Trevin Wax

This I Believe

One of the primary causes of this spiritual malaise is our loss of confidence in the truth and goodness of the Christian faith. In every generation, we risk losing our wonder at the glory of Christian truth and the enduring witness of the church. Amid chaos and confusion, we can easily turn our focus on ourselves and, as a result, forget God. It’s as if we have inherited a vast estate—sprawling grounds surrounding beautiful buildings filled with priceless heirlooms—but we stay cooped up in a broom closet, complacent and bored, with no desire to explore all that we’ve been given in Christ.

The Christian life begins with spiritual astonishment at the glory of the gospel and the goodness and beauty of Christian truth, with the wide-eyed surprise of the infant brought into a new world of grace. But over time, our eyes grow heavy and our tastebuds dim—and that’s when errors creep in. Spiritual sleepiness results in a sagging sense of God’s love and diminished commitment to pass on the faith to the next generation. We become sluggish with the Scriptures; bored with the Bible; drowsy toward doctrine. Overfamiliar with the truth, we gravitate toward “exciting” new teachings or practices that promise to awaken us from spiritual slumber. And error—always dressing itself up as more attractive than truth—seizes opportunity when we are most prone to wander.
Why do we so easily lose our wonder at truths that have informed and inspired Christians for generations? How is it we find ourselves no longer wowed by old truths? Why are we drawn toward theological error? To better understand our susceptibility to this spiritual malaise, we should take a closer look at our context, to see the forces at work—in our world, in our churches, and in us—that diminish our devotion.
Cultural Chaos
We begin with the anxiety and unsettledness of these chaotic times, a result of political polarization, technological advances, and worldwide disasters. We are inundated by information (and disinformation), flooded by various views and opinions ranging from the absurd to the abstract, which make it difficult to discover what sources are credible. Anyone can grab a megaphone and shout down those who would deviate even slightly from whatever new orthodoxy unites a particular community or political party. We don’t know who, if anyone, we can trust.
For Christians, this sense of disorientation is magnified by the shifting moral landscape. No longer can we expect religiosity to be respectable. Long-held beliefs and values drawn from Christian doctrine are now “extreme.” Assumptions shared by nearly everyone a few decades ago are suddenly beyond the pale. As fewer and fewer people identify with a religious tradition, those who adhere today to institutional forms of religion fall further outside the mainstream.
In generations past, respectable religiosity and cultural Christianity presented their own set of challenges to true faith and practice. The way of Christ is never easy, and believers in every era are prone to forget their first love (Revelation 2:4). In our era, the danger of abandoning our first love manifests itself through the pressures of a society where Christianity is not the norm, and common Christian beliefs and morals no longer seem plausible. In the midst of constant flux, “stability” is now regarded with suspicion. Like everything else, faith is caught up in the whirlwind of change.
Church Confusion
Meanwhile, many churches are in a stupor—bewilderment drains the energy of the believers who attend. Congregations and denominations are embroiled in conflicts that resemble the world of hardball politics. Widespread disillusionment has settled into the church following the scourge of sex abuse scandals, abusive leadership patterns, and institutional coverups of atrocities committed by some of the world’s most trusted and admired faith leaders.
Hypocrisy has bolstered the anti-institutional sentiments of many toward the church, leading to an explosion of new religious options and narrowly tailored spiritual experiences. Cultural observer Tara Isabella Burton says many people are trading institutional religion for intuitional spirituality: “a religion decoupled from institutions, from creeds, from metaphysical truth-claims about God or the universe . . . but that still seeks—in various and varying ways—to provide us with the pillars of what religion always has: meaning, purpose, community, ritual.”
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Christianity Isn’t Your Usual Mountain Hike

Yes, the hike may wear us out. And yes, on the way up the mountain, we’ll stumble. We’ll fall. But because of both God’s call to holiness and God’s gift of grace, we keep going. We press on, determined to take hold of that which has already taken hold of us. We’re always moving forward and always repenting of our failures at the same time.

