Day 3 – Considering Our Marching Orders . . . and the State of the Church
After taking a week to digest some of my early thoughts, I want to come back today to address the Evangelical Christian Community on where we are to go after this election. Today, what I am going to offer is going to seem simple – yet it is something that the Christian community has yet to do. We need to return to our marching orders from Jesus Christ – and have them become of utmost importance to us.
We find our marching orders in a couple of places in Scripture. The first I will turn to is found in Matthew 28:18-20.
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20, NASB)
This is what Jesus told His disciples at the close of Matthew’s gospel. Let’s take a close look at this very familiar passage.
First – This order comes from someone who has “all authority in heaven and on earth.” Therefore we can be assured that this command of Christ matters to us – or at least it should. The greater the authority – the more it should matter. Therefore since this statement comes from ALL AUTHORITY – it should matter MORE than anything else we hear.
Second – He says to make disciples of all the nations. That involves leading them to Christ first – and then leading them to a worldview that is embraced in Scripture. We are to be teaching men and women to be “learners” of Christ. We also might want to get a better grasp on the breadth of our orders. “All the nations” are our target. We are not be become so focused on the United States that we forget we are to take the gospel everywhere to everyone!
Third – We are to do this focusing on several things. We begin by baptizing them – which is a rite of identification. They are to fully identify with the Trinity – God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then we are to teach them to actually obey all that Jesus commanded them. Finally, we are to make sure they know Jesus will be with them all the way to the end – even the end of the age! This means that these orders – remain in effect until it is all over – until Christ returns.
At this point I will try to be brief – but considering all that God has been saying to me – something needs to be said. If we approached our call to disciple others with the passion many approached this past election – things would get awesome in the church in a hurry. There would also be a change in the world around us – because when true revival – true evangelism – and true discipleship are practiced – people change radically. When that happens with larger numbers of people – the whole society begins to change as well. The reason I say this is because of something I read recently in a book entitled, “Vertical Church” by James MacDonald. Let me fire away and list the things I read.
The State of the Evangelical Church in 2012
• Six thousand churches close their doors every year.
• Thirty-five hundred Americans leave the church every day.
• Only one pastor in ten retires while still in ministry.
• Less than 20 percent of Americans attend church regularly.
• Only 15 percent of churches in the United States are growing numerically.
• Only 2 percent of growing churches are effectively winning converts to Christ.
[From MacDonald, James. Vertical Church: What Every Heart Longs for. What Every Church Can Be. David C Cook.]
This is, as MacDonald puts it, epic failure. He goes on to say that in order to keep up with our current population – we would need 10,000 churches a year to be planted in the United States. Last year only about 900 were attempted. Here is the fact of our current situation. We are being overwhelmed by a lost world that could care less about our political opinions. And . . . to be brutally honest . . . we should care far less about their political opinions than we do about the state of their souls! Can we honestly say that the church is making a difference in our nation? Could it be that this past election IS an honest reflection of where our nation is? I’ve always held that we get the government that we deserve – because we get the one we choose.
Let me ask some very hard questions to the church.
1. Is it a reflection of our effectiveness that a member of what theologically is defined as a cult (Mormon) was selected for the so-called conservative candidate?
2. Is it possible that the weak moral stances on abortion and homosexuality actually reflect how well we are speaking of and advancing Biblical morality?
3. Is it possible that our relevance to society is greatly diminished because we are reaching so few people with the gospel?
4. Could it be that this past election reflects on our lack of true life-on-life discipleship in the church?
5. Could it be that a focus on political change has blinded us to the fact that politics has NEVER changed a single human heart and made it possible for anyone to stand before God with their sins forgiven?
6. Are we called to establish a “Christian nation” through political means – or could it be that we’ve forgotten that Christ’s kingdom is “not of this world?”
Now, having asked these questions – I want to offer some positive things for us to DO as we seriously consider where we go from here. I’ll list them below.
1. Commit to praying every day for revival in the church - and spiritual awakening in our nation. I’ve been doing this since January of this year. It is NOT easy – and God will work us over as we do it (revival always starts with our own heart first – and works out from there).
2. Commit to sharing the gospel with one person at least once a week. This may be difficult since many Christians don’t know how to share their faith. Then your first step may be to go to your pastor/church leaders and beg for them to offer not just teaching, but training for this. Once you have the training, make it a point to share Jesus with someone every week – and eventually get to where you do it just about every day – as a lifestyle!
3. Commit to either being discipled . . . or discipling someone else. I work with college students and youth in this area. It is often disturbing to hear where they were prior to this election. BUT – I had to ask myself a serious question. Was I doing anything to instruct them biblically – and to help them see why choosing leaders who take biblical stands on things like abortion and homosexual marriage is important? If I’m not willing to spend an hour or two a week with them – is anyone else going to either? If we want a younger generation who embrace godly conservatism – how are we going to get there? Political activism is not what they need – they need someone to sit down with them and consistently teach them the Bible – and how to walk with God!
4. Commit to glorifying God in all you do. Carry that attitude into how you view God’s kingdom. Is it expanding by churches being planted and Bible studies being started – or – are we just content with our own personal church being a nice place to go. If we want to see our world changed – we will once again have to embrace a radical, God-glorifying, Christ-exalting, evangelically-militant church that truly believes Jesus Christ is Lord – and that He is the only way of salvation from the wrath of God due to sinners.
I cannot guarantee you that this will yield a different result politically in four years. It probably will land you in hot water with some who have become accustomed to your non-confrontational Christianity that is relatively quiet about the Gospel and about their destination if they remain in their sins. Actually, if we embrace these things – we will probably be persecuted – both inside and outside the church. Interesting though, when I read the Gospels and the book of Acts – they were persecuted for these things too? Maybe I ought to think about that as well?
This is not supposed to be a recipe for a return to political power. It is meant to be a call for us to return to spiritual relevance and power. It is a call to matter in our lives – regardless of what happens in future elections. Neither the early church nor our forefathers glorified God for the purpose of winning elections and changing the course of a nation. They did these things because God is worthy of glory, honor, praise, and honestly – every single moment of our lives being lived for His will and purposes. It was just a blessing they received that as they did this – a godly nation was born as well. Maybe we should do more than just read the document they left us. Maybe we should emulate their lives and their purpose as well?