“The Godless: A Desperate Generation”

I am currently in the middle of a series of posts titled, “All Mixed Up, Don’t Know What To Do”. However, the Lord has been teaching, and speaking to me lately about my desperation for Him, or lack thereof. I will be writing a few entries on desperation, and pick back up with the series shortly after…

Inashmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and honor me with their lips , but have removed their hearts far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the commandment of men, therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work among this people, a marvelous work and a wonder; for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden.

Isaiah 29:13-14 (NKJV)

Notice the title to this post is The Godless, and not the godless. We are certainly not “little ‘g’ godless”. We serve many “little ‘g’ god’s”. It is as if “Big ‘G’ God” has been pushed from our society, culture, church, and country right out from under our noses. In Revelation 3:20 Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to dine with him, and he with Me.” This letter was written to the lukewarm church. Alan Hirsch, the author of “The Forgotten Ways”, has responded to this verse by saying, “How in the world did Jesus get outside of the church in the first place?”

We live in a day, time, and country unlike any other in the history of the world. In America we have “freedoms”, and opportunities that surpass that of any other place in the world. People die trying to get into our country to experience “a better life”. The foundation of our country was built upon God, and the Ten Commandments. We’ve got it all together, right? We are a Christian nation, right? Wrong. (When I refer to “Christian Nation” I do not mean that many people sit in a church building on Sunday morning. We’ve got that part down. I am referring to radical followers of Christ who take the Gospel seriously, and die to themselves daily in pursuit of the growth of the kingdom of God; this is something I struggle with daily). But what other country has a cluster of states referred to as “The Bible Belt”? What other country has a church on every corner? We are desperate for God, right? Wrong. We DO NOT need God, right? Right?

This idea of desperation and need go hand in hand. If you do not need someone, or something, then you are not desperate for them. If you are not desperate for them, then you certainly do not need them. This word desperation has intrigued me lately. The root of the word is desperate. Are we desperate for anything other than “The American Dream” that we cling to so…desperately? The definition of the word is: a state of despair, typically one that results in extreme or rash behavior. So, are we desperate? Yes, for many things, but not for God. Does our desperation result in extreme or rash behavior? Yes, our pursuit of comfort and security has led to greed and complete self-dependence. We have successfully removed the need of God from our lives. After all, we have everything we could ever need, and most of what we want. If we are hungry we instantly fill our stomachs. If we are hot we crank on the A/C. If we run out of something we simply go to the store and buy it. If we want something we cannot afford we finance it. If we need to contact someone we pick up our cell phones, which are now in the hands of six year-olds! If we get a flat tire we call roadside assistance. If we’re sick we immediately go to the doctor and get drugs prescribed. (No need to pray to the God we’re supposed to be desperate for to heal us). I could go on and on. Are these things bad? Not necessarily, but where does God fit into our daily lives? Is it even possible for us to be desperate for God? I, in my own power, have the ability to provide for my every need, and the needs of my family. Where can my need for God be found? (I have recently become desperate for God in the area of my marriage, and being a husband. I am desperate for God to be in me, what I cannot be on my own. This is a good start, I suppose, to learning what a daily dependence on my Savior looks like. However, I believe it is far from a Biblical view of “denying myself, taking up my cross, and following Jesus”.) How often do we, in all reality, deny ourselves of anything that we want or need?

