Is it possible for American Christians who are “dulled by affluence and comfort” to experience God in the same way that persecuted believers all over the world do?
That one of the many questions Ravi Zacharias and Francis Chan answered at the 2019 Church Leaders Conference in Alpharetta, Georgia last week.
During the Q&A session, Zacharias explained that Christians in America and other Western countries come from a completely different background than those in that live in other parts of world, and don’t have the access to the same comforts.
“It’s easy to start climbing up the wrong tree and looking for the fruit on that tree and thinking you have all that you need,” Zacharias pointed out.
Zacharias also pointed out that often times people are quick to pick on those in America that live more comfortably than others around the world. Yet without the generosity from American Christians, and other Western Christians, then it would have been more hard for the gospel to reach many parts of the world.
He shared his own personal story regarding this “forgotten reality.”
“I’m one of those who was blessed by the giving in Canada and the United States,” he said. “I came to know the Lord in India, but there were missionaries from Canada and the United States there who reached my parents who reached us. And that’s because the people here have grown up with an attitude of giving as one of America’s greatest gifts.”
“In fact, sometimes a gift that’s almost abused. We don’t even think to what it is we are giving. We just see a need and start giving without demanding accountability at the same time.”
Even so, Zacharias pointed out that the role of the American church on the world stage “may be changing.”
“Our role may not be so much in a doing evangelism as enabling evangelism because there’s a fine crop of nationals and other possibilities,” he said.
“So yes, it is possible for us to get too comfortable. But I also want to say a big thank you for the way this country has supported the cause of world missions all over the globe. And we cannot naysay that side of it.”
Zacharias added that even though the United States has supported so many missions fields encompassing the entire world, there is still a risk in doing so.
“Whenever you have a plentiful in supply, we just have to take it as from the hand of God and not see it as a license to get free of any responsibility,” he added.
Chan, the former pastor of a megachurch in Simi Valley, California and author of Crazy Love, also chimed in, pointing out that the affluence that the American church often experiences is just a bi-product of the state of the country as a whole.
“I mean we live in this country and there are just a lot of comforts that come our way,” he said.
Even though these comforts casually come with living in the United States, he was quick to point out that Scripture warns against “some of those riches and how they can deaden you and place your heart to where suddenly you treasure your life here … more than the one to come.”
“There is something about our culture that can soften us. What can we do about it?” he asked rhetorically.
“Does that mean we just resolve and go, ‘Well, I live in America. We can only go so far in our walk with the Lord ’cause we’re not persecuted.’ Absolutely not. But there are things we need to do just even in our own prayer lives when Scripture says to be sober-minded and self-controlled for the sake of your prayers.”
He pointed out that there is a necessary and needed level of intentionality when it comes to reality for Christians in America.
“That thought of being clear-minded rather than filling your mind with mindless texts and Facebook posts and videos and movies so where, when it’s time to pray, our mind is going everywhere and we lose touch with reality,” Chan added. “And that’s the problem. That’s what keeps us from some of this depth and this time with the Lord. I see it. I feel it slipping away.”
Chan pointed out that while the American church has done a lot to progress the gospel, it’s “hard sometimes when you go [to] other countries” and “meet saints around the world that have suffered so much for the Gospel.”
“It gets us so excited to want to be like them. And not everyone has that privilege to see that and experience that and to feel their pain and see their intimacy with Christ,” he said. “And so, sometimes in coming back here, I just wanted to let people know what is possible and I really believe it is possible here.”
“But our comforts and our riches really do fight against us in our quest for that,” he added.
Other speakers at the conference included: Becky Pippert, John Bechtel, Michael Ramsden, Lisa Fields, Abdu Murray, Judy Dabler, and Vince Vitale.