As Christians look at the decaying culture around them and struggle with what to do as gay marriage and the contraception mandate signal a beginning of soft persecution of conscientious Christians in America, the question of what do we do comes up.
Here’s my answer: I don’t know, not really. I mean I could probably come up with something that sounded good, reasonable, and plausible enough and say, “Yep, let’s do that.”
But I’m going to be honest that I think that’s part of our problem in the American Church. Perhaps, the greatest failing of American Christianity in the last forty years or so is the limitless faith we’ve placed in our own intelligence and our own ability to make things happen and to manipulate things.
I think it all began with good intentions, it always does. But what it ended up was the unstated addition to the Great Commission to “market Me to all nations.” The belief that dominate many church decisions was that by changing the service and externals of the church, we could draw people to Christ. Replace pews and hymnals with theater seats and overhead projectors. Move from Sunday Best in church to casual dress. Replace the 1611 King James with modern translations.
Now, I’m not saying any of these are wrong in and of themselves or that some churches didn’t really pray and long hard or that every church which did this made a mistake, but here’s the problem. Many churches made these changes believing it would lead people to come Christ and fill their churches, that it would lead people to love scripture. Thus many churches moved under the belief that could manipulate external factors to do the work of the Holy Spirit. That’s not only unscriptural. It’s really quite insane.
Of course, it would equally insane to assume that doing a quick “switch back” to old ways would somehow solve it. You’re still trying to use externals to manufacture what the Holy Spirit could only do in the Heart.
But it’s not just in worship that the errors happened. Many parents have been invited to put faith in formula to produce godly kids. Many will proclaim that the only way to do this is to put children in public schools and allow them to be exposed to the popular media though with some limits, so that they can relate to the world around them and bring them to Christi.. Others will advocate a home school environment with no television and limited access to popular fiction as a way to secure godly youth. Again neither approach is wrong in itself, but too often we’ve put our faith in raising decent children not in God, but in our own wisdom and intelligence.
And the same thing has happened in politics. Many people joined the Republican Party for concern about moral issues and then went full bore hard core behind every aspect of the Republican platform under Ralph Reed. And now we continue to flail about in the political world, divided from each other by the vast number of experts out there including pragmatists who have never won an election and people who advocate principle who have never actually brought about the implementation of principled policies.
Thanks to all of the thinkers out there, and our own estimation of our own intelligence, of our own ability to work things out, the modern Church doesn’t need God in a practical sense for guidance and for direction. We’ve got it handled from church growth to parenting to politics, we can figure it out.
Except why then is everything falling to pieces? Why are kids leaving church out of youth group and out of Christian homes to become the most cynical pagans imaginable? Why is our society and our church becoming increasingly biblically illiterate? Why is our society continuing to decline?
Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.-Psalms 127:1 (ESV)
I don’t know about you but I’m a little tired of trying to build houses that God isn’t building. I’m a little tired of listening to people telling people how we can manipulate things and achieves that we can never achieve because it’s the work of the Holy Spirit.
If I were to make any suggestion it would be that people who care about our nation get together and pray regularly for it and pray regularly for wisdom as to how God would have us move and work in this country. In ourselves and of ourselves, if we keep relying on our own vaunted wisdom, America is done for. In a short time, twenty years or fifty years at the most, we will have a nation that is no longer free.