“They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground” (Heb 11:37–38).
Many Christians today are homeless – church-homeless. That is, they have no church home, no Christian body with whom they worship and have fellowship on a regular basis. Some may pop in somewhere from time to time, but they’re committed nowhere. They enjoy a sense of anonymity when they do go to church, but they have no accountability but to themselves.
Church-homelessness is not a new phenomenon, but it is a contemporary crisis. From the inception of the New Testament church, Christians have been displaced, negatively, by persecution and economic hardships, and positively, through missions.
Without rehearsing the causes and effects of church-homelessness throughout history, we can observe two causes, or kinds of homelessness among Christians today.
The first cause, or kind of Christian homelessness is the apathetic, compromised Christian. Lacking divinely inspired conviction, these spiritually bored, underachievers have nothing better to do than to sit around gossiping about others who seek to serve the Lord. They complain about every message preached, lesson taught, song sung, or dinner served.
They will not lift a finger to solve any problem in their local congregation, but they eagerly lift their voices, whining, griping and festering like a boil over every issue, real or imagined, great or small. They never have a kind word to say about anyone in the church because, at the end of the day, they love their sins more than the body of Christ.
The sad reality is that many of these so-called believers aren’t truly Christ’s disciples at all. Like the stony and thorny soils in Jesus’ parable of the sower, fleshly temptations, or worldly cares keep cropping up around them and turn them away from Christ. Every vain pursuit that arises takes precedence over whatever fellowship they may appear to have with Christ and His church.
Truth be told, many of these folks are merely religious hypocrites who have no claim on Christ’s grace to save them, but don’t tell them that or they’ll turn and rend you. Don’t warn them of the coming judgment against such tempests in communion cups or they’ll launch a campaign to expel you from the church.
As painful as it is to have them in the church, Jesus told another parable of the coming judgment in which they’ll be forever removed from Christ’s church and His presence.
The second cause, or kind of Christian homelessness is the frustrated, grace-starved Christian. They are the ones who hunger and thirst for righteousness, but endure weak, shallow, dull, dish-water sermons and light, fluffy, candy-coated music masquerading as worship.
Too many pastors have drunk the contemporary Kool-Aid that says, “The gospel is divisive,” and “we don’t want to offend anyone.” True, the gospel is divisive and it does offend, but it’s the only cure for the terminal cancer that is our sin.
Genuine Christians are begging for someone to bring to them the pure milk and meat of the Word. The gruel that’s dished up on many Sundays and from so-called television ministries is dissatisfying at best and leaves Christians near death at worst.
The true child of God desires the deeper things of Christ. A traditional spiritual hymn that’s enjoyed a revival in recent years states, “You may have all this world; give me Jesus.” Real Christians are crying for someone to give them Jesus, not covered dishes or video games or other glossed-over worldly aperitifs to suspend their pangs for the things of God.
While abandoning Christ’s sheep, many pastors pursue the unconvinced and unconverted in the hope of filling their buildings to the point of needing larger surrounds to house their throngs. The merely religious shove their way into posh theatre seats and indulge in an hour’s free entertainment. Yet Christ’s saints go about “being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy)” (Heb. 11:37b-38a).
The need to plant new churches worldwide has never been greater. Likewise, the need to start new congregations across the cities of North America has never been more urgent; not just any churches, though. America needs churches where the whole counsel of God is spoken lovingly and graciously, yet without apology or compromise. Churches need pastors who are willing to lay down their lives for the people of God. Christians need pastors and teachers and elders who will lead by example in the character of Christ.
No dull, lifeless congregation ever changed anyone, except to drive them to hate the name of Jesus Christ more than they already did. A church that effervesces with the Spirit of Christ, though, will draw people whom the Holy Spirit is calling to Christ, who hunger and thirst for His righteousness. The Christian who resonates with the character of Christ will, both in words and actions, point people to Jesus, the only name by which we must be saved.
May God raise up to Himself a multitude of church planters in our generation, who will carry the gospel to the ends of the earth and next door.