It’s the end of the world as we know it.
And I feel fine.

Those words famously crooned by Michael Stipe in R.E.M.’s eponymous 1987 hit song have come to mind this week as the Supreme Court of the United States ruled gay marriage should be legally recognized in all 50 states. Some might think I’m lamenting the end of defining marriage in a way that, as the Supreme Court itself has noted, has been embraced by virtually every culture in every age. 1 But R.E.M.’s tune comes to mind because the SCOTUS’ action confirms what has been in the works for a while: it’s the end of Christendom.

I grew up in a world where the majority was fairly defined by biblical modes and means. The Bible was esteemed, not mocked. Evangelical Christians were embraced, not marginalized. Christianity and its moral ethic were exemplary, not just “someone’s truth.” For the most part, American culture and Christianity more than got along, the former was highly influenced by the latter (aka, an Evangelical Christian majority). But that wasn’t always a good thing. For one, it produced cultural Christians who thought they were believers simply because they adhered to a certain moral code, offered attendance at a church, and agreed to certain ideas about Jesus. However, it was a “faith” which didn’t penetrate the heart. Essentially the church was seen as a club. To say you were a Christian was like saying your were an American…later, a Republican. But repentance, spiritual growth, missional living, and a sense of personal holiness were absent. In fact, being a good church attender was simply a shrewd thing to do – it might help you get more business or raise your social status – everyone can trust you’re a stand-up person. So you joined the church (and Christ) with your body but not your heart.

But the Supreme Court’s verdict sends a clarion call to everyone that Christendom in America is gone. That way of life, that type of culture, and the socially beneficial dynamics that went with it have quickly evaporated. It’s the end of the world as we know it. What do I think about it all? Well, just continue Stipe’s words.

It’s the end of the world as we know it. And I feel fine.

Now we will enter into a Christianity that is closer to the one that began 2,000 years ago. It won’t be popular to follow Jesus as King, to espouse a biblical ethic that’s lasted more than two millennia, and say that biblical authority is our rule and faith. We will have to lovingly and graciously demonstrate the gospel in both word and deed by the Spirit’s work instead of being tempted do it by the tools of political power or social coercion, the two things you lose when Christendom dies. Indeed, in the future, becoming a Christian may hurt your business or, at least, lower your social status among other negatives. In short, it will cost you something to follow Jesus. And I welcome it.

Why? It will purify God’s church, make her stronger, and penitently see the errors and compromises of her past. It will reveal those who truly wanted to follow Jesus and those who merely wanted to wear the t-shirt until it cost them something. Real Christian churches will likely get smaller, but they will also be more authentic, truer to Christ, less show/more substance. This is cause for me to rejoice, not at the Supreme Court’s decision but at the chapter it likely closes for the American evangelical church. The death of Christendom. A death that may mean new life for the Bride of Christ. Frankly, I’m glad I’m alive to see it. It may just mean that God isn’t finished with the American church but has in store a long needed revival for her. Oh, do I hope so! It would give me one more reason to sing…

It’s the end of the world as we know it. And I feel fine.

Notes:

  1. It is lamentable and I have spoken about it.

I didn’t know whether to take it as a compliment, criticism, or merely someone’s observation. The young lady noticed me walking around a local store and wanted to introduce herself. After we exchanged pleasantries she told me she and her husband had been coming to CCCC for almost a year. Then, after the normal comments about how I’m shorter/taller, rounder/thinner 1 than I appeared on Sundays on stage, the young lady added a comment about my preaching. She remarked, “Each sermon it’s like you tie everything to Jesus and the Cross. Like, every time. I mean, it’ll be a new angle or something, but in the end, it’s still about Jesus.”

Again, I couldn’t read her well enough to know which of the three categories I should classify her words. I responded with a little laugh and agreed, telling her that usually is how I preached. However, if I could do it over, here’s what I wished I would have said: 2

Thanks! I take that as a compliment because that’s exactly what I’m trying to do. Now, I could tell you a bunch of reasons why Jesus and his work at the Cross regularly find a place in my sermons, but let me give you just one because we’re at the store and I’m sure my kids are lighting something on fire right now.

What if there was a place where each time you went you heard one more reason why your spouse, who you deeply love, is wonderful, fantastic, and good for you? Do you think your husband would encourage you to attend? Of course. Why? Because what better way to foster love for the one with whom you are in a covenant relationship than to be regularly reminded  – again and again – how wonderful, fantastic, and good your spouse is for you. Each time you would leave with a heart a little bit bigger for him than the time before. In other words, each week your loved one would become a loved-a-little-more one.

