Is the frog cooked yet?
I first became acquainted with author and research guru, George Barna, through his book, The Frog in the Kettle. The premise of his book (written in 1990) was that we could predict what would happen in the United States during the coming decade with reasonable accuracy, enabling individuals and organizations – including Christian ministries – to anticipate changes, help shape them, and capitalize upon the transitioning nature of our culture. His title, The Frog in the Kettle, was a practical reminder that if you drop a frog in a kettle of boiling water it will jump out immediately in reaction to the pain. On the other hand, if you put the frog in water that is room temperature, slowly heating it, the frog will remain in the kettle and eventually cook to death. Barna’s assumption was that the frog is Christianity today, and the water is the culture around us. Using his analogy, let’s look around and see how we are doing today.
Newsweek magazine’s recent cover story revealed current research about the decline of Christianity in America. In his article titled, “The End of Christian America,” Jon Meacham commented extensively on the implications of the recent results of surveys that: (1) The percentage of self-identified Christians has fallen 10 percentage points since 1990. (2) The number of people willing to describe themselves as atheist or agnostic has increased about fourfold from 1990 to 2009. Os Guinness, in his speech at Lausanne II in Manila, insisted the increase is greater when he said, “Since 1900, the percentage of the world’s atheistic and non-religious peoples (agnostics, secularists, and communists and so on) has grown from 0.2 percent to 21.3 percent.” In other words, from less than one-fifth of one percent to over one fifth of the world’s population. Guinness dramatically concluded, “This is the most dramatic change on the entire religious map of the twentieth century.” Daniel Henderson cites a riveting article titled “The Coming Evangelical Collapse” which predicts that within 10 years there will be an accelerated collapse of evangelical influence coupled with an open hostility toward Christians by our religiously antagonistic culture. It could be that articles and surveys like these prompted our President, in a recent speech in Turkey, to boldly describe the United States as a secular nation and not a Christian nation. The question begs to be answered: Is the frog cooked yet?
Barna insists that the water is the culture around us. What if we considered that the danger to the frog is not secularism, liberalism, or atheism, but Christianity’s own spiritual indifference and ecclesiastical apathy? What if we began to react as if the enemy is not “out there,” but “in here?” What would happen if the Church began to energize itself with the assumption that there is disobedience in our ranks? What if we became shamefully honest and admitted that we are like the Church of the Laodiceans, we have become lukewarm (Rev. 3:14-22)? Instead of being offended by what the world says about us, we remember our Lord said the world would treat us like it did Him, with ridicule and indifference? Such a posture would change the way we walk, the way we worship, and the way we witness.
How does the frog survive and not be cooked in its own water? Let’s take a hint from Paul’s closing words to the Ephesian Church. After writing them about doctrine (chapters 1-3), he moves to application and practical living (4-6). His closing words are, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles (schemes) of the devil” (Eph. 6:10-11). I’m struck by the repetition of “stand” (verses 11 once, verse 13 twice). What posture is the Christian soldier to assume for times like these? We are to stand. Stand, not being surprised. Stand, facing only one direction. Stand, knowing victory is assured. Paul concludes his instruction regarding our armor describing the manner in which we are to put it on: “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (verse 18).
How then shall we live? Taking our clue from our armor, we must live truthfully, righteously, peacefully, dependently, confidently, Biblically and prayerfully. Our greatest problems are not secular, financial, political or intellectual. No! Our real enemies are unseen because the real battlefield lies within the human heart!
The frog will be cooked until Jesus comes. The pressure on us will never let up. We will not be overcome, we will overcome. We must never forget: When the heart is changed, the man is changed. When the man is changed, his life is changed. When his life is changed, the world will change. Have you done your part to change the world by sharing Jesus with someone today? (Gary Taylor is the Missouri Baptist Convention’s director of evangelism.)