A Travel Guide for Life, Faith, and Relationships!
Not too long ago, pastor, author, and blogger James Emery White used a word I’d never heard before. I think he made it up, but I love it. The word is apathist, and it describes a person who just doesn’t care about God, church, or faith.
Unlike atheists, who don’t believe in a God, or agnostics, who don’t know and are undecided, apathists have no interest. When it comes to anything to do with God or faith, they are apathetic.
Ask anyone, and they will tell you, “Apathy is bad.” Then ask them how they feel about Jesus and His Church and you’ll probably get an apathetic answer.
I recently asked a young barista named Leila what her first thought was when she hears the word “God.” She gave me a bit of a shrug as she said, “Oh, I don’t know, I don’t really have any thoughts about God.”
Again, an apathist is someone who is indifferent, has a lack of interest, concern, or enthusiasm because he or she just doesn’t care.
I wasn’t surprised by Leila’s answer. She isn’t a Christ-follower. And many in our western culture are so far removed from God, faith, and the Church that they never wake up on a Sunday and think, I should go to church today!
When I was Leila’s age, during the Jesus People Movement and the renewal happening in churches like Calvary Chapel, most people either hated God or radically loved Him. There wasn’t a lot of middle ground or apathy in our society. If you asked someone what they thought of God, you would get either yelled at or blessed almost every time.
So, what’s happened? Why all the apathy? Why are apathists more common than not?
Here’s my short answer, and you may not like it: Too many who claim to love Christ live without a passion for Him and His Kingdom.
In other words, I blame us—the Christians.
For example, far too many Christians far too often show up for church when it’s convenient. As long as the pastor keeps the service to an hour or so, and as long as there’s nothing better to do, then they go to church. Whether you want to admit it or not, what you do on the weekends is a good indicator of what matters most to you.
Sadly, there are those who claim to love Christ, but if you were to stick a passion meter in their mouth, hardly anything would register.
I ran into someone from my church a few weeks ago at a restaurant. I hadn’t seen this person in a while, and I said enthusiastically, “Hey, I’ve been missing you!” He replied, with indifference, “Yeah, church just isn’t a priority to me right now; besides, I’ve been busy.”
For the record, that’s apathy, and it’s too common in the Church today.
It’s difficult to find accurate numbers on how often Christians attend church. When surveyed in a poll, people tend to answer with what they think they should be doing rather than what they’re honestly doing. However, most pollsters and pastors agree that the average Christian in American attends church only about two times per month. (Not two times a week, which was typical 50 years ago, but just 24 times a year or so.)
I wrote about the value and importance of active involvement in some form of church in last week’s blog called Inconvenient Sundays. The number of unsubscribes I get when I post blogs like that one and this one is telling. Apathy is rampant in the Church, and indifferent people don’t want to be challenged.
However, this is not a post intended to make anyone feel guilty about their lack of meaningful involvement in a church. Guilt is a lousy motivator.
What I’m asking you to consider is this: Why are so many Christ-followers apathetic about their faith? Why has the flame of passion for Jesus and His Bride (i.e., the Church) been extinguished in too many? Let’s make it personal: Are you a radical and passionate follower of Jesus?
And most importantly, if the general public is apathetic about God and the Church, is it because Christians are too?
These are questions I wrestle with all the time. I am deeply concerned that the Church in America has grown lukewarm.
Apparently, Jesus is concerned with the disease of apathy too.
“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.
Jesus wants us either hot or cold! Lukewarm faith makes him sick to His stomach.
Like the church in Laodicea, is it possible that we think we have so much and we think we are so “rich,” but we don’t realize how pathetic we are when it comes to our faith?
I long and pray for renewal. First, a renewal in me, and then a renewal in the church I pastor. I also pray for another great movement of God in this country.
Believe me; I’m not the old guy looking back wishing for the good ol’ days! I want something new, fresh, and powerful that impacts us now. Here. Today.
Yes, I know the Lord is doing some incredible things in some cities throughout our country. But we have yet to see or experience a nation-wide movement that impacts everyone.
A rekindling of passion starts with you and me.
Does your heart burn bright for Jesus and His Bride? If not, why not? Are you mad and defensive right now about something I wrote here? If so, why, and what is happening in your heart?
Jesus called the church in Laodicea to “be earnest and repent.” I believe that is His call to the Church in America right now.
Christ loves His Bride! He is not mad at us; He’s mad about us! And He wants us to love Him, the Bridegroom, with a burning hot passion that changes everything because He has changed us.
A follower of Jesus should never be an apathist.
Our world is desperate for meaning and purpose. Too many people live in the doldrums of apathy day after day. Your neighbors, your co-workers, your family, and friends need Jesus, but do they see anything in you that attracts them to Him?
Radical love and passion will make people think: Maybe there is something real to this Jesus thing? Maybe I need Him too?
So, do you burn bright for Him? In other words, is your love for Jesus so hot that everyone around you feels the warmth of it when they are near you?
I hope so.
The world needs to see what a person forever impacted by the love of Jesus looks like, and that person never looks bored, uninterested, or apathetic. Ever.
I long, yes, I faint with longing
to enter the courts of the Lord.
With my whole being, body and soul,
I will shout joyfully to the living God.
Psalm 84:2 (NLT)