism to pitching non-believers on our team’s way of life, rules or church (inviting friends and family to the “game” next Sunday morning). The COVID-19 pandemic exposed that churchgoers didn’t know the playbook. When the assistant coaches (pastors) weren’t there, the players didn’t know what to do. Choosing defense over offense, we defaulted to self-preservation instead of self-sacrifice, not serving as pastors of our neighborhoods, ready to give account for the hope that is in us.
Watching a football game, we believe we understand the coach’s strategies. On the surface it seems our team is going nowhere handing the ball off, refusing to open up the passing game. But frustrated fans don’t realize the patient, “ground and pound” approach is going to pay off in the 4th quarter. America and possibly mankind is in the 4th quarter and the world’s defense would be wearing down by now if Christians and churches had stuck with the running game of disciple-making and compassion, demonstrating the Father’s unconditional love. A “ground attack” engaging millions in loving acts of service would have weakened defenses by eliminating the anger Christians display toward non-believers and disarming those who revile Christians.
Our “air attack” has been overthrowing (verbal) bombs receivers could never catch. Christians often appear as though they only see non-believers as sinful, positioning “Team Jesus” as superior to “Team World”. We wouldn’t be responding with anger or surprise if we associated their behaviors with a distorted view of human nature. We would feel sorry for them and share the Gospel, realizing their actions are a byproduct of an identity crisis resulting from their detachment from our Father. So today non-believers find more acceptance and (a cheap imitation of) “love” by aligning with those who judge no one (because they don’t want to be judged). They don’t feel welcome on “Team Jesus” because we aren’t following the strategy of our head coach, demonstrating the Father’s love and humbly confessing our own depravity.
As long as Christians aren’t being discipled in churches, thoroughly studying their playbook – the Bible – we’ll continue making silly plays. Jesus’ strategy was not designed to “win” against “Team World” but to win “lost sheep” to Himself. But centering the practice of faith around buildings, weekend services and “church chores” encourages lining up on the other side of the ball from those unwilling to join our team. Conventional methods for steering non-believers toward the Father, like invitations to a Sunday service, are challenging in a culture increasingly distrustful of “Team Jesus” and institutions in general, including churches. The Great Commission in post-Christian America requires preparing individual believers to build intentional relationships and provide clear directions to our heavenly Father, not our church’s address. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we should work to get everyone on the same team by confessing our sinful nature, helping unchurched players buy into their own sinfulness.
It’s Your Turn…
How would our nation be different if everyone had a shared, accurate understanding of human nature? How would your church’s response to our culture change if the entire congregation knew the real reason America is heading in the wrong direction?