I once heard someone say, “Many of the churches in America are so ‘man operated’ that they could grow without God.” What he was saying is this: Find a fascinating speaker who is good at communicating moral behavior, a great “worship leader” who can generate butterflies in your tummy, a staff of motivated (not to mention very well paid) and driven professionals, a cool, modern, and “hip” building/location, furniture from Ikea, a coffee shop, etc., and you can easily get a few thousand people into your building each week for a “service”. For some reason I do not believe the New Testament Church we read about in Acts was led by rare professionals. The early church grew and spread like a virus because it was easily reproducible. It didn’t take a superstar pastor, a rock star worship leader, and a huge building, etc. to multiply. In fact, I would say the above “model” we are accustomed to is nearly impossible to multiply. (Please do not misunderstand me by thinking I promote a particular “model” of church; anyone who thinks that any ONE model will offer “effectiveness”, or “success” proves their ignorance.) We may see addition with our current form of church, but not multiplication. The early Church spread and multiplied because ordinary, everyday people encountered Christ, and it messed them up for good, and for their good. They were transformed. Can our current form of church lead to transformed Christ followers? Of course! I am a product of a great one. Are many of these churches very effective in doing great things all over the world? Yes! Can we always be striving to be more effective? Of course. Might this require drastic and radical change for some churches and individuals, including myself? Yes. I am reminded of a business term I learned in college: Kaizen. It originated in Japan, and is the term used for continuous improvement. It simply means for us to constantly be looking for better ways of doing things. We must never come to the conclusion that we have it all figured out. This births pride and leads to ineffectiveness. As you know, we in America have this mindset. There is no attack here, but a simple submission that the Church (People of God, not a location or building) may be entering a new chapter, or era in what it looks like to be a Christ follower…maybe it doesn’t come with such ease anymore…maybe it requires much sacrifice…maybe it challenges us to be uncomfortable…maybe it BECOMES our everyday lives, and not just a part of our lives.

I was speaking with a student pastor friend of mine the other day. We were thinking hard about this absence of desperation for God in our country. We were chatting about what could be done differently in the area of student ministry. It would seem as if the days of great Wednesday night services, unbeatable camps/events, funny speakers, rockin’ bands, and the most thought provoking messages are quickly coming to an end. Are these things bad? Of course not. Can all of these things be present, along with hundreds of students who attend these weekly events, and still lack a true understanding of what it means to follow Christ? Sadly, the answer is yes. Erwin McManus, in his book, “Chasing Daylight”, writes on the idea of Christians being moved but not mobilized. He was referring to a group of men who came to a weekend retreat and got excited. They were certainly moved, but not mobilized to action. What will it take for us to be more than simply moved, but radically mobilized to live out the Gospel. Can we proceed in the same fashion we have for years? I think not. Do we, as adults, model a need for God to teenagers? I think this would be a good start for us. We must portray a selfless/desperate attitude to the next generation of Christ followers, or they will not be Christ followers at all.

There is a movement taking place all over the world. The truth is that the Huge God that we speak of, and sing songs about here in the states is performing miracles in other countries regularly. He is healing the sick, restoring sight to the blind, and raising the dead. Wait, did I just say, “raising the dead”? We are instant skeptics. Once again, we talk about our God being Big. Do we truly believe it, and do our actions prove our belief? I wonder if our lack of faith has prohibited the Lord from doing things He desires to do in our lives. I am reminded of a story in Mark 6 where Jesus returns to His own country to teach and do miracles. Verses 5 and 6 say, “Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief…” I pray that my unbelief will cease to hinder the Lord’s work. I beg the Lord everyday to give me faith that believes He still raises the dead to life.

Is the Lord doing miracles in the states? Yes. Are we aware of the miracles, and in turn, directing the glory to Him because of them? Not usually. (We must first become aware of the miracles taking place all around us if we are to give Him glory for them) I’ve been to Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam, and seen a movement taking place. I have heard about it in China, and have friends who are a part of it in India. To describe this movement we can think about the early Church in Acts where thousands were transformed by Christ in a day. Notice, I did not say that thousands prayed a prayer of conversion in one day. We have seen that in the states regularly for many years. I am speaking of people who witness a Christ follower heal the sick, or raise the dead to life through the power of the Spirit of God that dwells in them. Upon this encounter of a miracle they can do nothing but desperately beg to know this powerful God. They are forever changed, forever transformed. That is a movement. Christ is equipping His Church. He is taking His Church back into His hands, and out of the hands of man. He is doing what He is doing, and graciously welcoming us to be a part of it. Thousands of Christ followers in America are waking up to this call of what it truly means to radically follow Christ. A restored desperation for God is flooding into the hearts and lives of Christians all over the United States, and world. This of course, is contrary to everything in our flesh. The question is whether or not we will truly die to our flesh in order to live in this movement.

“Father, continue to wake us up. Challenge us. Move us to action and mobilize your Church. Instill in us a holy discontent for the status quo. May we begin to take the teachings of your Son, Jesus, seriously. We submit to You, and beg for your guidance.”

