The Biggest Hindrance to the Cause of Christ in America

There is a difference between being exposed to the gospel and experiencing the gospel. The point is that being a “Christ-follower” is much more than merely calling your self a “Christian” or attending church, or adhering to some religious code. Being a true Christ-follower implies you are actually following Christ, embracing His attitude, and committed to carrying out His mission.

So many people have been exposed to the gospel; they know the details, can repeat the story, know the lingo, know the songs, etc. But, being exposed to the information of the gospel is much different than actually experiencing the gospel.

Jesus said, “If anyone believes on me, as Scripture has said, then streams of living water with flow from within him. And by this, he meant the Holy Spirit, who was yet to come.” (John 7:38) Is that how you would describe your spiritual life; as a spring of living water that flows from within you?

There is a war raging between our flesh and the Holy Spirit that indwells the follower of Christ (Gal 5:16-23). The Holy Spirit wants to give us life to the fullest by guiding us along a journey of discovering and experiencing God. Our flesh is self-serving, self-centered, and is a tool Satan uses to rob us of the life that God wants to give us.

Christians seem to think that operating in their “good” flesh is good enough. If I don’t do “bad things”, go to church, volunteer, give some money, etc… then I’m good. That is not a biblical concept. According to Scripture, our flesh, good or bad, is opposed to God and his activity in and through us. That is what “good Christians” struggle with issues like surrender and obedience.

I’d even go as far as saying one of the biggest problems facing the church in America is people calling themselves Christians but not evidencing their faith by walking out what they say they believe. The greatest hindrance to the cause of Christ is Christians and churches! Not Satan. Not the culture. Not drugs. Not porn. Not gambling. The average church and folks who call themselves “Christians” but who do not live a life as a biblical Christ-follower are the greatest hindrance to the cause of Christ in America.

Churches have become organized and religious, even “Pharisee-ic”, instead of being the place of hope and restoration God intended for them to be. The reason people sit through worship services bored and disengaged, then leave with no intention of applying anything they heard, is because pastors and church leaders are boring, disengaged, and not applying it themselves.

My basic point is that there is a major discrepancy between the what the Bible says about the church and what the average church actually is, because there is a major discrepancy between what the Bible says about Christ-following and what the average church attendee is in reality. Read you Bible and see if I am right.

A Church Reflects Its People

If a church sincerely and wholeheartedly loves God, loves people, and makes disciples as they are going, then that church will become a great church. But we must remember “the church” is the people, not the organization or the building. The organization reflects the people. So the real point is that individual people must wholeheartedly love God, love people, and make disciples, if there church is going to become a great church.

A great church that is growing, effectively making disciples, seeing God transform lives, and making an impact that will last into eternity is the way it is because individual Christ-followers make choices to obey, sacrifice, and surrender to God. The same is also true of a boring church, an ineffective church, a conflicted church, and a non-growing church. The organization is what it is due to the people who make up the organization. Your church is a reflection of you. Hard words for some people and churches? Maybe, but its absolutely true just the same.

Just imagine what Jesus would really say and do if He attended your church. Would Jesus be ok with the commitment he witnessed? What about the sincere heartfelt prayers, the unity, the willingness to stretch out of your comfort zone, the disciple-making efforts, the faith, the efforts to reach the un-churched or de-churched, the authentic worship, the surrender, or the sacrifice? Would He commend you for your heart, love, and obedience? Would He challenge your fear and lack of faith?

Would He say you are lukewarm and spit you out of his mouth? Would He challenge you to re-dream and surrender to His purposes? Would He overturn a few tables and pews and clear the place out with His rebuke? Would He thank you for your surrender, sacrifice, and selflessness as He recounted all the lives that have been changed as He has used you to carry out His ministry in and through you?

If we are really honest, few of us are ready to face Jesus’ evaluation of our church. And since “our church is a reflection of us”, few of us are prepared to face Jesus’ evaluation of our personal efforts at Christ-following. If an article like this makes you feel uncomfortable, just imagine how you would feel having your church being evaluated by Jesus!

We tend to ask the wrong questions: Am I comfortable? Does it meet my needs? Am I being noticed enough? Are my opinions being heard? Does it cost me any money? Does in require any time from me? Asking the wrong questions simply reinforces wrong behaviors and attitudes that do not honor God.

However, if you ask yourself the right questions: What would Jesus say, or think, or do? Is my attitude a positive example of my relationship with Christ? Am I being a good steward of all God has entrusted to me?   Is my heart right, broken, yielded, and surrendered? Is there any area of hidden sin in my life? If we ask the right questions wrong behaviors and attitudes will be challenged and God honoring behaviors and attitudes will be reinforced.

Biblically speaking, we all know Christ is the Head of the Church. Then, why do we (or let others) run the church like we are the ones in charge? I just wonder what Jesus would say about that?

The Search for Personal Identity: Are You a Who or a What?

So many people, maybe all of us, are searching for our personal identity. Most of us are known by “what” we do or have done rather than “who” we are. If someone asks, “Who is Tim Rhodus?” the most common answers will be based on how you know me. If you know me through my job you might answer, “He’s the pastor at Cross Church”. If you know me through knowing my amazing wife you might answer, “He’s Kathi’s husband”. If you know me through our children you might answer, “He’s Trevor and Annie’s dad”. All of those answers would be correct, but they merely describe who I am by “what” I do, rather than who I am by my true personhood.

We tend to define others and ourselves by jobs, failures, successes, titles, relationships, accomplishments, our current situations and circumstances, performance, etc. And as we define ourselves and others by those things we also tend to sub-consciously assign value and worth to ourselves and others. If one’s identity is wrapped up in being a baseball player, they feel valued, etc when they are hitting home runs; but when they are striking out they feel inadequate and like a failure. Many people, if they would be completely honest, because of how they see themselves, they feel empty and incomplete, because their identity is wrapped up in the wrong things. They have become human “doings” and not human beings.

Biblically speaking, our true identity can only be found in Christ. As we struggle to find wholeness, purpose, value, significance, and worth we are looking in all the wrong places. Ephesians 2:10 says “we are the workmanship of God in Christ Jesus”. Who better to determine your identity than the One who created you? From the moment we are born, we are being defined everyday by the labels others place on us. Yet, God alone knows who He created us to be. Our true identity is not based on our list of successes, failures, attributes, circumstances, but rather it is based upon our Creator. A Chevy is a Chevy because of its creator. The nearly exact same truck created in the same factory on the same assembly line by GMC is not called a Chevy because Chevrolet did not create it.

So, who are you? Not what do you do, but “who” are you? Not what have you done. Not where have you been. Not what have you accomplished. Not what has happened to you, but rather ”who” are you, the real you. How close are you to who God has created you to be? Let God remove the labels, baggage, and the stereotypes and make you the one of a kind original He intended you to be all along. Seek first God and seek to find your identity in Him. Embrace your Creator’s intentions when He intentionally created you.

Our communities are full of people looking for purpose, significance, and wholeness. How about you? There are many things that present themselves as substitutes, but lasting and meaningful purpose, significance, and wholeness can only be found in Christ. There is no substitute for Christ and finding your identity in Him.