Every good story includes conflict. For the journey to be an adventure, not simply a mindless stroll, we must encounter obstacles and challenges. To persevere on our quest, we must be inspired by the promise of reaching our destination.
That’s why, as we hike up the side of a mountain, we keep our focus on the summit—the place we’re headed—because that vision motivates us when we grow weary. Imagining what the top of the mountain will be like—the views we’ll take in, the air we’ll breathe, the sense of satisfaction that will settle over us—inspires us to continue the quest when we’re exhausted.
Always in Pursuit
Humans are, by nature, driven toward a goal. We have a destination in mind. There are thousands of apps on our phones intended to help us grow in certain skills and knowledge. Video games hook us by leading us through levels of increasing difficulty. Communities form around fitness goals and workout routines, with coaches who inspire us, in the words of the apostle Paul, to discipline our bodies into submission (1 Cor. 9:27).
At the start of a new year, we make resolutions we hope will improve our lives and ourselves. Teachers, instructors, and coaches help students master a field of knowledge, learn a new language, pick up a musical instrument, or grow in athletic prowess. We’re always in pursuit of something.
We look with pity on people who slip into a settled state of apathy regarding the betterment of their lives, when there’s no longer any desire to grow in their character, try out a new hobby, or even beautify their home and yard. It’s sad to see someone lose their sense of purpose and abandon ambition. Why? Because we recognize that humanity at its best is always pressing forward, straining toward a goal. Something’s gone awry when a person no longer cares about his or her destination.
On the other hand, something goes wrong whenever, in pursuing success, we begin to base our identity on our achievements. If we find our worth and value in the small steps we’ve made up the side of the mountain, we’ll eventually burn out, with restless hearts driven toward perfection yet ever restless when lived without reference to the God who made us for himself.
Different Quest
Sometimes, religious people picture life as a pathway up a mountain toward a summit, a reward for achieving spiritual growth and excellence. But Christianity is different. The Christian story is not about humanity ascending but about God descending. The Son of God comes down the mountain to save us, for we cannot save ourselves. 
Still, the purpose of God’s gracious descent is to raise us to be with him. We do ascend, by the power of the Spirit. And so it’s true that, on the other side of the cross, the Christian life does resemble a pathway up the mountain toward the summit, and if this journey is to be an adventure we should expect difficulties. The New Testament describes the race of faith as one with hindrances (Gal. 5:7; 1 Thess. 2:18; Heb. 12:1). The path to the summit is exciting precisely because it’s perilous. Without the possibility of setbacks, without real and ever-present dangers on all sides waiting to trip us up or distract us from the quest, we’d settle into a mindless walk that doesn’t go anywhere.
Any worthwhile goal requires devotion and effort. Whether learning a language, earning a doctoral degree, or training to run a marathon—the demands are intense. If we want to see success and transform our minds and bodies, we must be devoted to a vision of our future selves.
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The Silent Sin That Kills Christian Love

Perhaps the test of faithfulness in a day of moral degradation will be our love for people across chasms of difference. The way of the cross rejects the path of sneers and jeers, whether in the form of elite condescension or populist passion.

