In the United States, many people are praying fervently and trying with all their might to recover a “Christian America.” But even if Jesus, St. Paul, or St. Augustine was our leader, what impact would that have on a very post-Christian population without some massive spiritual awakening taking place first?
It’s one thing for Christians to be living in a post-modern, post-Christian society, but it’s quite another for our churches to be packed with “post-Christian Christians.” What I mean is that unless and until we as Christians commit ourselves to live as Jesus intended, it really won’t matter who occupies the White House or the seats of Congress, or sits in the Parliaments of any other nation.
Even if we can’t generate a predominantly Christian nation here in the USA, we can create a great number of Christian societies in the midst of it through our churches. But the church would have to be very different from what we see right now. By “different,” I don’t mean in terms of the usual religious externals—clothing, appearance, religious language, and all of that—but in the way we act, what we value, and particularly how we treat one another.
“How they love one another!” and “With what great joy they live!” were things the pagan world said of the earliest Christians. Who says that about the church today? Virtually every poll that has come out in the last few decades has simply confirmed the continuous dismal slide of the church toward a complete conformity to the culture. We’re no longer distinguishable in any way from the secular world.
Okay, so most of us have heard this before. Continuing to wring our hands about it won’t make any difference. Here’s what we can do about it: We can humble ourselves, turn from our own sin and selfishness, and give ourselves to prayer, real prayer, fervent prayer—continuing to ask, seek, and knock—until God hears from heaven, forgives our sin, and heals our land (2 Chr. 7:14).
For churches to have any impact on society, change has to begin in us and our families first, and then move to the church. We need to clean up our act, ensure that our family is centered on Christ, and then become healthy, active members of some real, God-honoring church.
It’s been said of nations at one time influenced by Christian faith, that their social problems are primarily the fault of the church. In other words, when the church really is the church—when the word “Christian” means a person in whom the Spirit of Christ dwells—positive things in society can happen.
The medicine of the Gospel works only when taken full strength. And history has demonstrated that the Gospel has the power to revolutionize society even when a minority are believers.
Few doubt that the world is at one of its most critical points in all its history. We can’t make a mistake here. We’re faced with a full-blown call to arms, not with the weapons of the world, but with unrelenting prayer and the power of the Spirit, manifest in sacrificial love and steadfast obedience to whatever God calls each one of us to do.
This just isn’t the time for leaders and Christians to be pursuing along with the world more and more luxury, ease, entertainment, property, toys, and all the rest. The church may have been lulled to sleep by “bread and circuses” as the rest of the culture, but we don’t have to remain so. Listen to the call of the Spirit. It isn’t too late…yet.
Questions for Discussion
1) Where do you see the church going today? Are we moving in the right direction?
2) What can you do personally to resist the slide toward total cultural absorption of the church?
3) Can you think of examples in history where the church has had a major, positive impact on the problems of a society?