Among the offerings in the ‘spiritual supermarket’ that is Australia today there can be found this very attractive and popular package called ‘Christianity-Lite’ (C.L.). A characteristic of this belief system or ‘faith’ is that it is an ‘easy’ faith, a ‘comfortable’ faith where the spiritual journey is smooth and not too stressful; one into which Jesus can be fitted as is convenient; one where God doesn’t make any ‘unreasonable’ demands; one where I can learn a lot about the Bible but it doesn’t have to affect my family or my life too much. As William Barclay has said-
“We’ve done a great hurt to the church by letting people think … membership need not make very much difference (to life).
We ought tell them that it should make all the difference in the world”.
The reality is that we live in the ‘age of Redemption’, the age in which God is redeeming the fallen, sin-wracked creation through the person of Christ. Those whom God has chosen “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4) have been chosen not only to be redeemed by the blood of Christ, but to be workers in God’s redeeming, kingdom-establishing activity (Mission), indeed to be soldiers for Christ. As soldiers on active service can expect to get wounded so too can soldiers of Christ engaged in God’s mission. However such a concept often seems little more than an intellectual idea for the C.L person.
The problem for those following the Christianity-Lite and easy road is that, while it is true that ‘God is indeed in His heaven‘, it is also certain that the principalities and powers, the rulers of this dark age make very sure that ‘all is not right with the world’ (Ephesians 6:11,12), and most certainly not right with the church for that matter. In fact anyone who is seriously involved in the mission of the gospel will come to the notice of, and experience the hatred of, the “world” (i.e. humanity in rebellion against God) as Jesus said (John 15:18,19).
The reality is that when a person is truly redeemed (saved) they become one with Christ so they are likely to experience what He experienced, i.e. ridicule, opposition and mistreatment. Real Christians indeed live with the fragrance of Heaven in their nostrils, but they also serve in and experience a world where the stench of hell is very real. This is because as they, for the sake of Christ, engage the ‘Powers’, the forces of the evil one that have enslaved the world in misery, they and their churches will experience the same Powers raged against them.
As Jesus said in Luke 13:22-27 there will be many, not atheists or agnostics but religious (church-going) people, who will seek to enter through the narrow door to God’s kingdom, but they will not be able. In fact God will say to them “I don’t know you, depart from me”. This is because Christianity-Lite is a faith that doesn’t first require being wounded by an overpowering conviction of our sin in order to enter God’s kingdom, and so its greatest tragedy is that while it may be comfortable and convenient, it does not save. As John Bunyan (Pilgrim’s Progress) said:
“Conversion is not the smooth, easy-going process some people seem to think….it is wounding work….this breaking of hearts – but without wounding there is no saving”.
However we do not see a great deal of that in our churches, a great deal of weeping over sin, ours or others. Christianity-Lite does indeed lead to the gate of heaven, but a gate shut and bolted; it is a deadly poison, a spiritual health hazard and something to be fought at all costs, because it is a spiritual virus sapping the church’s missional vitality.
A vital question therefore, and one that must not be avoided, is how many of the hearts in our congregations have been truly broken by awareness of their sin, what type of faith do they have? Is there a prevalence of comfortable Christianity-Lite, rather than the faith that willingly gives its all, and joyfully, for the sake of Christ, in thanksgiving for the total forgiveness of sins, and the promise of paradise with God? That latter faith requires the complete, total, utter, sacrificial surrender of all we are and all we have to Christ for His service. It is a faith like that ascribed by Norman Grubb to the English Test cricketer turned missionary C.T. Studd-
“C.T.’s life stands as some rugged Gibraltar —
a sign to all succeeding generations that it is worthwhile
to lose all this world can offer and stake everything on
the world to come. (C.T.’s) life will be an eternal rebuke to easygoing Christianity. He has demonstrated what it means to follow Christ without counting the cost and without looking back.”
Christianity-Lite, because it is an ‘easy’ faith has a convenience dimension to it. That is, the church is a convenience store, there for me to be involved in its life and ministry as is convenient for me and my family. This phenomenon is shown by the low attendance index of most churches, often as low as the 50 to 60% level even in many Bible teaching churches. Where the commitment of the membership to even basic church attendance is so low there is little likelihood of the church mounting the spiritual rescue mission for Australia that is so desperately needed.
Christianity-Lite is a ‘Me-Church’ faith where the church exists for me, to provide the religious and social services I and my family perceive we need, when, where and how we want them. That is it is a consumerist faith, one where if a church fails to meet my current requirements I’ll move on to the next church that does. Christianity-Lite, even with Biblical knowledge that the Christian life is one of self denial, sacrifice and service, shows many of the “Me Church” characteristics. When the missional dimension of the church is pushed with its requirements for sacrifice, inconvenience and cost, the C.L. member will be at best apathetic, and if pushed too far move to another church, one that allows them to keep on learning the Bible but not letting it transform their life.
As Tom Frame puts it-
“the culturally compliant strain of Christianity promoted in Australia does not . . . oblige (people) to embrace lifestyle choices that might involve discomfort.”
Christianity-Lite is a light and easy faith, one that is rampant and weakening the army of God we call the church, at the very time we need to get stronger. For individuals it is a deadly poison, the worst consequence of which is that ‘it does not save!’