One of my biggest tasks as a pastor right now is to challenge my people and keep them from contempt.
That’s what a pastor told me earlier this year, a man serving his church faithfully in the Deep South. He loves Jesus and he loves his congregation, and that’s why he’s on guard these days against something he called the “silent spiritual killer”—a sin that hinders Christian witness and destroys Christian love.
It’s the sin of contempt, of looking at the person across the aisle from you and thinking, The world would be better without you in it. It’s more than disagreement; it’s disgust, rooted in the inability to see the image of God in your opponent. It’s the attitude Jesus warned about in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:21–22).
Power of Contempt
Why is contempt a big deal right now? Because it’s lucrative. It works.
In politics, being united by disdain and contempt for the other side is what mobilizes your own. An inspiring vision is one way of rallying a base, yes, but a much faster and easier approach is to unite around a common despising of the other side. And culturally these days, with tribal forces at work, going public with contemptuous words toward the opposition is how you prove your purity and loyalty.
John Newton warned about this attitude hundreds of years ago: “Whatever it be that makes us trust in ourselves that we are comparatively wise or good, so as to treat those with contempt who do not subscribe to our doctrines, or follow our party, is a proof and fruit of a self-righteous spirit.”
Everywhere we turn we find avenues for inflaming that self-righteous spirit. Contempt for MAGA or for the woke, the “forty-nine percent” or the “basket of deplorables”—politicians frequently resort to sneering disdain as a sign of their ideological purity. Cable news channels feed the beast with segments designed to attract eyeballs and lead to outrage.
The Church in an Age of Contempt
The church isn’t immune to these cultural forces. Like it or not, we live in a world where contempt is excused or sometimes expected. Even worse, sometimes church leaders are tempted to justify or further inflame feelings of contempt as a strategy for showing the congregation they’re on the right side. As long as it’s clear who you’re supposed to love and who you’re supposed to hate, everything goes smoothly.
But contempt is the silent killer of Christian charity. It has no place in the heart of a follower of Jesus. It kills the passion of seeing others converted and replaces evangelistic zeal with the quest for zero-sum victories, smackdowns, and “destroying”—such that the zealousness to win over someone becomes the zealousness to win.
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Progressive Views on Sexuality Will Ultimately Fail

Protestant evangelicals, Catholics, Orthodox, and virtually every other church outside of a subset of shrinking churches in the West believe marriage touches foundational anthropological doctrines and will never be simply something we can “agree to disagree” on. Still, the press surrounding the progressive position can make orthodox Christians feel defeated, deflated, and doomed—as if they’re in the minority now as far as churchgoing Christians are concerned, as if there’s no stopping the runaway revisionist train. This narrative is powerful but false.

Earlier this year, the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) surprised nearly everyone, not just outsiders. The denomination, which many believed had been drifting away from the authority of Scripture, corrected course and made clear the church’s conviction on sexual ethics.
The CRC’s clarification went even further than some observers expected. The group voted, as a clear majority, to make its position nonnegotiable. The traditional view of marriage and sexuality is the standard of the church’s teaching. There’s to be no deviation, which goes for institutions like Calvin University, even if some professors there seem to have moved toward the revisionist view of sexuality.
Trend in Institutions
The CRC is not the only denomination to tighten its doctrinal standards around sexuality rather than loosen them.

The Global Methodist Church is in the process of breaking up with the United Methodist Church and will provide a worldwide home for Wesleyans who wish to maintain a faithful witness to God’s Word in the days ahead.
The Anglican Communion is mired in conflict between a fast-shrinking, largely white, and increasingly elderly contingent that advocates for same-sex marriage and a fast-growing, largely black and brown, and increasingly young community of believers located in the global South that shuns the revisionist agenda. Several years ago, the Communion censured the American wing. Meanwhile, orthodox Anglicans around the world are finding new and creative ways of connection and partnership.
The Presbyterian Church of America recently released a lengthy, brilliantly crafted document that reaffirms a biblical view of sex and marriage, even going so far as to provide avenues for evangelists and apologists to make a case for this position in an era shaped by the sexual revolution.

It’s not just denominations. Organizations have been tightening up their standards and clarifying their adherence to the biblical position.

The CCCU (Council for Christian Colleges and Universities) added a statement about Christian distinctives and advocacy, which clarified their adherence to a biblical sexual ethic as a “core Christian commitment.”
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship conducted a four-year process of study and then reiterated the organization’s stance through a nine-part curriculum for all employees.
Fuller Seminary, Wheaton College, and Christianity Today have also, in recent years, reaffirmed their commitment to the historic view of marriage.

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5 Quick Takes for New Culture Wars

We’re in uncharted territory as we head into an increasingly post-Christian environment. Assume the best of your brothers and sisters trying to figure out what faithfulness looks like. And trust that God is going to make the most of all our bungling attempts at truthful witness, that he will fulfill his plan and build his church. Negative world or not, no weapon formed against his people will stand.

