‘Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready’
(1 Corinthians 3:1–2)
I’ve known Ruby (not her real name) for many years. A widow now, she’s in her eighties and as long as I have known her, she has always been feisty. However, it is a feisty-ness that drives her passion, which itself is an expression of her faith, a faith that causes her to want to serve Jesus to the full extent of the resources God has given her.
A few days before Christmas, at a chance encounter, she had asked if she could get copy of the book I’d recently published, so I went to visit her to take her a copy. In the conversation we had, all her passion for God was on full display. It was expressed in a lament that ‘there must be more than this’. By which she meant that there must be more to being a Christian than the comfortable Sunday church going and weekly Bible study group attendance that all her friends in her congregation seemed to settle for. Ruby’s faith, even at her age, is still shown in a desire to bear more Kingdom fruit.
Ruby’s passion for God and His mission stands in stark contrast to what I have described in my book Quantum Mission (see here) as the ‘Dead Hand of Apathy’, which manifests itself as-
‘a general mission-blocking apathy and lack of passion for mission to the Australian community among congregational members. This missionally deadening apathy, which is a major contributor to the missional malaise, is very prevalent and a significant reason why it’s difficult to think that the standard local church model can be reinvented, at least fast enough, to achieve the radically increased mission al fruitfulness so urgently needed.
As Tom Frame, (former Bishop to the Australian Defence Force) has commented:
‘The culturally compliant strain of Christianity promoted in Australia does not oblige (people) to embrace lifestyle choices that might involve discomfort.
This apathy, and the spiritual immaturity that underlies it, is one of the major reasons for the failure of our mission. Even if leaders want to reinvent the missional methods of their congregation, with all the costs that entails, congregations generally lack the Spirit-driven desire and spiritual muscle to make it happen’
On the day I talked to her Ruby seemed particularly fired up even by her standards! I discovered that this was the result of conversations she had with her church leadership with whom she had shared her concerns about the lack of energy, passion and challenge in the congregation in regards to the thousands of unsaved people around them (sadly this is generally the case across the Church as a whole). Tragically, she recounted that the sense she got from her leaders was that they thought things were ok.
It is worth noting that ‘things being ok’ may appear to be the case if, while Ruby’s church appears to be quite full on Sundays, one is happy with the fact that the vast majority of attendees are Transferees from other congregations, and further ignore the well documented catastrophic overall decline in church membership across the nation. Something that leaderships seem generally to want to ignore.
In stark contrast to the so prevalent Dead Hand of ‘she’ll be right apathy’, stands Ruby’s passion for the work of God and her part in it. Thank God for Ruby and others who share her passion, without which the Kingdom of God cannot be advanced in this nation.
Of course, Ruby’s example begs a question of us. As the blank canvas of a new year stretches before us, will we be painting God’s Kingdom picture on it with half-heartedness, or with her passion for our Saviour and His Kingdom?