You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. (1 Thessalonians 1:6 NIV)
A great deal can be learned about people by observing whom and what they imitate. The weak, for instance, imitate the strong; never the reverse. The poor imitate the rich. The self-assured are imitated by the timid and uncertain, the genuine is imitated by the counterfeit, and people all tend to imitate what they admire.
By this definition power today lies with the world, not with the church, for it is the world that initiates and the church that imitates what she has initiated. By this definition the church admires the world. The church is uncertain and looks to the world for assurance. A weak church is aping a strong world to the amusement of intelligent sinners and to her own everlasting shame.
Should any reader be inclined to dispute these conclusions, I ask him to take a look around. Look into almost any evangelical publication, browse through our bookstores, attend our youth gatherings, drop in on one of our summer conferences or glance at the church page of any of our big city newspapers. The page that looks most like the theatrical page is the one devoted to the churches, usually appearing on Saturday. And the similarity is not accidental, but organic.
This servile imitation of the world is for the most part practiced by those churches that claim for themselves a superior degree of spirituality and boldly declare their adherence to the letter of the Word. In fact, neither the old-line ritualistic churches nor those that are openly modernistic have been as guilty of such flagrant world-worship as the gospel churches have.
Lord, may I be not a world imitator, but of those who model You in life and ministry even at great personal cost.
The challenge is to be lights to the world not mirrors reflecting it. Perhaps part of the problem lies in our emphasis on congregational growth in numbers rather than in Christlike living.
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