You will never attract the young by making Christianity easy; but a good many can be attracted by finding it difficult: difficult both to the disorderly mind and to the unruly passions.
— T.S. Eliot
This quote showed up in my today, courtesy of The Plough daily dig email. Immediately I was struck by how counter-cultural Eliot's words are—counter to our secular culture, counter to our Evangelical Christian culture, counter to our church growth culture, counter to our mega-church culture, etc. We have deliberately made our Christianity easy—bent over backwards to do it, in fact—and are reaping what we have sown. Our Christianity is in many ways indistinguishable from our culture and has little to no influence at all on it. Hardly the way of "The Way" in the early church.
Decades of church growth seminars, books, and speakers have instructed us to make our preaching and teaching 'easy,' i.e. as inoffensive, watered-down, and non-committal as possible to get 'seekers' in the door...at least that is how a lot of church growth ideology has been implemented (my apologies to those laboring in this field who have a different angle). Mainstream churches espousing more liberal theology are already innocuous and benign and 'easy.' My time worshiping in these congregations is not too far from a Hollywood awards show where everyone tells everyone how much they love each other and how great they are.
Contemporary worship has made worship 'easy' by using turning corporate singing into a spectacle where the worshipers in attendance are largely passive or emotionally led along by well-practiced performers. Those in non-liturgical circles are well on their way to 'easy' worship as opposed to liturgical churches with their multiple readings to pay attention to and a multitude of times to stand, times to sit, times to kneel, things to recite, canticles to sing, etc. In many churches, sermon series on a host of pragmatic topics from sex to spending habits have trained us toward a use of Scripture that is more geared to proof texts and sound bites than a deep, focused reading of God's Word.
Am I just being a curmudgeon? Hopefully not. Am I just a grouch? Not intentionally. But we're kidding ourselves if we can read Bonhoeffer's haunting prophetic words and think it does not apply to us:
Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession...Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate. (Cost of Discipleship)
On the contrary, as he points out later in the same book, "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come a die." Death to selfish ambitions. Death to ungodly passions. Death to indifference and injustice. This type of faith—a difficult faith—is exactly the type of faith for which people are willing to stand up and make a difference. This difficult faith is the type of faith that can and does move mountains, change hearts to be like Jesus, and transform the world.