Is the Church Un-Prepared for Opportunity?
Dr. Kevin Shrum
We live in interesting times, do we not? Morally and spiritually, as well as economically and politically, it seems that everything has been turned on its head. And in the middle of these tumultuous times, the church seems to have been caught, as we would say where I grew up, ‘standing flatfooted.’ In other words, it appears that the church has been surprised by the sinfulness of sin, the increasing secularization of society, and the continual de-Christianizing of the Christian West in particular.
Such changes have morphed into heated discussions on the redefinition of marriage, the viability of alternative lifestyles and orientations, and the legitimacy of the church itself…and the list could go on. People outside the church respond, ‘What’s the big deal? Religion is out-of-date, we’re more scientific in orientation and less focused on fables and myths.’ People inside the church, when they crawl out from under the rock where they often live, are absolutely shocked at the exponential explosion of anti-Christian, non-Christian, and secular developments.
But should we be surprised at these events? And should we not view the times in which we live as a God-ordained judgment on sin as well as a God-wrought opportunity for the power of the gospel? I, for one, think that the gospel shines best when it seems darkest. No place was more secular than the Athens of Acts 17. Yet, the Apostle Paul preached the gospel with blazing boldness. And what was the response? Some believed, some made fun of Paul and the gospel, and others said they would give further consideration to the gospel (Acts 17:32-34). Should we expect any less?
More importantly, Paul didn’t analyze culture through geo-political lens or through an economic window. He wasn’t discouraged by the sinfulness of sin and/or the secularization of culture. Paul viewed all things through the gospel of Jesus Christ. The results were amazing. Paul had more confidence in the gospel than he had in any potential discouragement he experienced from the sinfulness of sin and/or the secularization of culture. Further, the gospel burned a path across the Middle East and Western Europe, a flame that leaped across the Atlantic and for more than 200 years burned a path across a new nation called America. In essence, the spiritual fire produced by the gospel boldly preached was fueled by and burned up the dry, parched ground of sinful secularism.
What’s the point? We live in days of great peril as well as tremendous opportunity, depending on one’s perspective. The difference between the two is how one perceives either the efficacy or the impotency of the gospel. Those first century believers lived in perilous times, yet without the amenities we know from modernity they conquered the world because they radically believed the power of gospel of Jesus Christ to transform lives that in turn transformed cultures.
What must we do? Is such a revolution possible again? What are we to do? 1) Let us reaffirm our belief in the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. 2) Let us take our confidence from the gospel and not from political movements, economic trends or slick marketing campaigns. 3) Let us ‘come out’ of our religious closets – church fortresses – and make ourselves known as loving, truthful Christians. 4) Let us engage culture with the gospel not in spite of the gospel. 5) Let us not hook our religious wagons to political machines thinking that the kingdom of God comes through worldly power instead of by Spirit-empowered means.
6) Let us live with the kind of gospel confidence that enables us to be unembarrassed of living a transformed, Christ-centered life. 7) Let us prepare to joyfully live behind ‘enemy lines,’ not expecting favorable decisions from pop, political and/or judicial culture. 8) Let us live with gospel contentment and peace, though in the minority. 9) Let us saturate our minds and hearts with God’s inerrant Word as the lead weapon in our spiritual struggles. 10) Finally, let us gather with other gospel believing Christians to preach and serve the world as salt and light. With such gospel embracing confidence and commitment perilous times morph into seasons of opportunity.