This is the last in a series on the rise of the neo–Religious Right, in which I’ve sought to explain and describe some of the historical and contemporary features of this movement, as well as some cautions and concerns I have for younger evangelicals going forward. (A full list of the previous columns is provided below.) In this final installment, I’d like to offer a potpourri of additional thoughts that may aid us in a time when we need truthful witness in the public square.
1. Don’t overestimate the power of politics.
First, let’s make sure that in all the talk about culture warring and culture engaging we do not prioritize the political sphere of life to the exclusion of other important parts of the good life. Government is important, but it is not god. As gospel-centered evangelicals, we must “dethrone” politics. We must value the political sphere but put it in its proper place. Indeed, politics is not ultimate. This recognition is essential for truthful witness in the public square.
In this way, let’s make sure we don’t so focus on Washington, DC, and the drama glowing on our social media apps that we forget our callings. We are called to be members of communities, and we must serve those communities and be exemplary citizens. We are called to marriages and families, and we must cultivate healthy relationships within them. We are called to local churches, and we must exercise faithful and meaningful membership. We are called to workplaces (located in various spheres of culture like business, education, science, technology, art, law, politics, or hospitality), and we must fulfill our vocations in ways that honor Christ.
In other words, we must not shy away from truthful witness in the political sphere, but our political witness must not outmatch or be overshadowed by our witness in all these other spheres, and the impact of these other areas should not be underestimated.
2. Play the political “long game.”
It can take years for political change to happen. I’m reading the new book from Matthew Continetti, The Right, which traces the modern conservative movement from its origins a century ago to the present. One of the takeaways is just how much time it takes for ideas to move forward in society, and how networks and think tanks and finding the right messenger are all vital in seeing political change take place.
Amid today’s culture wars, we must beware the temptation to compromise our convictions in order to attain a short-term win for our chosen political party. We can so convince ourselves that now is the crucial moment, and this is the most important election in our lifetime (something I’ve heard every four years my entire life) that we hand over our birthright for a mess of pottage.
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Encouragement and Caution for Culture Warriors

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to cultural engagement. Christians with a different political calculus, with various regional sensibilities, temperaments, or experiences, may choose different courses of action. Debate over the best course of action is good and necessary. But culture warriors and culture engagers alike must be careful not to criticize unfairly or demean brothers and sisters whose different choices are not out of line with confessional faithfulness but flow from prudential judgments about how best to be faithful in the public square.

What should Christian public engagement look like as we move forward in this era? So far in this series, I’ve laid out some of the challenges facing traditional Christianity, and why it’s no surprise that some on the right claim a more combative posture is necessary for pushing back against harmful ideologies and practices in society.
Some Christians seem to believe that confrontational or combative approaches to public theology are inherently sub-Christian. This is not the case. Christianity has a long history of people willing to speak truth to power, to call into question the reigning ideologies of the day in the name of Christ the King.
Too often, the negative label of “culture-warring Christians” gets applied solely to Christians who oppose ideologies common on the left. When left-leaning Christians call out politicians or pastors who support sinful beliefs or behaviors common to the right, they get described as “prophetic” and “courageous.” This is unfair. Culture warring requires two sides, and one can be a left-wing culture warrior just as easily as a right-wing one.
But, speaking of being “prophetic,” sometimes, we think courage and boldness consist in bloviating bluster, “destroying” the opposition, “owning the libs,” or mocking the “nutcases” we find on the other side of the aisle. No. It takes little courage to be bold in opposing those whom your closest friends, family members, or online followers would expect you to oppose. What takes courage is to police your own side, to call out the problems not only in “the culture” but in your particular subculture, to buck the consensus of your own tribe and go against the people whose favor you usually enjoy. Compromise always involves capitulation, but capitulation can happen in more than one direction.
It seems likely that we will see a return to something akin to the older culture-war mentality among younger evangelicals in the years to come. Rather than rule that option out of bounds, I think it better to offer some encouragement and caution for younger evangelicals who are enthusiastic about this mode of public engagement.
The Reality of Christian Warfare
First, let’s dispense with the idea that warfare has no place in Christianity. I remember restraining my laughter when, 15 years ago or so, progressive Christians were protesting the “unbiblical” martial imagery of many Christians and churches. In taking aim at conservatives, they were shooting the Bible.
The language of spiritual warfare is pervasive in the Old and New Testaments. Jesus blessed the peacemakers and called us to turn the other cheek, and yet he said he came to bring division, not unity. His was the sword that separated son from father, and daughter from mother. The apostle Paul used martial imagery, as did the other apostles. We are on a spiritual battlefield. The response to such circumstances is for the church to be, dare I say, militant. Downplaying the stakes fails to do justice to the Bible itself.
In this battle, Christianity is “on offense”—not in a way that implies we should seek to be offensive, to take it as a badge of honor when others are offended. No, to speak of Christianity “on offense” is simply another way of describing the image Jesus gave us when he said that the gates of hell will not prevail against his church. Jesus’s statement imagines the church moving outward, plundering hell, and pushing back the forces of darkness. Passivity has no place in the Great Commission.
The Danger of Misidentifying the Enemy
But the danger for Christians who apply the New Testament’s warfare motifs to political engagement is that we can easily misidentify the enemy. The apostle Paul makes clear we do not wrestle against flesh and blood. It’s the church moving forward into battle against the powers and principalities that hold people captive—against the evil forces that wreak havoc in our world, the supernatural realities the Bible describes as present and persistent.
We must distinguish the serpent from his prey. This is why we seek to convert our opponents, not own or destroy them. We seek their rescue, not their ruin.
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The Tearing Apart of Convictional Civility

