My Resolution for the Church in America

New Year’s resolutions are the grace of God. Granted, many of us make them, and we often fail miserably. And yet, with the turn of the calendar each twelve months, we are given a chance to evaluate, reconsider, and commit ourselves to act differently, to try something new, to be who we have only dreamed of being. We can choose to abandon something that has outgrown its usefulness and embrace new things that would be beneficial to us. It is the grace of God that we can become, change, develop, evolve.

This year, I’m making a New Year’s resolution for the church. From the presidential election to the Chick-Fil-A debacle, the Facebookization of American Christianity in 2012 needs to be evaluated and reconsidered. I’m thinking that we need to commit ourselves to act differently. I’m thinking there is something we need to abandon.

My 2013 New Year’s resolution for the church is that we would abandon the Remnant Mentality.

The Remnant Mentality is the collective mindset that we are just a small cloister of faithful followers of God left to fend for ourselves in the midst of great apostasy and compromise. You read it in Facebook statuses and blog posts. You hear it preached from pulpits all across the country. You hear it in conversations with dear saints who love the Lord but can’t make sense of the world in which they find themselves. The Remnant Mentality feeds a sense that we are the only people who have preserved fidelity to God and that we just need to stick to our guns (sometimes, quite literally) until we are rescued from this wretched world.

The Remnant Mentality has its roots in the biblical story. When the people of Israel and Judah were carried off into captivity, some of the people who were left behind did what they could to preserve their old culture and customs. They bolstered their commitment to preserve the old way of doing things by clinging to the hope that they were a remnant, not forgotten by God but awaiting divine vindication.

It’s an inspiring story. But it’s not the story of American Christianity.

American Christianity is not a remnant; it is a majority. American Christianity is not the object of oppression. In the great civil rights struggles in American history, the church has been on both sides of just about ever issue. American Christianity is not marginalized. For better or for worse, it remains at the center of American culture, American politics, and the American way of life.

remnant mentality  in the church

And that’s why it’s so silly when Christians posit that they are being persecuted, oppressed, and driven from the public square. Real persecution and oppression of Christians happens. But not in the United States. It happens in places like Iran and China. When Christians in America claim to be persecuted, they make a mockery of their brothers and sisters who actually live in harm’s way, who actually are a remnant.

The Remnant Mentality is as ridiculous as the Cowardly Lion. But it may also be dangerous.

The Remnant Mentality can drive Christians into fight or flight mode. When Christians fight, they take up political battles in hopes of preserving a culture in which they are most comfortable. This obsession with our own comfort distracts us from our primary task, which is to love. And worse yet, it often turns us mean, ungracious, and inhospitable toward others. The Remnant Mentality reinforces the us-versus-them mindset that is so very antithetical to the way Jesus lived his life.

When Christians flee, they create their own bunkers and fortresses. They become obsessed with their own safety. Safe music. Safe schools. Safe movies. Safe ideas. Safe cultures. They are scared of anything that might not be safe. They can even become paranoid and convinced of conspiracy theories about “the government,” “the liberals,” and all those who threaten either their perceived rights or their treasured safety. Scared to engage, they retreat and wait for the apocalypse which will be their rescue and vindication. The Remnant Mentality is driven by fear. And fear is the opposite of faith.

So, my resolution for the church in 2013 is that we would stop living by fear, stop being ungracious, start loving and living by faith. And abandon the Remnant Mentality.

The world does not need more depressed and despairing Christians. What the world needs is the kind of Christians who make friendships, share joy, demonstrate hospitality, are animated by optimism, hope, and faith, and who engage people with whimsy and grace. Is that too much to ask? I hope not.

What resolution are you making for the church in 2013?

 

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  • lifewithkaishon

    I love the idea of becoming more gracious.
    Wishing you and Vanessa and the kids a happy new year.

    • rryerse

      Thanks! And the same to you, Becky.

  • Sara

    I am so thankful that there are people that can place into words things that I can not (simply because I just don’t know how to do it sometimes) This is something that Carl and I have been talking a lot about lately. Thank you for sharing and for encouraging me not to be a depressed, despairing Christian.

    • rryerse

      Thanks, Sara. I am getting increasingly frustrated by the “woe is me” mentality of so many Christians and churches. It may not be the most important problem that needs to be fixed. But it is fixable and maybe a good place to start.