I am told that there is a Chinese curse that goes: “May you live in interesting times.” Well, whether it is a curse or not is perhaps still up for debate, but I think that it is safe to say that we are indeed living in such times. As a nation, America is more divided than it has been in my short lifetime. We are at loggerheads over political ideologies, ethnic backgrounds and the color of our skin, gender roles and who may fill each, and socio-economic classes. College, which was once believed would be the ticket to upward mobility, no longer serves that purpose but often leaves students buried in debt.
On one level, big business seems to be gobbling up all of its smaller competitors but at the same time, the internet has created a whole new class of entrepreneurs who have made millions of dollars marketing themselves in innovative ways to a very selective group of followers. Violence and crime is rampant while at the same time many things that once were considered crimes (like marijuana use or erotica) have become more or less mainstream. Marriage has been redefined by the courts to include homosexual partners and most likely, will soon be redefined to include polyamorous relationships if not pedophilia. Nope, we do not live in the world my parents grew up in anymore.
So, are you depressed yet? I don’t mean to depress you (and there is good news…just keep reading), but I do mean to look at the world plainly and honestly through Christian eyes. So, bear with me…
Sadly, the church in America is not better off than the culture. Divorce rates in the church are statistically as high as divorce rates in the broader society around us. Increasingly, people are identifying themselves as “spiritual” but are rejecting any sort of organized religion — preferring a religion of their own making. The mega-church model is largely just a re-packaging of Finneyism and are destroying their communities and creating new “burned out districts” in their wake. And for fear of offending (and then losing) members, the church has largely abdicated its responsibility to preach repentance and correct the spirit of the age.
The largest church in America (Joel Osteen’s congregation) is preaching a non-judgmental prosperity gospel and the second largest church in America (Andy Stanley’s church) is preaching that Christians should “unhitch” themselves from the Old Testament and the Ten Commandments — a position that has been held to be heretical by the church for 1800 years. The Word of Faith movement, founded by Kenneth Hagin and made popular by people like Kenneth Copeland and Joyce Meyer, claims that Christians can harness the power of God through the use of words, speaking things into reality — a view that has historically been considered a form of witchcraft by the church.
Homosexuality is being redefined in the church so that it is no longer considered a sin from which one ought to repent, but a legitimate and God-ordained tendency that ought to celebrated. And while this was not uncommon in liberal circles of Christianity, the conversation is being had within conservative, reformed congregations at this point (the “Revoice” conference, for example, is being hosted by a PCA congregation in the midwest). The Southern Baptist Convention is debating having a female president, claiming that the president is not a preacher, and then putting Beth Moore forward as a candidate, neglecting the fact that she regularly speaks and preaches to audiences of mixed men and women. With the conservative churches doubling back and reconsidering historically held positions, is it any wonder that the broader culture no longer respects us when we speak of absolute principles?
Okay, okay…I promised you some good news. The good news is that despite the depravity of the culture, of the church, and of the parody-church (those claiming to be the church but are heretical), the Gospel has remained the same. In fact, with the veneer of Christianity fading away from our culture, not only does depravity become that much more clear, but the Gospel becomes that much more defined as light in the darkness. And that means we have today more opportunities to share the Gospel with people than did our parents and our grandparents before them. The key is, we just need to equip ourselves to do it. Sure, that takes work, but there is no more important work that you could be doing than this (and there are more resources today than ever — we just need to use them).
So, when you look at the world around us and just scratch your head at what is going on, just remember, that is your invitation to engage people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But, will you?