Not too long ago I watched a DVD segment of Francis Chan speaking at a Youth Specialties Conference in 2008. The topic of study was the current state of U.S. churches and his message totally blew me away. In the past two months or so, God had been pushing me to have a bigger heart for the church (his people) and to get a better handle on my part in it. At one point during the message, Chan touched on the ministry of Jesus and the way he preached. He brought up a passage in Matthew 13 where Jesus makes a statement following his Parable of the Four Soils. What he says there has always confused me. Check it out for yourself:
"To those who are open to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But to those who are not listening, even what they have will be taken away from them. That is why I tell these stories, because people see what I do, but they don't really see. They hear what I say, but they don't really hear, and they don't understand. It fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah, which says: 'You will hear my words, but you will not understand, you will see what i do, but you will not perceive its meaning. For the hearts of these people are hardened and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eys--so their eyes cannot see and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them.' " (Matthew 13:12-15, NLT)
Jesus issued the statement above after his disciples came and asked him, "Why do you always tell stories when you talk to people?" His response? "So they won't get it!" Jesus confused people on purpose! He knew that there were some in the crowd who came only for the show. All the miracles...him feeding thousands, healing the blind and lame...that was all pretty attractive. But Jesus knew that those same people would desert him when push came to shove. He himself declared, "Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but I, the Son of Man, have no home of my own, not even a place to lay my head." (Luke 9:58, NLT) He preached so that they would hear, but not really hear, and so that they would see but not really see. They'd get their show, but he wasn't going to waste time on them otherwise.
Today, American churches are full of individuals who are there for the same thing. They like the contemporary worship bands, coffee shops, and big monitors. They see and they hear, but their hearts don't understand. How are we to respond to these people? This is something I'm still wrestling with. Surely we are called to try and spur these people on toward love and good deeds, but what happens if they don't respond? How much more "spurring" can we afford to do?
Revelation 3:15-16 says, "I know the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, I will spit you out of my mouth!" At what point do we simply say, "Lord, I've been obedient. Now I leave the matter in your hands"?