It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine…
That’s a line from the chorus of a hit song by the band R.E.M. And I think, surprisingly, there’s a great deal of truth in it.
I was pulled aside after a Sunday morning service not long ago by an attender who wanted to know when I was going to be warning the congregation about the impending crash of the world economy that Illuminati would be orchestrating in order to decrease the human population by up to 90%. After several minutes of hearing of the danger of vaccines, conspiracies with communist nations, and the malicious intent of the heads of states, I finally held up a hand and said, “Even if this were all true, I’d be completely comfortable preaching exactly what I just preached.”
I believe, at the time, I was in a series called Roots based on the book of Colossians. We were covering such subjects as how to spot real love, how to grow deeper in Christ, and how to live a spiritually fruitful life.
This isn’t the first time I’ve been confronted about my lack of urgency about end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it issues. There are also these pesky blood moons to worry about. And someone is always trying to kill us with vaccines, or aspartame, or a zombie virus, or purple dinasours on TV, the numerical value of whose names add up to 666 and therefore must be the antichrist in disguise… I’ve heard it all…
I’m a skeptical believer. I’ve come to have a sturdy faith in Jesus because I believe the central truths of Christianity stand up under tests of logic, reason, science, history, archaeology, and textual criticism. I embrace the Bible as inerrant, as crazy as that may sound to some.
But I’m still skeptical. I don’t mind wrestling with big questions and have found it to embolden my faith over time. I’m especially skeptical of teachings and arguments that serve as a distraction from the main thing – the gospel.
Let’s say, hypothetically, that the blood moons point to the end of the world as we know it. The Illuminati is planning to trim the human race back a bit and assume complete control over our lives economically and militarily. What I’d want to preach about this coming Sunday is… the good news that Jesus Christ died to save sinners and rose again.
And if that wild theory is hogwash and poppycock (the direction I’m inclined to lean in), then what I’d want to preach this coming Sunday is… the good news that Jesus Christ died to save sinners and rose again.
The Apostle Paul once warned a young Pastor named Timothy to rebuke some leaders in the ancient church of Ephesus for getting people off track in endless debates about myths, legends, and Old Testament genealogies. As Paul put it, “these things only lead to meaningless speculations, which don’t help people live a life of faith in God.” (1 Timothy 1:4 NLT)
And then Paul continued by saying, “The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith.” (v. 5)
I love that statement. Paul is essentially charging Timothy to avoid motivating people to seek God on the basis of fear, rational or otherwise, and instead to seek him on the basis of love and a desire for purity and real faith.
I don’t want people to be afraid of the end of the world. After all, what do we Christians have to worry about in the eternal scheme of things? Though the world fall apart around us and our bodies be destroyed, we live on! We win! We enjoy victory! I’m not attempting to minimize the seriousness of persecution, which is obviously a real and present danger in our world. I’m simply saying that there are some essentials to be preached weekly regardless of the direction the world around us is headed.
If the world were ending tomorrow, I’d want to preach this Sunday the good news that Jesus Christ died to save sinners and rose again, and that we can live a life of faith in him that matters for eternity. And if the world hangs around a few more millennia, I’d want to preach the same exact message. It’s (possibly, at any moment) the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.
You can build a congregation in size and collect large offerings by creating anxiety, fear, and anger toward the outside world, but I don’t think you’d be on task. In fact, you might just wind up starting a cult, which never ends well.
Instead, lead people to life in Jesus. Lead people to the cross for redemption. Lead people to discover the life worth living no matter what the world looks like around us. Lead people to follow Jesus, emulate his character, and implement the ways and practices conveyed in Scripture.
Confront sin and apathy.
Point people to redemption in the cross of Christ.
Equip believers to live a life of faith.
Empower servant leaders.
Reinforce the biblical faith.
And hail the triumphant return of King Jesus.
In other words, this Sunday…
Preach. The. GOOD. NEWS.