Written by: Tendai Chitsike
Article source: JOY! Magazine

In his classic on the spiritual life, author Richard Foster wrote that “Superficiality is the curse of our age.” Foster wrote this in 1978. One can only wonder what he would think of the state of Christianity four decades later. If we are honest, it is safe to say that the symptoms of a superficial faith abound. We have feel-good preaching without substance, congregational worship that is emotive but lacking in depth, and weekly Bible studies that often do not contribute to Christ-likeness.

A quote from John Stott
Looking back over the last century, John Stott made the following statement on the state of the Church: “As we face the new millennium, we acknowledge that the state of the Church is marked by growth without depth. Our zeal to go wider has not been matched with a commitment to go deeper. For many years, 25 or more, the church growth school has been dominant. I rejoice in the statistics, but we must say it is growth without depth. I believe it was Chuck Colson who said ‘The church is three thousand miles wide and an inch deep’. Many are babes in Christ”.

It is safe to say that the symptoms of a superficial faith abound.

The effects of superficiality
Sadly, the effects of such superficiality can be felt far and wide. On the African continent, the numerical growth of the Church is often touted as great success story. To be sure, it is encouraging to see many missionaries from Africa going into the Western nations to rekindle the flickering embers of faith. Yet, as Gideon Strauss lamented in an article on the Christian Reformation of Africa, “There is at present no substantial movement of African Christians who proclaim the Lordship of Christ over every sphere of life.”

As a result, Africa remains in a desperate situation, regardless of how many are now professing the Christian faith. Fatherlessness, corruption and many forms of civil strife abound in the most Christianised of African nations, and the idols remain untouched and unchallenged. Meanwhile in the West, we see a ‘syncretism’ of a different kind where Christ is mentioned and even celebrated, but the love of self is often paramount. As Francis Schaeffer wrote concerning the 20th century: “…The great majority of people had come to the place where they had only two horrendous values—absolutely horrible values: personal peace and affluence.”

The whole counsel of Scripture
Thankfully, we have the grace of God to rely on, and the examples of past eras to look to. As the Apostle Paul did, we should give the church the ‘whole counsel of Scripture’. Therefore, instead of focusing on a few scriptures, perhaps we should preach through an entire book more often. That way, we are not only dealing with ‘comforting’ Scriptures, but ‘challenging’ ones as well. It is wonderful to be told in Romans 8 that nothing can separate us from God’s love, but that truth will have little weight if I have not begun by contending with the wrath of God in Romans 1.

Worship and discipleship
Likewise, congregational singing must be fully orbed. Charles Wesley wrote over six thousand hymns, and I am told that you could virtually reconstruct the entire Bible from his hymns. Oh that our modern songs could do the same!
Lastly, we cannot underestimate the power of personal discipleship, wherein the Bible is not only read, but applied and expected to be applied in our daily lives. Such discipleship is costly and far removed from the spotlight of large crowds. Nevertheless, in my interactions with students and young families, I have seen some encouraging fruit emerge. One graduate told me how he resisted family pressure to perform ancestral worship rites at his wedding, and another friend recently resigned from a high-paying job because they would have to promote a radical LGBTQ agenda. May we not settle for anything less than genuine discipleship.

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Date published: 22/07/2022
Tendai Chitsike – Pastor of Every Nation Church in Makhanda. Email: engrahamstown@gmail.com

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