This pastoral passage was written for LRBC for June 3 2018.
I am a Christian ‘pastor’ (or ‘shepherd’) for young people. One of my responsibilities is to warn them about the things that shift their focus from faithfully following Jesus and hinder their growth in grace and faith. Looking around today, one thing that I find difficult to challenge is what I’m going to call ‘soft’ secularism. This is my own term as far as I know, but here is what I mean by it: a predominant interest in the activities of everyday, non-religious life (cf. Matthew 13:22). Everything that makes us too busy to pray, read Scripture, be in fellowship with others, and so on.
I think this ‘soft secularism’ is the real cultural temptation Christians need to watch for. This concern could be likened to the concern for converts in other cultures relapsing into their traditional non-Christian beliefs and practices.
What makes it hard to say something about this is that these are things that people can take pride in their achievements for. Sports, music, jobs, study and so on are all good things. And as a youth pastor I know that no single youth group event is decisively important. Yet all the same, these things of the world often squeeze out the things of Christianity.
If there is a timetable clash, then world trumps church. This is secularism – in a soft, non-aggressive sense.
I read a reflection recently by a departing lecturer from Laidlaw College. He has observed a cultural shift among students over his 25 years of lecturing: once, students needed encouragement to pause from their studies and get involved in their churches and their communities. Now, students have such busy and complex lives they need encouragement to set aside time to properly invest in their studies.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote that “salvation is free, but discipleship is costly.” Christ will have his cost: If no price is being paid, where is the discipleship? Cultural and academic underachievement MIGHT need to be a mark of faithfulness to Jesus in our busy and cultured society.