First, winsomeness is not a political strategy. We do not seek to be kind and gentle merely as a strategy for winning over our neighbors to our point of view. We seek these characteristics because our Lord commands and exemplifies them. Kindness is a fruit of the spirit. Secondly, in different seasons of cultural change, the church can and should shift its public posture.

Something has changed in the air of evangelicalism in recent years. Once-aspirational words like “winsome” and “thoughtful” or descriptors like “nuanced” and “kind” now trigger an attitude of dismissiveness and sneering from many on the right.
For some, these words describe a mindset too focused on currying favor with the world. It’s too accommodating to engage in this way with the “cultural elites” whose leftward politics wreak havoc in society. The “winsome” may have good intentions, according to this view, but their attitude and actions demonstrate an extraordinary naïveté in relation to politics and cultural change.
How did we get to the point where some Christians spurn civility? In my previous column, I offered a brief look at the rise of a “neo–Religious Right” and explained why some younger evangelicals thirst for a more confrontational approach to engaging the culture. Today, I want to dig a little deeper into the reasons why some have repudiated a more evangelistically front-facing, pastoral posture to culture change and now call for a more combative, political approach.
Winsomeness Doesn’t Win
Why do words like “nuance” and “winsome” receive sneers from some on the right today? Because the strategies these descriptors represent are seen by many as having failed. Society is changing quickly, and not favorably toward Christianity.
Christians have experienced a rapid shift in which traditional Christianity has been downgraded from respectable to reprehensible. For example, in 2008, Rick Warren prayed at President Obama’s inauguration. Just four years later, Louie Giglio—who shares roughly the same theological framework and approach—was deemed too controversial to do the same. When prominent, well-regarded pastors, such as Max Lucado and Tim Keller, are seen as hateful and bigoted (with Keller even having an award rescinded), how can anyone be so naive to think that “thoughtfulness” or “winsomeness” can earn the right to a hearing?
Younger evangelicals recognize instinctively that no amount of goodwill or winsomeness will create warm feelings among those who claim Christian moral teaching is repressive and harmful. Christians don’t win a hearing by “playing nice.” And so, we’re told, the need of the hour is to be forthright, bold, and confrontational. The culture war is upon us, and we need to stand up and fight.
2 Approaches to Life in Babylon
Although we can spot similarities, we shouldn’t assume younger evangelicals are picking up the same playbook as the old religious right. Unlike our parents and grandparents, most of us agree that we’re in Babylon, not Israel. The difference is in how best to live as exiles in Babylon.
For a generation now, many evangelicals have assumed we’re a moral minority living in a world that is, if not hostile, at least barely tolerant of our views. Over the years, the prophet Jeremiah’s letter to the Babylonian exiles (Jer. 29) has been the go-to text for helping us live faithfully in these times.

