But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.1 Peter 3:15-16 NIV
I was watching a panel discussion on a TV news channel the other day. They were discussing the drop in the number of people in the United States who attend any kind of religious services. This came on the heels of a report that said 20% of all churches will close permanently as a result of the pandemic. Two of the comments of the less-than-religious panelists gave me something to think about. One guy said, “Aren’t these the people who are supposed to have the answers about life after death? Why do they seem to be as afraid as everybody else?” A lady said, “I don’t have any religion now, but if they had been open during this pandemic I probably would have gone.” They were genuinely disappointed!
This tells me that there are people all around us who don’t seem to be religious, but who are watching us and hoping they will see something real. The pandemic and its aftermath have “Opportunity!” written all over them for the church. It’s like 9/11 only it’s lasted more than a year. People are frightened, angry, frustrated, and hopeless. The new public religion of politics and pop culture have proven utterly inadequate to the challenges we face. People are looking for answers, and many of them expect people of faith to have some. After 9/11, church attendance went up dramatically. Unfortunately, it didn’t stay up. Why? No substance. Slick productions and milquetoast messages just didn’t fill the immense cavity in the hearts of the lost. “If Jesus is alive, why are these people so sappy, spineless, and snooty?”
Whatever else we do this Sunday, let’s manage 2 priorities: Number one, let’s quit sniveling, and worship like God is real and the Word is true. Number two, let’s quit hiding. It’s time to stop sheltering in place and start finding ways to inoculate the world around us with the reason for the hope that is in us. It is in there, isn’t it?