Apathy…Not Bill Hybel’s Premise

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“Apathy is a lack of feeling, emotion, interest, and concern. Apathy is a state of indifference, or the suppression of emotions such as concern, excitement, motivation, and/or passion. An apathetic individual has an absence of interest in or concern about emotional, social, spiritual, philosophical and/or physical life and the world.”*   Apathy can be anywhere.

It can certainly be in the church.

Do you see it in your church?

Do you see it in you as you attend your church?

Some people are motivated to come to a one hour worship service but that is their church activity for the week.   We should not complain; they are there most Sundays. On the other hand, I recently heard a woman announce proudly that she was going to church on Easter Sunday, like that was her major commitment, one church service for the year. A pastor friend told me once that today, a “member” of the church describes themselves as “regular” when they attend one Sunday out of four.

At the risk of sounding judgmental, too many “Christians” do the bare minimum when it comes to church involvement.

Maybe they can’t do more. Maybe they have very busy lives with jobs that demand 10 or 12 hours of work per day. Some people even have to work on Sunday. Maybe they are so elderly they cannot volunteer for strenuous commitments like VBS or baby-sitting on “Parent’s Night Out.” Some are so involved with personal crisis that they need to focus on their own problems, not the problems of others in need.

There are legitimate reasons for lack of involvement.

Then you have regular attenders. Their level of commitment does not show sometimes. You know how it is: one can look pious without giving away a hint at a lack of inspiration. Listening or attending to any message in a public setting is hard and we all know our minds can drift elsewhere.   The pastor is preaching, the choir is singing, the scripture reader is reading and praying and we are daydreaming about lunch, that beautiful golf shot, that ride on the new ATV etc. Sue Allen writes about this worship response in the words “We are Christians and that’s what Christians do. We go to church on Sunday mornings for Pete’s sake. However, if one is not careful, we can be lulled to sleep by the monotony of routine. Unfortunately, we often walk unaware. Shaking hands and greeting one another. Saying “How do you do?” Leaving the church completely unshaken or unrattled.”

This apathetic response is not what Bill Hybels is writing about in his book Holy Discontent. If you want to study a book that is about peace and contentment, this is not the book for you. Hybels wants Christians to do something.   The premise of the book is his search for what makes people do what they do and he is searching for the opposite of apathy.

Allen is very clear about what she feels concerning apathy in the church: “Evil and apathy often work in tandem. The first one wills it while the latter permits it. Evil knowingly and often publicly commits wrong, which may seem incomprehensible. But meanwhile, apathy looks the other way as if nothing ever happened. There is no stirring of conviction or moving towards action. Our problem lies right here in our nothing. . . . Is God calling you to do something that you are avoiding. . . . are you avoiding it because, like me, you simply don’t care?”

A church is a “body of believers” that is united together to worship and do the work of the Lord. There are so many jobs we can do in the church. Too often the attitude is “let the Pastor and the paid staff do it. That’s what they get paid for.”   Too often the attitude is “let the active members do it, you know the younger church members who have the energy to do the work.”   This is the old cliché “eighty percent of the work is done by twenty percent of the church.”

Hybels points his finger directly at me and you and says “God needs you to commit to something!”

Find something that is so bothersome that you can’t stand it anymore.   Find your holy discontent.

Within the limitations of your life, use your God-given gifts to make things better.

Apathy does not come from God. Apathy is a silent killer. Don’t let it become your norm.   It will kill your commitment to Christ.

Actively find what you can do to serve God and do it.

And get ready to grow…


*From Wikipedia “apathy defined”

** Sue Allen “Two Silent Killers of our Faith: Fear and Apathy” Lifeway Women’s Website

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