“Build houses and live in them. Plant gardens and eat their produce. Find wives for yourselves, and have sons and daughters. . . . Pursue the well-being of the city I have deported you to. Pray to the LORD on its behalf, for when it thrives, you will thrive.” (vv. 5–7, CSB)

In other words, remember, Christian, that you are not “at home.”
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Your Money Will Trick You

Our money lies to us, constantly. Whenever we see our accumulation of assets or the increasing dollars in our account, Mammon whispers: I am your security. I am your hope. I make the good life possible. Meanwhile, Jesus is shouting, “It’s a lie! One’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). 

In the church today, it’s common to interpret biblical teaching on sin in a way that shies away from specifics so we are able to walk away unscathed.
We walk through the sin lists of Scripture and quietly check off each one, thinking, Not guilty. In some cases, we grow accustomed to hearing the warnings of Scripture, falling prey to a familiarity with the words that keeps us from feeling their full force. Worst of all, we read about sin in Scripture and think about others who struggle, never letting those unflattering adjectives (“greedy,” “lustful,” “hot-tempered,” “foolish”) come too close to our self-perception. Too often, we think of sins as actions we perform and miss the subtle ways we sin in our attitudes or develop sinful patterns of the heart.
The New Testament on Money
The best example, I think, is the way many Christians in America interpret and apply the clear and consistent teaching of the New Testament on the desire for and acquisition of wealth. Here’s how we rationalize:
Making money is a good thing, right? Spending money is neutral, right, as long as it’s not on something immoral or unjust? Therefore, as long as I’m honest in how I make and spend money, and as long as I’m sincerely seeking to steward my wealth well, the warnings about wealth don’t really apply to me. Sure, there are “greedy” people out there—rubbing their hands together with gleeful anticipation of acquiring more wealth and surpassing others in stature—but that’s not me! 
Having adopted this mindset, when we read the account of a man asking Jesus to intervene in an inheritance dispute with his brother and hear Jesus’s command to “watch out and be on guard against all greed” (Luke 12:15, CSB), we may hope greedy and covetous people take note, but we don’t see any imminent danger for our own spiritual lives.
But the inability to hear, truly hear, the seriousness of Jesus’s warning is a problem. And it’s dangerous. It reflects our obliviousness to the spiritual jeopardy the accumulation of riches brings to the human soul.
Mammon on the Move
Jesus says “Watch out!” and “Be on guard” as if there’s a silent, stealthy enemy creeping up on an unsuspecting person, ready to pounce. We like to think of wealth and possessions as inanimate objects, helpful to us if we use them correctly, but basically neutral. And so, in our churches, we warn against the abuse or misuse of wealth, and we teach on good stewardship so we can maximize and increase our wealth. But rarely do we sound the alarming note of Jesus and the apostles in this matter.
Preachers in the United States sometimes come under fire for tiptoeing around sensitive subjects, failing to boldly and courageously take on respectable sins in our society, most notably those related to sexual behavior.
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A Church of Suspicious Minds

Suspicion is not wisdom, so let’s not confuse it with discernment. We don’t begin with the assumption of guilt and then look for evidence; we begin with love and assume the best—bearing with one another, pursuing the truth together, carefully listening to discover what someone means by the words they use, and sharing fellowship as we proclaim and promote the essential elements of the Christian faith.

