“God, I pray you hold back the economic chaos that is flooding our nation. Hold back the political corruption; restrain the social turmoil so that we can reach our destiny.”
I listened to this prayer recently in a local church. The pastor passionately asked God to hold back the trends that are harming the cultural, economic, political and social fabric of the United States. To be honest, I was confused.
Unless I’m reading a different bible, a Christian’s destiny, and the church’s (insert “you and me”) destiny is to be like Christ, and to impact the culture, one life at a time, like Jesus did. Right? Didn’t Jesus say that he calls and equips us to:
- Love others like Jesus did.
- Believe the truth, God’s Word that Jesus taught.
- Live empowered by the Holy Spirit, as Jesus was.
- Be transformed, and take on the character that Jesus had.
- Work to change the world by serving and sacrificing my interests for others, as Jesus did.
Looking deeper, the bible records God’s interaction in the history of his people. When Israel failed to live for His purposes, and chose to put their own desires ahead of God’s word and will, He took a proactive role. To get their attention, God created circumstances meant to draw his people back to a wholehearted relationship with him. God sent:
- Political turmoil and corrupt leaders
- Economic stress and downturns
- Cultural decay from secular influences
- Cold-hearted preachers
- Military conflict
Ancient Israel sounds a lot like 21st century America.
By every measure, the Church of Jesus Christ (regardless of your denomination or tradition) is losing ground on living our destiny, and has been for the past 40 years. By every measurement, Jesus’ church has less of an impact on society while looking more like the world for the past three generations.
Researchers, pastors and political pundits agree on one thing. We’re living in a post-Christian America. For four or five decades, we’ve bowed our knee to the icons of success, entertainment, career and the desire to look like the secular world. The modern American church spends more on buildings, multimedia equipment, concerts and seminars that we send to support missions. Growing churches (most often) flee the inner city poor and create sprawling campuses that serve their congregations’ needs, while urban neighborhoods continue to decay because of fatherlessness, crime, poverty and broken families. God’s church, you and I, are his solution to these problems.
Jesus said, “Be salt and light.” Salt prevents food from decaying, and makes someone thirsty for living water. Light illuminates a path out of in darkness. We’re charged with going into the world to make disciples, to care for the poor, heal the sick, and set the captives free.
Hmmmm, how are we doing?
So Pastor, what was your prayer about? In light of the post-modern church’s behavior in post-Christian America, I can only compare your prayer to a rebellious and immature teenager. He doesn’t do his chores, is failing classes at school, fights with his siblings, argues with his parents, and then wants dad’s car keys on the weekend to go hang out with his friends.
Hebrews says that God disciplines and corrects the children that he loves. Maybe it’s time for Jesus’ body, you and I, to return to fulfilling our destiny. It’s our responsibility to work, not a right to receive. Like the adolescent, allowing us to suffer the consequences of our own choices is God’s way of bringing us to repentance, back to serving Him with our whole heart, giving him our whole life.