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I have been haunted by a comment I read on someone’s blog. Written by a former pastor, D.J. Chuang, it is a comment that has stayed with me since I read it a few weeks ago. It was probably one of the most authentic and disturbing blogs I’ve read. He stated two things he discovered about church folks:

  1. most people don’t have theological inquiries; and
  2. most people change very slowly.

I have found this to be true as well. People listen to sermons not for theological insight, but for the next funny joke or emotional anecdote. People attend Bible studies not for doctrinal illumination, but for the socializing afterwards (we may call it fellowshipping, but let’s be real). I could go on, but I think you get my drift. We are not naturally theologically-inquisitive people.

As for the second point – that people change very slowly – I’ve pondered about this, too. Somebody once said that religion – instead of changing a person – actually only accentuates what that person is all about. In essence, therefore, we never can fundamentally change from who we are. Our faith may have given us tidy vocabulary to categorize personality traits, but we are still leopards unable to change our spots. I know that the Word holds that we are new creations, and that we are to grow increasingly like Christ, but the lack of change is an undeniable reality in the church. We like to point to genuinely “nice” people in the church as people with the fruits of the Spirit, but I actually meet nicer people outside the church who might be Hindu, Buddhist, or agnostic.

So: if people don’t care about theology, if people don’t change . . . why bother? Why pour in the hours to make a sermon theologically-deep, applicable, memorable? People don’t care, won’t remember, can’t change. Why labor for decades to grow in knowledge of the Bible, in learning the intricacies of theology, the original languages when

it

doesn’t

make

a

difference?

Think about this. Really think about it. It’s enough to make you want to tear your hair out. It’s enough to make you want to leave the ministry (but we have to stay, because it’s a steady income, and we’re not trained to do anything else).

(If you disagree, you will have to show me that the average lay person:

  1. cares about theology; and
  2. has shown real change, radically different from the range and depths of change that any person (of any or no faith) undergoes in life.)
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One Comment

  1. hi, i discovered your blog through a reformed theologian blogring on xanga. i’ve been reading through because i agree with a lot of what you have to say, but this post haunts me. i know it was written several years ago and maybe you see things differently now but i just wanted to leave my two cents for what it’s worth.

    it may be true that being theologically inquisitive is a trait that does not come naturally to most people, but being a christian is quite unnatural, isn’t it? it is quite possibly the most counterintuitive state of being we could be in. and it takes time to undo the influences and impacts of the world. in addition, i would say that many lay people are spiritually immature for whatever reason so it doesn’t shock me that many would prefer to socialize than sit through a bible study. BUT does that mean we give up? i think it is so important to remember that God calls us to plant seeds and water them but only He makes them grow. at the end of john’s gospel, peter asks jesus about john. and jesus says “follow me.” what is it to peter where jesus takes john? what is it to us that people are not changing at a rate that pleases us? i think above all, we have to remember that we are in ministry to obey God, preach Christ and his gospel. everything else is gravy. i mean, where would we be if we DIDN’T bother? it may seem as if people don’t care about theology or don’t change, but just because we don’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

    all christians eventually come to care about theology, i think. i just read this in a spurgeon devotional the other day:

    “We must not hastily condemn men for lack of knowledge; but where we can see the faith which saves the soul, we must believe that salvation has been bestowed. The Holy Spirit makes men penitents long before He makes them divines; and he who believes what he knows, shall soon know more clearly what he believes.”

    let’s look to jesus, not only to the fruits of our labor for justification.

    and you ask to prove that the average lay person undergoes real, radical change? what could be more real and radical than to be born again? what could be more real and radical than to be called a child of God when you were once his enemy? i think that qualifies as transformation quite distinct from any other in this world.

    i felt compelled to respond because i found this post quite disturbing. i think it borders on a dangerous level of cynicism. maybe i am too much of an optimist but how can we not be when there is so much Hope in jesus? all i need to do is to think of the apostle paul, a man who intensely persecuted the church, even stoning Stephen to death, and yet became such a powerful and effective christian. if there was hope for him, isn’t there hope for your listeners and for all believers?

    but i do appreciate what you are doing with this blog. you’ve forced me to think and be uncomfortable about some of the things we’ve done with church. so thanks!


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