When former national security adviser Michael Flynn was presented with an AR-15 assault rifle, he responded, “Maybe I’ll find somebody in Washington, D.C.” The crowd laughed, whistled, and cheered. The presentation took place in the Church of Glad Tidings in Yuba City, California, which hosted Flynn on July 16. Dave Bryan, a pastor at the church, led the service.
On Sunday, July 25, Gary Locke told his flock during his sermon in Global Vision Bible Church in Mount Juliet, Tennessee., about 20 miles east of downtown Nashville, that if “You start showing up [with] all these masks and all this nonsense, I will ask you to leave,” His statement was followed by cheers and applause. “I am not playing these Democrat games up in this church,” he added.
I thought of these two recent actions that took place during Sunday services as I was reading Samuel S. Hill, Jr,’s seminal book, Southern Churches in Crisis. Dr. Hill writes that “sect-type forms of Christianity are meant to be minority movements (his italics), both within the larger Christian realm and within human societies.” As thought provoking as this quotation is, I think his note to this statement more powerful. Dr. Hill’s note quotes Pastor John O. Mellin: “More harm has been done to the church and the gospel by a majority approach to life than anything else. We are a minority, a mustard seed, a leaven, a saltiness which flavors the whole—not because we take over the city but because it takes over us.”
Now you may not agree with either Hill or Mellin, but I think they both raise a worthy question for all Christ followers: When are we most effective as Christ followers? As I ponder that question, I think of the 1st Century Christians and their struggles. Not only did they have the Romans to contend with, but they also had internal disputes, such as circumcision. Their story and struggle can seem relatively easy as read from the comfort of 2021, but it was a chosen life rife with danger. But, as we know, their struggles and suffering led to our sanctification.
It is when I read accounts of such church actions as I mentioned above that I fear for some of us as having become too large and too worldly. It seems to me that such acts as presenting a convicted felon with an assault rifle (followed by cheers) or telling a congregation that anyone wearing a mask will be asked to leave the church go directly against our Christian belief. Is our mission such that we must become that immersed in our culture? Can we be effective Christ followers when we exhibit such behavior and speak such words?
Growth for any church is great, but if it grows too much it may have to face the danger of its own power. Bigger means more money and more people who agree with each other so deeply they will not hear the voice of a prophet. As Dr. Hill writes “Self-fixation can lead only to frustration, irrelevance, and disobedience.” A church that has grown too much and is too big may take on non-Biblical challenges becoming frustrated with its lack of influence in its culture. A church like this will try harder to influence change, become so caught up in its non-Biblical charge that it is viewed as irrelevant by it surrounding culture and then becomes desperate and even disobedient to God’s will. A church such as this will eventually die as its members suffer frustration with its lack of success, leaving one more empty church building to be sold.
We Christ followers are told by John and Paul “to be in the world but not of the world.” If we Christ followers heed those words and view ourselves as a bit of leaven for the large loaf, we will be more successful in our joyous task.