This piece was adapted from Russell Moore’s newsletter. Subscribe here.
The concept of “quiet quitting”—refusing to do anything but the minimal effort—is all over media these days. Commentators are debating whether or not today’s workers, most notably Gen Z employees, are quiet quitting their jobs.
Count me among the skeptical. Some of the quiet-quitting talk is just another generational caricature (one I’ve not seen any evidence for). And it may well be that workers are getting just as much or more done but are putting healthy boundaries between themselves and their jobs.
Perhaps quiet quitting is happening in some workplaces, although I suspect it’s no more than always. Yet even if mythical, the idea points to something real in many people’s lives: a sense that what they do will make no difference, that things will never change.
I’ve found this mentality to be a genuine temptation in the context of the church.
Those of us who see what’s happening in church life might easily come to the same conclusion that nothing will change, no matter what we do. We might keep attending, keep praying, keep teaching, keep serving—but never really anticipate anything different than the same crises.
I noticed this tendency in myself within the past week.
Recently, I was preaching in a city far from home, and an impressive Baptist Christian in his early 20s picked me up from the airport. As we talked about ministry and what he was doing in the church, he reflected on something I had written here—about how so many leaders I know are demoralized by the craziness of the present moment, both inside and outside the church.
Since he came of age over the last decade, he said he can’t remember a time in which social-media trolling, institutional collapse, family-dividing and church-splitting politics, and rolling waves of scandal were not considered normal.
This is precisely what I’ve feared all along. Regarding the integrity crisis facing the church right now, I of course worry about those who leave the church in disgust. But I’m far more worried about those who have come to see the present broken state of the church—and of the country—as “normal.”
This young Christian had been discipled and could see the scope of history well enough to tell the difference between what is and what ought to be. But I asked myself, What about all those who can’t? While we talked, my phone pinged with a text—which informed me of yet another ministry friend stepping away because of a crisis.
Afterward, I met with a group of equally impressive pastors from multiple different evangelical denominations. Many of them talked about friends in ministry who were experiencing mental-health emergencies due to the hardships of leading their churches through the COVID-19 pandemic and political division. Many spoke of younger people they knew who had concluded that the church is nothing but political opportunism, or worse.
While I sought to encourage these pastors, I kept thinking about the bad news that had come by text, the worries that emerged from the car conversation, and the stakes of what the church is now up against.
Even for someone who had just written that week about the dangers of a reptilian-brain-oriented fatalism, my expectations were lowering, my mindset was darkening, and I was starting to grow numb from hearing so many of these stories. They didn’t surprise me anymore.
And then another conversation shook me to attention.
This past Sunday was the first week of a seminar (what I’m still too Baptist to call anything other than “adult Sunday school”) I’m teaching through the Book of Genesis. Afterward, a young man—maybe 19 or 20 years old—came up to say hello. He’s attending a vocational trade school in the area and told me he’s hoping to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps.
His grandfather, a mechanic, had not only served his community repairing vehicles but also, throughout his life, ministered and shared the gospel in homeless shelters and prisons—showing love to people that many others had forgotten about.
This young man said he wanted to be like his grandfather—to learn a skill and practice it with excellence (no quiet quitting there) and to learn how to minister to prisoners, the homeless, and any other group of people to which Jesus might call him. The young man lit up when he talked about being around non-Christians and the opportunity to represent Jesus with love and integrity.
I walked away feeling enlivened and encouraged about the future of the church. This grandfather, whose name I don’t even know, was such a model of gospel integrity that his grandson aspires to be as much like him as possible. I don’t even know whether the older man is alive or dead, but his ministry is still burning—fueling his grandson in the same direction.
And that’s not to mention all the people from prisons and homeless shelters who are serving Christ right now because of this man’s witness. How many lives were saved, how many eternities were redirected, and how many families were put back together by conversations he had over broken fuel pumps or malfunctioning alternators?
My conversation with this man’s grandson was a grace disrupting my life.
I don’t think of myself as cynical, but maybe I was coming a little too close to it until this encounter reminded me of why I’m a Christian. I really believe that Jesus is alive, that the Spirit is stirring, and that the gospel still works the way it always has—like fermenting yeast or a germinating seed, like life from the dead.
I grow impatient with those who say, “Well, don’t talk about the ugly stuff; talk about all the good things that are happening,” in light of all the atrocities taking place in American Christianity right now. That’s not what I mean here. That’s public relations management, and everyone can see it for what it often is—tribal protection.
The way to love the church is to bear witness—which means to tell the truth. If we don’t speak truthfully about the ways the church is veering from the mission of Christ, then we don’t really believe what we say: that the church is meant to be a light to the world, a redeemed people demonstrating what it means to repent and follow the Way.
When we don’t see or acknowledge the very good reasons many have lost confidence in the church—or when we highlight only the parts that don’t call us to repentance—we say to many, almost literally, “To hell with you.”
The way we can help those who are skeptical of the church is by loving them, standing up for them, and doing our best to be trustworthy. But we can do that only if those of us who are called to stay and stand don’t give up. We owe it to those who are losing hope to hold up hope for them.
Hope does not appear out of nowhere. “Hope that is seen is not hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?” the apostle Paul wrote. “But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” (Rom. 8:24–25). Moreover, Paul wrote, hope comes through suffering—for “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame” (Rom. 5:3–5).
Hope is not a public relations or marketing strategy. Hope doesn’t dismiss those who are suffering or struggling to endure. But even as we endure, even as we hope, we can find ourselves growing numb to the ways God is not only shaking up his church but also building it, reforming it, and reshaping it.
Sometimes God refreshes our hope by giving us a little flash of awareness of what’s happening beyond our sight. Sometimes we need a random conversation to see just how bright his glory still glows.
This also means we should not stop letting ourselves be amazed by grace or surprised by joy. Whether loudly or quietly, let’s not quit.
Russell Moore is the editor-in-chief at Christianity Today.
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