The Most Important Word in Christianity: Part 1, We Are Drifting

There's a lot of very important words in Christianity.

Faith. Hope. Love.

Father. Son. Holy Spirit.

Gospel. Kingdom. Church.

So it's a bit ridiculous that I'm going to suggest a word on no one's radar screen as "the most important word in Christianity." The title of this series is a bit of hyperbole.

Still, I want to make an argument that the word I'm going to share is the most important word in Christianity in the sense that I've come to think of it as the critical missing ingredient for so many Christians and churches trying to live into the way of Jesus.

I've worked with a lot of churches over the years, mostly doing equipping for congregations wanting to become more hospitable. But I've also taught an adult Bible class at our church for over 15 years. And I've been teaching out at the prison now for over five years. So I'm regularly in the thick of spiritual formation efforts.

And over the years, I've faced this basic question thousands of times:

"How do we X?"

You name the X.

How do we become more hospitable?

How do we become more prayerful?

How do we become more loving? More giving? More holy? More fruitful? More grateful? More committed to spiritual disciplines? More invested in each other's lives?

How we become less addicted, less anxious, less busy, and less selfish?

How do we become, in short, more like Jesus?

That's the million dollar question that gets asked, personally and congregationally, over and over again.

Because lot of us are just drifting. Personally, we're drifting. Our churches are drifting. Often with catastrophic consequences to our moral witness. The Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. But are Christians demonstrably more loving, peaceful, patient, kind, gentle and self-controlled than our neighbors?

We know the Fruit of the Spirit is the telos, the goal, of Christian living, the mark of Jesus upon our lives. And yet, we make no serious progress toward that end. Year in and year out, we remain much the same.

True, someone will tell us that we need the spiritual disciplines here. But again, churches talk about the spiritual disciplines all the time. But year in and year out, people aren't praying more or practicing Sabbath more. Year in and year out, our habits remain much the same. We remain just as busy and just as consumeristic.

Seriously, just take a look at your church. How many times have you heard the call to more Sabbath, simplicity and prayer? A bet a million times. Now ask: Is your church any less busy or stressed out than it was ten years ago?

Again, we're just drifting.

So what's the missing ingredient?

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