If you will allow me, I want to get in your face for the next few minutes. I’m not trying to offend you. On the contrary, I’m trying to save you from yourself and possibly a wasted life. The times are too serious for such a mediocre brand of Christianity. The needs of our world are too great for a casual, carnal, half-hearted church.
I’ve been reading God on Fire by Fred A. Hartley, III. One of his chapters is entitled, “Am I Ignitable?” Please allow me to quote portions of several paragraphs, and please read them and pray that God will speak to you like He spoke to me as I read and marked those pages.
“Seek Him with reckless abandon. The world will never be changed by people who dabble. Don’t settle for the superficial, arm-distant relationship. Turn around. Christ is calling you all in. Dabbling is an insult to God. Jesus was not maligned on the cross nor did He rise from the dead so that we might dabble.”
God has “zero tolerance for dabbling.” He confronts and reprimands “unfocused worship – another form of dabbling.” When Paul said, “This one thing I do…” He “cleaned out his locker room of religious hobbies and officially went on record.” Jesus “rebuked the church for dabbling: I know your deeds you are neither cold nor hot…”
I’ve been in ministry for forty years. I’ve been a youth pastor and a pastor. I’ve watched students and parents, Sunday School teachers and deacons, choir members and ushers, staff members and pastors whose tombstone should read: THEY DABBLED – NEVER SOLD OUT.
We have come to think that God is a part of our life but not our life, that He can be relegated to a corner or isolated to Sundays and a prayer over our meals. The reason we dabble is because we’ve never surrendered to the lordship of Christ. Christ is one of our interests in a department store called life. We have certain parts of the store we want to visit and we enjoy the convenience of a variety of departments, but we never visit the whole store. We fail to obtain all that is available for us. We park close to the door, leave as quickly as we can, and know the store will be there when we need it.
Unfortunately, that’s true of a lot of folks I know. They want the front row at a ball game and the back row at church. They steal the visitor’s parking space and leave as soon as the service is over. They pick and choose what they want to support. They look at the variety of ministry opportunities and choose only what serves their flesh. They only pray for those they know. They are “part of the church” and the church doesn’t have all of their heart. They aren’t loyal. They are fickle and can’t be counted on consistently.
They are always looking for a reason to miss church: fall break, spring break, a guest speaker they’ve never heard of, an out of town ball game, an early kickoff for a Sunday NFL game (if you don’t believe that, try pastoring or serving in the Dallas area when the Cowboys have a home game). Their loyalty is like the morning dew – a little heat, and it’s burned away.
They look for churches that don’t demand much. They don’t want to hear sermons on tithing, sacrificial giving, prayer, or witnessing. They have no desire to see or experience a deep work of God. They are armchair quarterbacks who think they know better and have been deceived into thinking that God is going to give them a pass for this pathetic attitude. These folks are piling up wood, hay, and stubble (if they are even saved).
We’ve treated church like a cafeteria line where we take what we want and leave the rest. We’ve treated Christ like He is our servant, rather than us being called to serve Him. We sing “my life, my love, my all…” but have no intention of living it. So we are liars and thieves. We sing what we don’t live. We edit God according to our likes and dislikes.
We dabble. We piddle. We play games at the foot of the cross. So why would God ever think about sending revival or awakening to such a pathetic people? We want His blessings with no obligations. Why should He bless us? We’re nothing but ungrateful, spoiled brats who think this thing called the Christian life is a negotiated contract with multiple loopholes.
Jesus is either Lord of all or He is not Lord at all. “Why do you call me Lord, Lord and do not the things I say?” Well? Who’s got an answer for that? As one of my old coaches said, “It’s time to put up or shut up.” God’s got no time for people who dabble in a world driving full speed toward a Christless hell. I believe He might be on the verge of bypassing the pathetic dualistic caricature of faith we call “American Christianity.” If He does, we have no right to complain.
Maybe we should allow the words of Jim Elliott to jar us: “Am I ignitable? God deliver me from the dreaded asbestos of other things. Saturate me with the oil of your Spirit that I may be aflame. But flame is transient, often short-lived. Canst thou bear this, my soul-short life? In me there dwells the Spirit of the Great Short-Lived whose zeal for God’s house consumed him. And he has promised baptism with the Holy Spirit and with the Fire. Make me thy fuel, Flame of God.”
It’s time to burn away the dross and the dabbling.
(Copyright, Michael C. Catt)
Michael served as the President of the Large Church Roundtable, the Southern Baptist Convention as an IMB Trustee, President of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s Preaching Conference, Vice President of the Georgia Baptist Convention, and President of the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference. He has spoken at conferences, colleges, seminaries, rallies, camps, NBA and college chapel services, well as The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. Michael is the recipient of The Martin Luther King Award, The MLK Unity Award, and a Georgia Senate Resolution in recognition of his work in the community and in racial reconciliation.
Michael and his wife, Terri, have two grown daughters, Erin and Hayley.