“Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant gratification is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.” (The Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster, p1)
And the Church in America is no help at all.
In fact, I’d say the American Church doesn’t want deep people, won’t create deep people, can’t find deep people and doesn’t know what to do with them if we do.
If we wanted deep people, we would do things to serve and attract deep people. Instead, what do we do? We do things to serve and attract more people. In a complete and total turnaround from how Jesus did things, we focus on the 12,000 instead of the 12. We are so fascinated by numbers and winning in the short-term that we have leveraged the long-term efficacy of the American Church into nothingness. We keep lowering the bar on what it means to follow Jesus until your average five-year-old can skip over it, then wonder why people get bored and leave.
Instead of feeding people the meat and potatoes of discipline and obedience and faith, we fill them with cotton candy programs and sawdust rules. All you have to do to be a Christian is pray this prayer… attend worship twice a month… offer God your leftovers… and pretend to be nice. Really? This is what Jesus died for? So we could be nice? We create 40 day programs and 12 week studies and week-long missions and find our Churches filled with people who have the spiritual attention span of an eleven-year-old boy with a-d-d.
Yet when we do offer them something more, they won’t take it. Do you know how hard it is to convince your child to eat broccoli after she’s spent a week with her grandparents? Our people have been spiritually spoiled for so long they literally can’t stomach real spiritual food. It’s too difficult. Takes too much time. Requires more than they are willing to give. They spit it out of their mouths and move on to the next fast-food Church. Our Lord, the Creator of the Universe, calls his people to the banquet and we fill their plates with Big Macs and super-sized fries. Dear God in Heaven, has our Church become a spiritual McDonald’s?
I worked for a time with a ministry whose sole goal was to provide a tool for spiritual growth to Churches and the people in them. This new and exciting ministry eventually failed. Not because of the economy, though that didn’t help. Not because of internal mistakes, though it had its fair share of those, as well. No, it failed because when congregations and church communities across the country implemented this new tool they found out their people just wouldn’t use it. Oh, they might start using it. They might even finish the first round of the process. But they simply would not come back for more. Our churched people say they want to grow spiritually, but they must not really want to. Because when given the chance they don’t.
It’s as though the Church is somehow inoculating Christians against Jesus. They get a thousand tiny doses of Christ and finally build up an immunity to the effects of the Gospel. The very thing we are called to do we cannot do because our people are spiritually vaccinated. We need an epidemic, a sweeping plague of resurrection to save us from ourselves, to carry us out of the Church into the deep and abundant life in Christ.