Good People: The Spiritual Beauty Pageant

People always tell you God is the most important thing in their lives, the main course. But today, we’re discovering he’s nothing more than an appetizer.

Christianity for too many today is just an appetizer they ordered with their meal—a nice addition to their lives, a welcomed treat. But it takes a back seat to their schedule, the kid’s sports, their social lives, Netflix, etc.

So if the waiter forgets to bring the appetizer, we probably say, “No problem. Just as long as you take it off my bill, I’m fine.”

We don’t mind it, but we can certainly live without it. That’s because it was never the entree we wanted. Similarly, by our lives, we prove how important our Christianity was to begin with…

The truth is we never really believed in putting God in the first place. We said we did, but only as much as it benefitted us in getting all the other things we really cherished.

So what happened? Why has church attendance plummeted in the last 30 years? And why are so many churches around the country closing?

It’s really so obvious, I can’t believe we didn’t see it coming.

In our culture 50 years ago, if you wanted to tell people you were a good person, you went to church. That’s what good people did. Where I grew up in the South, as long as your daddy wasn’t an alcoholic and a wife-beater (and sometimes even if he was), you showed up at some church on a semi-regular basis. Even the biggest reprobates in the community popped in at Christmas and Easter, just to say they were on the team.

But now our culture has changed. Being a Christian no longer is synonymous with “being good.” Today, if you want to prove to people you’re a good person, you don’t eat meat. You volunteer a couple of times a year with the homeless. You recycle, and your family pet is a “rescue” adopted from a local shelter. And be sure you vote one particular way, and then shame anyone on social media who doesn’t do likewise.

That’s how you pretend to be a good person in our current culture.

And so we’ve dropped Jesus like a bad habit. Because that’s all he was to us in the first place: merely a Sunday habit whose purpose we forgot somewhere along the way.

Sure, we tell our kids a few Bible stories to teach some moral lessons and to keep them in line. And we tell them them “Papaw went to heaven” so they won’t have nightmares when they see us put his coffin in the ground. But as far as God being an active presence at work in our daily lives, not a chance.

We talk like Christians, but live like atheists.

Truly, all the posturing we used to do to prove our goodness was a total waste of time. How ironic that a religion, with the basic foundational principle that none of us are good and only Christ can save us, would morph into the spiritual beauty pageant I witnessed growing up?

Remember, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and “there is none righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10)?

All the pretenders were just wasting their own time, it turns out.

While I’m sad for churches dying, part of me is happy for the changes. Too many people used to go to church for all the wrong reasons. Maybe that’s why people always talked about “all the hypocrites in the church.” There were too many imposters.

Perhaps since the culture has redefined “goodness,” now we’ll be surrounded on Sundays by people who actually want to be there. People who desire to experience God’s presence, and who love his Word.

Maybe those true believers will bring an appetite for more than just appetizers. Perhaps finally, the Church is getting ready to make God their main course.

Dave Gipson
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