3 thoughts on ““The Godless: A Desperate Generation”

  1. Another great post Aaron.

    God has been moving me down this “desperation road” lately, myself. I was thinking along these lines the other day as I was studying Matthew 28:18-20, “the Great Commission.” It struck me that most teaching and exhortation I’ve heard from this scripture jump straight to verse 19, “Go…” We have grown so reliant upon our own abilities to complete the “task” that we tend to just skip right over Jesus’ enormous statement that “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” No one would ever say so verbally, but our practice usually states very plainly that we really don’t need Jesus or His authority any more to do this Great Commission thing. Which explains why we’re doing it so well lately.

  2. Wow Aaron! Thanks. Most of us are simply too invested in the status quo to be truly desperate for God. “Desperate” is made up of word-bits meaning the state of being without hope. I just want to make some very simple points about that:

    i) You (fellow readers) and I are at some levels (I stress) not “without hope” without God. We have skills, resources and opportunities that do not leave us without hope.

    ii) A lot of Christians would actually feel very anxious even being around the kind of people who are truly “without hope” – not least because, Aaron, as you point out that kind of emotional/mental state often produces rash, dangerous, negative and anti-social behaviours that can be challenging to be around.

    iii) Sadly a lot of us – even us Christians – use the media (books, magazines, internet, theatre, films, music etc) to entertain but not to inform. A lot of the “news” we watch is built on holding an audience rather than educating the public as to what things are happening around the world. If we exposed ourselves to more of the brutal realities of life on planet earth – in the States and all around the world – I think more of us would be feeling desperate about our home country and about our world at large. We cannot insulate ourselves and cocoon ourselves away from the world and at the same time expect to be desperate for God.

    Yet so often that is what Christians use the media for – Christian TV, Christian magazines, Christian books, Christian music even Christian games; put them all together and maybe combine them with Christian empoylment, and you have created an alternative world that will hide you away from the traumas of the wider world.

    iv) Something I know you will resonate with, Aaron, is that if you spend your weeks with people who you know and believe on many levels to be “without hope” without God, your sense of urgency and dependency on God will become greater and sharper. When you confront yourself with needs that only God can meet, you cry out to him with a bit more heart.

    v) If we can use our accountability partnerships within the Christian community to push one another out of our cocoons and comfort zones, if we will share with each other stuff in our own lives and stuff in the media that confronts us with the reality of a world which desperately needs The Saviour then I believe we will feel a livelier sense of our dependence upon God.

    I was very struck just recently – I was working on a section about Francis of Assisi for my book The New Monastic – Francis was from a wealthy family with a great stake in the status quo. Like many of his peers Francis was used by his country as a Knight – meaning a soldier whose job was to kill or be killed in the wars of that time.

    Then, as now, many wars were fought with the ultimate goal of moving political, and economic power from one party to another. The war Francis and his friends were sent on was fought in order to move more of the world’s wealth into the pockets of the already wealthy. It is very informative to realise that in the explosive growth of Francis’ revival movement, that first generation of recruits was composed chiefly of war-veterans who had returned home from overseas campaigns having been used, and maimed and many times seen their friends killed for the sake of these magnates and land barons. The great treasure the powerful were expending Francis and his peers for was control of the Middle East. They claimed they were doing it for the glory of God, but in the end it was all about who possessed what.

    The death of a friend has a powerul way of getting a person to review their beliefs and priorities in life. The war lent Francis and his freinds that opportunity many times over.

    You can well imagine that Francis and his peers came back from these wars for land and possessions with a very different view of the power and pull of money and the very meaning of wordly wealth. What they did next – joining Francis to live like beggars in order to do the apostolic ministry – tells us that they returned to Italy from the war in the Middle East not feeling like stakeholders in their country’s status quo and very jaded about what the world had to offer them. Only when they had had the ugly dynamic of human society rubbed in their noses by the attrocity of that war did they wake up to the need to find a higher loyalty and a better life.

    There are many people in the world today who for diverse reasons have been made as desperate as Francis’ peers were by the world of their time.

    If we are not feeling desperate and without hope in the world perhaps one of the best things we can do is REALLY LISTEN to those who are.

  3. Pingback: Desperation Blog…Part 2 « A Holy Discontent’s Weblog

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