That’s one reason I keep talking about Jesus in my preaching. We both know that no matter how good our spouses are, they don’t compare with the greatness of Jesus. I mean, he has redeemed us from sin, death, and hell. Because of the Cross, we have been forever forgiven, completely accepted, and eternally loved. And all of it out of sheer grace!  Is there any question that Jesus is the most glorious, wonderful, and perfect Savior we could ever have? The problem is we tend to forget that. When we do, our hearts can shrink and cool for Jesus. So my aim each Sunday is to regularly remind us all of how wonderful, fantastic, and perfect Jesus is so that every time you walk out the door your Loved Lord becomes a Loved-a-Little-Bit-More Lord.

That’s why I keep talking about Jesus in my preaching.

…and, for the record, I am taller up close and personal. 😉

Notes:

  1. Not really thinner, but I guy can hope can’t he?
  2. It’s always after someone leaves and you have three hours of reflection that the right response finally hits you, isn’t it?

I recently returned from a 30-day respite. Most of that time was spent at my family’s ranch in the Texas Hill Country (outside of Hunt). As I reflect on my time spent at the ranch, here are a few things that come to mind (with the help of Instagram):

Had my first TopoChico. I'm a fan. ¡Viva Monterrey! #topochico

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Topo Chico – I’ve gotten hooked on sparkling water thanks to some of the CCCC executive staff guys but drinking some of Monterrey, Mexico’s finest out of its ice cold bottle was hard to beat as I drove alongside the Guadalupe River. I’m a fan of this agua mineral.

¡San Antonio, me gusta mucho! Mission San José. Est. 1782. #sanantonio

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San Antonio – If you weren’t sure where Texas came from, visit San Antone. It will be clear that the Lone Star Nation used to be a part of Mexico. I love the Latino mix that is San Antonio. It’s a city unto itself. Pure Tejano.

Fandango – For more than a decade I’ve connected with my Baylor buddies for the better part of a week each June. The majority of time we meet at the ranch. It’s always one of my favorite times of the year.

Eat here every Texas Fandango with some of the best friends a guy could have. #fredricksburg

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The Auslander – This German-Texan restaurant in Fredericksburg has been a regular stop for my Fandango buds for years. We sit outside in their biergarten and eat the biggest and best chicken fried chicken around! Prosit!

This was when Luckenbach, TX turned magical. Local musicians gathered, singing/playing in a round. #TexasTreasure

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Luckenbach – For a long time I’ve wanted to visit the fabled town of Waylon, Willie, and the Boys. This summer proved to be the reckoning and what a time it was. Driving up I thought the place might play out like a bad theme park but Sunday night found local musicians singing songs in a round. With my friends in hand and the summer evening beginning to cool, it was magical. I won’t soon forget it. Also, I just leveled up as a Texan.

The view I've grown up with every summer of my childhood. I ❤️Texas. #HillCountry

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The Hill Country – Growing up, I spent every summer I can remember in the Hill Country. So driving out to the likes of Kerrville, Ingram, and Hunt is like driving home for me. I love the land’s rugged beauty, wide vistas, and open country. It’s full of bluebonnets, Indian blankets, Mexican hats, cacti, cedar (aka Ash Junipers), deer, coyotes, armadillos, and a million other things that make it what it is (watching out for the occasional scorpion or rattlesnake, of course). Best night skies to sit under and talk with your friends as the wind blows, the crickets chirp, and the Chuck-will’s-widows call out to each other.

Swimming Lil Blue Hole style. #thelife

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Little Blue Hole – This is part of the Guadalupe River that’s been my family’s swimming hole for years. It’s especially fun to jump into when the temps soar into the high 90’s during the summer. I’ve fished it, tubed it, and swam it. However, one of my favorite ways to do Little Blue Hole is sitting on the little rock ledges underneath the water so I’m about head-and-shoulder high out of it while my college buds do the same, as we share our stories and lives. Then it becomes the best place on earth for that moment.

Bruce Waltke’s Old Testament Theology – I’ve been working through Waltke’s book off and on for more than a year. It’s a big one but every time I invest in reading it, it always pays dividends. I often leave thinking: #1) I don’t know the Old Testament very well and, #2) the Old Testament is worth knowing well. It rained for almost two weeks straight while I was at the ranch, giving more ample time to spend reading this wonderful book.