“I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat… What is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be… Come then, let us go forward together with our united strength.”
Sir Winston Churchill (May 13, 1940)
The lobby is full. The gourmet coffee is hot. The music is good. The rooms are big and luxurious. The furniture is comfortable. The captain’s voice puts me at ease. Everyone is smiling and feeling good. The pleasurable experience is worth the price of the morning hassle. A young bride looks at her husband, and warmly remarks, “I’m so glad we came to church today. Hurry, let’s drop off the kids at childcare. I hear the band starting to play and I don’t want to miss the first song!”
Church, do you see the trouble we’re in?
Christian escapism is not biblical Christianity. We’re so comfortable and familiar with our Sunday ‘worship experiences’ that cater to our personal preferences and whims, we don’t realize we’re living in a spiritual wasteland. If the Apostle Paul walked into our church buildings this Sunday to check the fruit of his church-planting ministry, would he recognize the church as the Church he planted? In other words, would the Apostle, who was martyred for the Church, recognize the gathering of a distinct people living in the world but are not of the world? Would Paul see a gathered people demonstrating to the unbelieving world what life looks like living under the rule and reign of the Lord Jesus Christ?
What I am about to say may sound like a harsh critique. It is nonetheless honest, accurate, and intended as a wake up call.
Generally speaking, the church in America is in ruins. And, we’ve grown accustomed to living among the ruins. In fact, we disguise the broken-down spiritual walls with physical veneers and accoutrements to portray stability and strength. Personal preference, privatization, and corporatization have replaced the supernatural dynamism and distinctive functions of the Church. As such, we have redefined the meaning of “church.” Prophetic preaching has been replaced with profit preaching. The congregant is viewed as a customer. The mission of the church is keeping the customer comfortable and coming back. This is the modality of most churches – especially seeker-sensitive churches.
Most evangelical preachers are not preaching outright heresy. We’re so biblically illiterate, I’m not convinced we’d recognize heresy or have the moral courage to call it out if they were. It is the inconvenient truths of the Bible that many pastors omit. All scripture is God-breathed and useful for every matter of salvation, life and godliness. In other words, scripture has implications for all of life, family, and society. Sidestepping certain issues is another way for some pastors to do what seems right in their own eyes. After all, we have to be nice to win people to Christ. Prior to the 1300s ‘nice‘ meant foolish or stupid. The church embodies a mood of amicability, cultural conformity, and consumerism. Lest we agitate or scare away the customer base and their money. It is a sad state we’re in.
Proclamations from church leadership on high to congregants below goes something like this…
“Stand up for Israel! She must protect her borders!”
“But, don’t you dare stand up for righteousness in a school board meeting to protect children! That’s political and divisive!”
“Speaking into cultural issues gets in the way of sharing the Gospel!”
“Submit to Government authority. Wear a mask. Stay at home and church watch online. Romans 13!”
“How dare you question church leadership even as we intentionally avoid transparency and lack theological clarity and moral courage? That’s unloving, disloyal, and divisive!”
“Let the professionals handle how we do church, your job is to submit to our authority, sit down, keep your mouth shut and your wallet open!”
“You are getting in the way of God’s work. Perhaps, you should find another church if you don’t like it here?”
Pragmatism and marketing gimmicks shape modern ministry philosophy. Pastors are rendered to nothing more than managers. Seminaries produce highly specialized class of degreed professionals in order to compete with secular university degrees. Work at a church is just another career path instead of a calling. As such, the people are viewed as problems to be solve instead of sheep to be shepherded. The question I have for most pastors, is; “Would you do what you do for free?”
If Jesus Christ walked into an elder meeting, would he be pleased with the humility, faithfulness, intercessory prayer, theological clarity, moral courage, and pastoral care being provided? Or would Jesus fashion a whip of HDMI cords, tear down the growth charts and building plans, dump the gourmet coffee on the expensive carpet and chase peddlers of religious goods and programs off the property? “My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you make it a den of marketers.”
Do you see the trouble we’re in?
WE’ve got a problem. The church is in ruins and that leads to families, communities and a nation in ruins. Most churches are simply rearranging the furniture on the deck of the Titanic instead of calling for all hands on deck! I’m convinced, we are entering a time of civilizational crisis that no generation has witnessed since the Civil War or the Great Depression. In the words of William Strauss and Neil Howe, we are moving from societal unraveling into an era of crisis and upheaval. (1)
How are you going to think about a time such as this?
What are you going to do about it?
You have a choice that will shape the contours of history.
Will you stick with the status quo or “offer blood, toil, tears and sweat?”
Remember, we are The Church (a people, not a place)
Societal unraveling, crisis, and upheaval are nothing new to the church. Neither are awakenings and revivals new to the church! The church thrives in adverse and austere environments. We are the ekklesia! (2) We are redeemed and called out by Christ. We are a gathered people. Yet, we are distinct. At the same time, we are united from every nation, tribe, and tongue throughout human history. Distinct and united for what? To bear witness to the world to the glory of the King. And show the world what it looks like to live in His Kingdom that is in this world but not of this world. We carry our King’s message – a proclamation of good news and peace to rebels… “Lay down your sinful arms and run into His arms of grace!” Christ says, “Why spill the blood of others when I have spilled my blood for you and many for the forgiveness of sins?”
Why do I take the time to write this?
Because, God put it on my heart. This morning, I happened to listen to a sermon by Alistair Begg from 1994 entitled “Planting a Vision” from Nehemiah 2:11-20. It was a reminder for me of which I am so thankful!
Dark times demand a strong church…
We are a battleship not a cruiseliner.
We must humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. Like the ruined walls of Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s day, the church walls are ruined in our day – even as they are covered with modern veneers. The words of Nehemiah echo down the hallways of history, “Let us rise up and build!” (Nehemiah 2:18)
If Jesus returns today or a thousand years from today I don’t know. However, whether he returns or calls me home, I want to be found going about my King’s business. My business is equipping and mobilizing the Church. Alistair Begg asked the question,”Are you in this world to do something or just looking for something to do?” What is the King’s business you need to be about?
I reorder Churchill’s words for this moment.
“Come then, let us go forward together with our united strength… What is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be…”
In God’s providence, you are here and so am I. Let us pray for God’s vision, provision, protection, and power as we hold to His promises of victory. Let’s rebuild and fortify the church and her witness in this time for God’s glory.
If Christ tarries through this present crisis, then we are sowing and cultivating the fields of the mighty awakening to come!
Nehemiah caused a holy ruckus in his day… We should cause a holy ruckus in our day too?
Author’s Note: I started Forge Room Foundation because God arranged my circumstances (without my permission) and reinforced my calling to equip and mobilize His Church for this time and place. So, that’s what I do come hell or high water. We could use your support as we close out our first year. Consider us in your giving plan and give here…
“Let us not glide through this world and then slip quietly into heaven, without having blown the trumpet loud and long for our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Let us see to it that the devil will hold a thanksgiving service in hell, when he gets the news of our departure from the field of battle.” – C.T. Studd
Join us on Sunday, Nov. 12, for a Forge Room Forum in Fort Worth, Texas. “Critical Social Theory vs. Biblical Unity” Register free here…
Please share your insights by commenting below this post.