“We can’t go on together,” sang Elvis in 1969, “with suspicious minds.” It’s a song that laments the breakdown of trust, resulting in the corrosion of a romantic relationship.
More than 50 years on, these words could apply to the American experiment, with increasing levels of distrust toward government officials, media and news outlets, and the “experts” in various fields. Some of this suspicion is justified, as is often the case when trust is violated, and when people see the rules for discourse and debate applied unfairly. A healthy dose of skepticism toward top-down approaches in business and government is necessary for a free people’s flourishing.
What’s more, we’re living through one of the most disastrous periods in American history if you’re looking for reasons to trust in institutions and their leaders. Glaring failures in leadership—waving off criticism by appealing to one’s credentials— lead people to react with suspicion, and understandably so.
Suspicion in the World and the Church
But suspicion takes a wrong turn when we filter everything and everyone through the lens of distrust, always on a quest to discover an ulterior motive. This is one of postmodernism’s most pernicious effects—a hermeneutic of suspicion that claims every proposal or position is just a power play in disguise. Even deeds that appear altruistic must be tainted somehow by the lust for power.
Once suspicion pervades a society, the slightest disagreements—even among people who generally share the same beliefs—get interpreted as signs of betrayal. Seeds of doubt are sown into every interaction, and often it’s the people closest to you who become the subject of your suspicions. After all, you’ve written off the people opposed to your beliefs as the “villains.” You expect your opponents to act the fool; it’s when someone close to you doesn’t toe the party line, or asks uncomfortable questions, or pushes back on something you feel strongly about that you raise an eyebrow and wonder: Are they really with us? Or are they a villain in disguise?
The worldliness of succumbing to suspicion—assuming nefarious intentions behind every position—should not show up in the church. But alas, we too often fail in this area.
Consider how some of the fiercest debates today, as opposed to 10 years ago, are not between “progressive” and “conservative” Christians, but between varying shades of Christians in those respective camps. Brothers and sisters who attend the same kinds of churches, agree to the same confessional commitments, and share the same general outlook on life turn and devour each other over differences in political priorities, or disagreements over the wisdom of particular policies, or the way we should view certain politicians, authors, or theologians.
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Church Planters Face This Great Danger

Don’t miss the heart of Christianity—being with Jesus. Proximity comes before power. The person of Jesus comes before the proclamation of Jesus. Life with God comes before work for Him.
One of the worst dangers facing church planters is common to anyone heavily involved in ministry: It’s easy to see God’s work up-close and, over time, lose your sense of wonder. We get familiar with holy things. Perhaps overly familiar.
Chuck Swindoll has said, “The scary thing about ministry is that you can learn to do it.” And so we begin to take God’s work for granted – or worse, we lose a sense of holy dependence on His grace.
Preachers talk about this challenge. I just wrapped up an interim pastor role where I preached every week the past seven months. I love to preach. What an honor to spend time in God’s Word, in study, in preparation and then deliver a timely message for God’s people! But those of us who preach or teach on a regular basis know the temptation of becoming overly familiar with the Word, of losing sight of its power for us personally.
In an article a few years ago, Clint Clifton confessed: “My devotional life was swallowed by my teaching ministry. The pace of public teaching meant I was in the Word of God more, but applying it to myself less. Prior to ‘professional Christianity,’ my devotional life was applied directly to my life, my sin, my struggles and my joy. Suddenly, when I became a professional, the words of the Bible were for those I led.”
Familiarity is the enemy of wonder. We start out with excitement and joy at walking with Christ but somehow, over the years, we become spiritual zombies, still alive on the outside but dead on the inside. A selfish sense of entitlement replaces a holy sense of expectation.
Fighting Spiritual Covid
The adventure of life is a fight for astonishment, a determination to resist growing bored in a world of wonders. Perhaps that’s why those who live near the quiet glory of the mountains go to the beach for vacation, and vice versa. We change the scenery so we can see the scene. We leave home so that, for even the briefest of moments, on our return we see its glory anew.
The Christian life begins with spiritual astonishment at the glory of the gospel and the goodness and beauty of Christian truth, the wide-eyed surprise of the infant brought into a new world of grace. But over time, especially for those of us in paid Christian ministry, our eyes grow heavy and our tastebuds dim. We find ourselves with a case of Spiritual Covid. We’re fatigued and grumpy and, even worse, we can’t taste anything anymore. We eat to survive, not because the food has any taste.
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