Coronavirus Updates

Has Christianity become too convenient?

by Fiona Teh // July 23, 2020, 10:50 pm

CONVENIENT CHRISTIANITY

“Some people will choose not to return to church, instead choosing the god of comfort.”

I heard a guest pastor say something to that effect some weeks back during an online meeting, with reference to the convenience of tuning into online church services.

It meant something to me so I remembered it. Not that I wasn’t planning on going back to church – I look forward to it, in fact – but I felt myself getting calculative with my time when it came to online cell meetings.

And I began to dread it.

That wasn’t cool because unwillingness is always an ingredient for a tall, salty glass of resentment.

I suppose the comforts we find ourselves defaulting to aren’t all the same. Some are more comfortable in isolation, some in an abundance of company, some in needful routine.

Given we’re in strange times that affects us all – differently, depending on our personal circumstance – maybe the kindest thing to do is afford one another the space to figure out what’s next.

At the root of my indifference towards online cell group is chiefly self-centredness. For each time I’m thinking about all the other things I could be doing, I’m thinking only about my time and my comfort.

Nothing quite wrong with that, some will say. You take care of you.

Are younger or older Christians more likely to return to physical church?

But there’s a different standard for those who identify as children of God. It’s a standard we aspire towards, which saves us from our natural inclinations towards futile self-preservation.

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis reminded us of the weightiness of the Lord’s Prayer that the disciples were taught to pray. In just our utterance of the first two words, “Our Father”, we are sobered to the fact that we see ourselves as God’s children.

“Do you now see what those words mean? They mean quite frankly, that you are putting yourself in the place of a son of God.”

With characteristic honesty, Lewis assures us that we are by no means like Jesus, “whose will and interests are at one with those of the Father”.

Instead of that glorious picture, he points out what we are “a bundle of self-centred fears, hopes, greeds, jealousies, and self-conceit, all doomed to death”.

Ouch. Felt that.

Reimagining church amidst COVID-19 – and beyond

But that’s also the highlight of our discipleship journey, the laying aside of pieces of our carnal nature in favour of His glory. Until our transformation is complete.

“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

So God can’t be surprised by our foibles and lacklustre attitudes, He knows us too well. Eventually though, we must learn to get a hold of our natural whims and yield them to God.

And unsurprisingly, the rough sides of our character that need refining are seldom revealed in isolation, but only in the presence of others. Especially those whom we meet week in, week out.

A healthy community provokes us to love and encourages us to change into His image, more and more, bit by bit.

If it doesn’t, then something isn’t quite right and it isn’t fulfilling its purpose.

BEWARE THE TRAP OF CONSUMER CHRISTIANITY

The keyword from Day 10 of LoveSingapore’s 40-day prayer devotional is “Gather”.

It explores Hebrews 10:19-25, in which the author of Hebrews addresses the importance of gathering in worship.

“Why must we worship together? The Preacher gives three compelling reasons: Faith. Hope. Love. We approach God together in faith. We hold fast our confession of hope. And we provoke each other to love and good works (Hebrews 10:21-24).” – 40.day2020 July 10

How do we provoke each other to love if we don’t gather – in whichever way possible – in the first place? It will often be inconvenient, especially when we need to speak hard truths to one another. Like a family will.

The rough sides of our character that need refining are seldom revealed in isolation, but only in the presence of others.

In wondering how Christians would respond to the “new normal” for the Church, Pastor Daphne Yang from Cornerstone Community Church observed that “an increased audience has inversely resulted in less active participation as congregants are much less involved in physically serving than before by watching church services online”.

“When the opportunity allows us to come together as a congregation, we must desire to return physically… Our worship to God includes more than singing – it’s a consecration to come together, a commitment to meet as one.”

Now isn’t that a thought – that our worship includes our commitment to meet with the body of Christ. It’s a commitment we make with the desire to honour God.

Day 10: The torn curtain

There is nothing convenient about what it took for Jesus to redeem us – life, death and resurrection (1 Peter 1:18-21). At his inconvenience, He became our way to God.

The God who hears our prayers, knows our deepest desires (Psalm 139:4), works for our good (Romans 8:28), never leaves nor forsakes us (Deuteronomy 31:6)…

Remembering what worship entails, and who the object of our worship is, convenience becomes a rather petty thing to talk about.

The object of our worship is God Himself. But more often than not, we make it about ourselves.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.

“This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:3-5)

In light of His mercy, now that we’ve become the people of God who have the reward of knowing God more and more (1 Peter 2:10), the perceived inconveniences of yielding to His standard pale in comparison.

It is the mercy of being able to choose differently.

I’ll need to borrow the words of David, where he asks God to renew a right spirit within him (Psalm 51:10). 

Remembering what worship entails, and who the object of our worship is, convenience becomes a rather petty thing to talk about.

THINK + TALK

  1. When have you treated your faith and commitment to the body of Christ too casually?
  2. What parts of Christianity do you find “inconvenient”?
  3. Are there areas of your life or existing attitudes that you can submit to God for transformation?
About the author

Fiona Teh

Fiona is low-key hilarious, a dog person, and she loves a good chat with strangers – particularly at Yakun. She also believes that everyone should know that they are absolutely worthy of love.