Getting over Mealy-Mouthedness
In the mid-70s I was a part-time youth director in an East Texas town. My main employment was as a special education teacher at the high school. My wife Karen was an early childhood special education teacher.
As a paid youth director in the local congregation, it was my job to sponsor occasional outings. These were usually once a month and often involved two of the youth group's favorite activities, skating or going bowling in Bryan, Texas, 40 miles away. My elders' directions including having something about religion on every trip. They believed, as I believe today, that the Lord's money should not be spent on something that is pure entertainment with no religious content whatsoever. Slightly over half of the youth group wished it was the other way: Free entertainment, no expressions of religion whatsoever.
A few of the youth people looked forward to the prayer, songs, or scripture reading in the parking lot before we got on the road to Bryan each time. But more than half seemed to dread the "inevitable" devos every time just before we left. They had invited their secular friends to come along with the explicit or implicit understanding that they were going bowling or skating and there would be nothing of a religious nature attached. When it came time for a prayer or song or scripture reading before we got on the road, my younger brothers and sisters in Christ would sheepishly come over to where these activities were occurring in the parking lot, and with their body English show their disapproval or impatience with Old Man Womack (25?) at these proceedings. Finally (after five minutes?) we would get on the road. "Whew, that church stuff is over with," they would not-so-quietly tell their worldly friends. Their worldly friends, not having any other instructions about what to do, would side with the young people who had painted such a dismal picture to them of the church that was providing their outing.
Some of our young people started finding ingenious ways to miss the devotional in the parking lot and then show up all of a sudden as soon as the "Amen" was said. Finally the elders had to institute a rule that anyone who wasn't present for the devo wouldn't be going skating or bowling either. In retrospect, all of this was getting at the symptoms and not at the root of the real problem.
"So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven"--Matthew 10: 32, 33. The ones who were so timid about their relationship to Jesus Christ weren't just denying Old Man Womack or an institution; they were denying Him. What they were being asked to sit through (or stand through, actually) was hardly a rigorous test of their faith. And what the young people needed so much was more teaching. "So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God"--Romans 10: 17. Oh that I could have seen that as clearly back then as I see it now!
And even in the eyes of their secular friends, my younger brothers and sisters in the Lord were actually making things worse by their own behavior. If they had stuck up for their beliefs, they would not have looked foolish. My recalcitrant young people were creating their own problem. The world has always stood aside in respect for people who knew what their beliefs were and were willing to stand up for them.
There are people in the world today who confidently stand up for beliefs that make a whole lot less sense than Christianity. And the world stands to one side for them, because they are proud and bold with their beliefs. The 98% who believe in nothing and stand up for nothing make up a kind of nameless, faceless blob of mediocrity that no one respectfully stands aside for.
The research on church growth in this country says that the churches (of whatever doctrine) that are growing the most are the ones with clearly defined beliefs, definite organizational structures, and ambitious agendas. The churches that have engaged in mealy-mouthiness are the ones that are dying. Churches don't grow when they compromise truth in order to gain popularity. "Think not that I have come to bring peace on earth," Christ said. "I come not to bring peace, but a sword."
If you are feeling mealy-mouthed . . . read your Bible. Come to church. Ask an elder, deacon, or preacher for a Bible study to help build your faith. The building of your faith will lead you to an abundant life that you won't want to make apologies for.
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