The Sneer

"Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, 'We shall hear you again concerning this.' " Acts 17:32

The contemporary church seeking a cheer from the culture, while fearing The Sneer of the culture, will always abandon God's cure for the culture, The Resurrected Christ.

"He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising him from the dead." v. 31

Christmas and Easter are still two of the highest attendance days of the church. Go figure. One celebrates His birth, the other His death, burial and resurrection. Jesus commanded His disciples to remember the latter, not to celebrate the former. Contemporary culture has it exactly backwards, and for the most part the church has yielded to their sense of direction.

When the church conforms to the pressure of the culture instead of transforming it, it never ends well, for the church or the culture. Every time the church is too embarrassed by their beliefs to actually proclaim them, they keep their structure and lose their substance. Their by-laws, buildings and budgets don't breathe new life into dead men. Only Jesus can do that. After all, He is The Risen Christ. God has no Plan B.

Once belief in Jesus is diluted from holy reverence to quaint remembrance, His birthday may be celebrated, but His resurrection is emasculated. Dead men don't need to be cheered up. They need new life. Only The Risen Christ can provide it.

Note to self: The culture may very well sneer at the very mention of The Risen Christ, but preach Jesus anyway.

Paul was convinced Jesus came to call people everywhere to "REPENT." His church should follow His lead. To do less may avoid The Sneer, but if the church really wants to offer some Christmas cheer, and The Spirit of Christmas, they need to proclaim The Risen Christ.

"God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent." v. 30

Don't get ready to go all Ninja-Angel on contemporary culture. Forgive me! I can't get that scene in the recent TV series on "The Bible" out of my mind. Those Chuck Norris angels escorting Lot and his family out of Sodom, really did a number on the Sodomites, and then God's judgment fell. Now is a great time to remind the church that judgment begins at the house of God. Don't take my word for it.

"For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?" I Peter 4:17

Fearing The Sneer leads to the squeezing of the church, into the mold of the culture. Repentance involves an awareness that one is moving in the wrong direction, and an act of the will to turn around and move in the right direction. One without the other is incomplete.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer described the dilemma of people who ran down the aisles of a train that kept taking them in the wrong direction. That is not a picture of repentance.

"“If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

This may very well describe the condition of the pulpits and the pews of America. Some people are aware of the conditions threatening the church, but are screaming in outrage and frustration, while still heading in the wrong direction. Others are blissfully unaware of any danger, and are either mildly amused or painfully annoyed at the commotion of those who won't sit down and shut up. The opposition is in a position to keep the train moving in the wrong direction, and won't let go of the controls without a fight.

Turning a runaway train around is not an easy task. It requires leaving the comfort of the passenger compartment, taking control of the engine compartment, stopping the train, and moving it in the opposite direction.

Preachers who attempt to move the train in the opposite direction, should expect resistance from the opposition on two fronts. People in the church or in the culture don't like to be told they are wrong. Their will be no dislodging the hands of the opposition from the throttle of the train, without discomforting the pulpits and the pews of America.

Bad news is more like spilled milk than fine wine. It doesn't age well. Delaying the clean up doesn't improve the aroma of the church or the culture. There is only one aisle on a train. CLEAN UP ON AISLE #1! Grab a mop. This is going to take a while.

"Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within,.." Romans 12:2 - J.B. Phillips Translation

Preachers in the pulpit and people in the pews have become embarrassed to call both to turn around. In every culture, and at every point in history someone's value system reigns supreme. In a republic, with a representative form of government, Christian citizenship remains the bulwark against tyranny from within and terrorists from without.

God's value system diminishes when preachers meekly raise the question, "Are you sure we are moving in the right direction?" Timidity only invites The Sneer. Rigidity doesn't remove The Sneer, it only intensifies it. Yelling at people who are on a fast train in the wrong direction, rarely influences them to turn it in the right direction. The opposition simply doesn't care how loud preachers scream, as long as their own hands remain on the throttle.

The key to the next Great Awakening is humility, not timidity or rigidity. Praying preachers must lead praying people to develop praying churches. Prayer prepares the way for a turn around, first in the church, and then in the culture. This happens one person at a time, and one prayer at a time. ALL ABOARD!

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14 KJV

This passage of Scripture became the battle cry for the Jesus Revolution of the late Sixties and the early Seventies of the 20th Century. In 1996 I was impacted by a quote that led me to a personal turnaround and has never steered me off track in the last seventeen years.

"It is not enough for the pastor to pray fervently, nor is it sufficient for a leadership team to pray ardently on behalf of the congregation. Until the church owns prayer as a world-class weapon in the battle against evil and cherishes prayer as a means of intimate and constant communication with God, the turn-around efforts of a body are severely limited, if not altogether doomed, to failure."
George Barna - Turn Around Churches

As pastors prepare their people to humble their hearts through prayer, they must give them a winning strategy after they get up off their knees. The clear call for Christians to TAKE A KNEE should be followed by another call to STAND UP! One must precede the other, but does not remove the necessity of the other.

Pastors should lead their people to exercise the rights of dual citizenship. Paul claimed his rights as a Roman citizen. Christian citizens of America should do no less. The Sneer will not be removed from the faces of everyone who refuses to accept The Risen Christ. This should not deter Christians from voting to take the hand of sneering people off of the throttle of a train moving away from Religious Liberty and towards disdain of The Risen Christ.

In a representative democracy, someone's value system is going to win out, at the voting booth. Pastors should challenge the people in their pews to pray for the next Great Awakening, register them to vote, and lead them to vote for those people and policies that will protect Religious Liberty and honor God's values. To do less is running down the aisle of a train that continues to move toward a point of no return. Clean up in Aisle #1! TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!