Finding Hope in the Midst of Hopelessness

hope

I woke up this morning to read the news and see yet another senseless tragedy that has befallen our world. Once again humanity has risen against humanity to take life and fail to see the value life has. Fear has come to take away our securities and make us question our faith. We can look at the world and struggle to find hope in such a hopeless situation. How can we ever redeem our world when every day we see reason after reason to give up on it? The answer is simple but it is not easy; the answer is that we must work harder to bring the Kingdom of God here on Earth as it is in Heaven.

I know it is tempting to sit back and hide when the outside world is so terrible. We can turn off the television, put down our phones, and distract ourselves by going to our “holy huddles” and listen to another feel good sermon about how wonderful we are and how God wants to give us health, wealth, and prosperity. All the while our world continues to break down and fall into a repetitive cycle of destruction, chaos, and hate. After all, it is what the Church has done for almost a century now and we are very, very good at it.

As the industrial revolution gave way to free time our culture invested in recreation and leisure in ways that had never been possible before. Thanks to technology we could now have time to do more than go to bed and prepare for the next work day; we could go to movies, read books, travel, and have hobbies. We could appreciate entertainment in a way that no culture had ever been able to in the past. We became drunk on entertainment and we turned work into a means that led to more opportunities to have a diversion from the horrors of the world.

I love recreation and leisure; shoot, I majored in it for my undergraduate degree. Sadly, we lost the focus of what recreation is truly meant to do: to give us chances to recreate ourselves and become better people. We focused solely on the joy of being entertained that we missed out on the entire point of why we need leisure. Entertainment became the drug of the masses and almost every home I have ever been in has placed a television front and center in it. What does that say about our priorities?

The Church of America, in its turn, felt that it needed to keep up. We upgraded our sanctuaries and turned them into worship centers. We traded our hymnals in for projectors and flat screen televisions. We have rock concerts on massive stages with lights and sound systems that rival the professionals. We took the Bible out of Bible study and instead have offered positive motivational speeches that offer great feelings but little life change. We believed that if we built it that they would come and that we needed to copy our culture in order to save it.

This cycle, however, will not save our world. On top of that, it flies in the face of what Jesus taught His followers to do. Don’t misunderstand me; I love all of those things. We can certainly update our methods so long as the message is not compromised. This is, however, exactly what has happened. We have done all of this entertaining at the cost of taking away our effectiveness.

Here is the reason why I believe (and the data supports) we have lost the past 3 generations of Americans to the Gospel: we have focused so much on entertainment that we have forgotten apologetics. We have generations of Americans who have come to church communities for a feel good fix but never got any answers to life’s most important questions. Then, when days like today come and tragedy strikes, they have no answer for their hope in Jesus and then their faith fall apart. This is exactly why so many are fine with Jesus in their youth but turn away from Him in their adulthood years. The Jesus presented in most church communities each week feels great but doesn’t offer hope in life’s greatest struggles.

How do we fix this? How do we redeem the Church in America (and the world for that matter) and regain our ability to speak light into the darkness of our culture? Here are 4 steps that I believe will make this happen:

  1. Focus less on comfort and more on information

There is nothing wrong with comfort; I love air conditioning and indoor plumbing. Sadly, all of the coffee bars, leather seats, flat screen televisions, and casual dressing (or dressing up for that matter) will not save anyone. We must get solid, biblical teaching into the hearts and minds of our church communities. What if every church community took some (by no means all) of the money they spend on making their church buildings more comfortable and invested it in having their church leadership take classes on apologetics? However they choose to do so, our nation will continue down the road of destruction if we fail to be able to answer the most important questions of life.

  1. Focus less on large gatherings and more on going out into the community

Again, don’t misread what I’m saying. We should gather as a whole community (the Bible actually tells us to do just that) because this is where we are equipped, energized, and informed by those tasked to deliver sound biblical teaching to us. What has happened, however, is that we have stopped there. We have simply taken in the sermon each Sunday and Wednesday and have done nothing with it to change our lives. Are there exceptions? There always are. Yet the information clearly shows that the vast majority (85% according to the Barna Research Group) will never come into a religious building; and that includes all religious buildings not just Christian ones. We have to get out of our comfort zone and go to the people who do not know Jesus because they are not coming to us.

3. Focus less on comfortable “safe” teachings and more on apologetics

Everyone loves to hear an encouraging sermon about how much God loves them and wants them to have an amazing life filled to overflowing with the blessing of His presence. And that is amazingly true. Yet, Jesus taught vastly more on Hell and the struggles of life than He did on Heaven. He certainly never taught anything about how every one of His followers would experience health, wealth, and prosperity. Jesus taught that His followers should expect trials, tribulation, persecution, and even death for being His disciple. We need to focus on how Jesus is the only one who can offer the answers to life’s most important and meaningful questions. Otherwise it is like eating only deserts; they taste great but offer no fullness or nutrition and eventually make you sick. We have the answers to these questions but so many followers of Jesus cannot answer them because they have not been trained to do so. We can do this and we must do this.

  1. Focus less on gathering en masse and more on making disciples

This is perhaps the hardest part because it is the most time consuming. The model that we see in the life of Jesus and the early Church (that took over the Roman Empire through love and sound apologetics in less than 3 centuries by the way) is not in gathering in huge groups to dispense teachings (though they definitely did that). The majority of their effectiveness came from the daily living with each other and making disciples. Each mature Christian needs to learn how to take a young Believer into their life and train them up into spiritual maturity. Our failure to do this has led to the majority of Christians in America being able to attend a Sunday service but unable to properly defend their faith to someone with genuine questions.

If we fail to do this, then we will fail our nation. But there is still time; we can find hope in the midst of all of the hopelessness that surrounds us. We are in dark times but we can be the light of the world that Jesus commanded us to be if we will be willing to get out of our comfort zones and go to the uncomfortable places where the people who need Jesus are.

I wanted to close this by encouraging you with the Scriptures:

1 Peter 3:14-16 (NLT)

[14] But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. [15] Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. [16] But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.

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