First, a defense of the offensive title
I was six. I don't remember it at all. But, I have heard the phrase repeated often enough to know it well: "It's the economy, stupid!" This phrase was first uttered by James Carville in 1992. It was his strategy to help William Jefferson Clinton take the presidency away from George Herbert Walker Bush.
In March of 1991 Bush's approval rating was at 90%. A year later it was 36%. A good strategy to focus on the economy? Probably one of the best. And, out of it, came this infamous quote that continues to morph and live on in various form.
As you can tell from the graph above, the use of the word, "stupid," began to climb dramatically from this point forward.
In a Barna survey conducted around the same time period, only 10% of American Christians agreed that it was the job of the 'church' over themselves, as an individual Christian, to share the gospel. Today, 29% say it is the "church's job," and not that of the individual Christian to share the gospel. In the same study, 89% of Christians in 1993 believed every Christian had a responsibility to share their faith. Today, that number has dropped to 64%.
That's right, a little over half of American Christians surveyed today believe they have a responsibility to share the gospel with others.
A battle strategy
When it comes to defeating the incumbant, the challenger must have a solid strategy. Carville had this right. In a slightly offensive phrase, he boiled it down to one main point: The economy.
Today, what I want to propose to you, Christ-follower, is a strategy. The strategy comes down to one slightly offensive phrase: "It's the gospel, stupid!" The word stupid stings. I get it. I'm not sure why it has to be used the way it is. But, its definition is appropriate. "Stupid," comes from the French word, "stupide." It meant to be amazed or stunned. Today's English word carries the same definition.
In light of this, I can't think of a better word for the American Church today than "stupid."
We are stunned that all of our talk of Church has gotten us nowhere.
We are stunned that people can be so evil.
We are stunned that our country is sliding out of control.
We are stunned at how hard it is to pray.
We are stunned to learn we aren't the only one who hasn't every led someone to Christ.
We are amazed that our young people are disappearing and never coming back.
Yes, Stupid seems appropriate.
But, is the gospel appropriate? No. The gospel is never appropriate. Just ask around.
But, when it comes to a battle strategy, the gospel is the incumbant's number one weakness.
He has no problem with religion. He has dealt with that his entire life.
He has no problem with Bible studies for the same reason.
He has no problem with community gatherings.
He has no problem with people talking of church.
He has no problem with insightful Sunday monologues that stir the people to a rousing 'Amen!' before they settle back into their stupid, entertained state.
But, the gospel? He has no defense. When people talk about his impending defeat at the hands of a just God who died for the listener to receive grace, he shudders. He screams. He fights. They scream. They fight. It's ugly.
The battle is ugly
The reason we don't want a battle strategy is because we don't want to do battle. Why should we? If we can be content with our faith and our lifestyle, why risk any of it?
Let me ask you a rhetorical question:
If the previous generations of Christianity had shared their faith the way that you are sharing yours, today, would Christianity still exist?
That's not a very fun question to answer. An introspective look for most Christians reveals we would rather go to church, have our breakfasts and Bible studies and outreach events where we pretend to be normal, cool people, then to share the gospel with someone and face possible ridicule. We would rather rest in our comfortable lifestyle than to face the spiritual battles that come with being a warrior.
It's ugly. So we don't. We can wrap it in as many excuses as we would like. But, until the talk of Jesus in your life becomes greater than talk of your church, you are guaranteed the following:
You won't know how to pray as you should.
You will continue to self-medicate with worldly pleasures.
The direction of our country won't change course.
The direction of the church won't change course.
Our young people will not know and love God.
And, there will be no victories.
Sure, you can make up as many false metrics as you want to salve the truth of these words in your life. But, the truth will echo just the same.
It is time to do battle.
Well, for most of us, it is time to practice, get real, be obedient and prepare daily.
Practice sharing the gospel.
If you can't boil it down to less than five minutes, work on it: We are all guilty of sin. The consequence of sin is death. Death is the opposite of life. Sin is the opposite of Love. God is Love and Life. To be in relationship with God, something must pay for the consequence of sin. God came as Jesus to be that sacrifice. Simply believe in faith that sin has consequences and that God paid the price for you so you can be in daily relationship with him. The result will be a life of peace, understanding and purpose.
Get real about the relationships in your life.
Most of us take an, "I show the gospel," lifestyle approach. How has that worked out for you? Are you exhausted creating consumers who eventually move away without ever experiencing the transforming change brought by Christ? Share the gospel with them. If they reject it, move on to someone else. There are many people who want Jesus and are waiting for you to tell them. To what other end is the goal of any relationship in which you are investing?
This is the essence of sharing the gospel. Ask God to soften your conscience which you've hardened against His promptings to share the truth of the gospel. He will.
Most gospel-sharing opportunities come when you aren't expecting it. Be in prayer, be watchful. Ask God to use you and to give you the opportunities you will recognize. He will.
I, for one, am tired of trying and scheming how to make the church successful. Talking with people, I have found I am not the only one. The answer comes in boiling it down to a battle strategy to hit the incumbant at his point of weakness.
"It's the gospel, stupid!"
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
- 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 (ESV)