One generation later
Pause here church watchers. How many Christian sects or denominations are there anyway? Well, as one of the websites admits, that depends on who you ask. Still, while we quibblers can debate the facts about our diversity, few of us will argue that we're splintered along every kind of preference lines we can imagine. A friend told me the other day that he has been named Pastor to Left Handed people at his church. Ha! Perhaps a little comic relief. But, it's not funny. We're now wearing political labels too. Evangelicals are the bad guys.
The people in the corner office may label it as a marketing or branding issue, that those of us under the evangelical tent are profiled as racist homophobes in today's cultural alignment. That so many evangelicals stood in line on November 8 to vote for Donald Trump simply extends the media left's characterizations of him to the rest of us. Ho hum! Nothing new here. Under the shallow surface of such stereotypes, however, there may be a loss of mission that accentuates our denominational and confessional traits and sets us up for such misconceptions. It's been trending in social media since the election and most of us would agree with the assessment at some level: somewhere over the last two millennia we've stopped making disciples that make disciples that make disciples, ad infinitum.
One Bible passage has been gnawing at me for a couple of years now. It's an ax I've ground often. If I've had the privilege of preaching in your church since retirement these same verses may have been the central exposition of the message that day. Listen up---
And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose
another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he
had done for Israel. And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the
Lord and served the Baals.
Judges 2:10-11, ESV
This is an astounding turn for the nation of Israel that predates the New Testament mission to make disciples of all nations. Throughout the Pentateuch the people of Israel were instructed to teach the things of God and what he had done in the history of the nation to their children, lest they forget their covenant with him. It's a keen marker in the Book of Joshua, the renewal of that covenant, and the people's commitment to fulfill their promises to God. Then, Joshua and the cohorts who had guided Israel through their forty years in the wilderness died. And, the generation that assumed their leadership "did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel. And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord..." (Judges 2:10-11, ESV). Israel lost their spiritual distinctives in one generation.
So, here we are in the 21th century with thousands of sects and denominations and sub-groups and house churches, reformed and not reformed and almost reformed and two points deformed, being labeled as Nazi supremacists and nationalists by the children and grandchildren we failed to disciple. What is worse, we tend to criticize their lack of depth and positions on the issues that further insulates them from Gospel witness. When we miss the windows of discipleship we may be contributing to several generations of anti-disciples. How does this happen in what most of us would label as a Christian nation at some point in our national epoch? There are several thoughts---
1. Like Israel, we've assumed our children will be like us.
2. For fear of alienating them we've been relatively non-verbal with them.
3. In many respects, we've depended on the state to educate them.
4. Far too often, we've failed to tell them our stories of faith.
5. Faith has been a Sunday only reality for many of us.
So, what do we do? Once again, there are immediate answers and more long term approaches---
1. We must demonstrate a Christian response, especially in our language.
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your
speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you
ought to answer each person.
Colossians 4:5-6, ESV
2. Christian character should be extended to those who are confused.
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart,
and a humble mind.
1 Peter 3:8, ESV
3. We must pursue the great commission with great resolve.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the
Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have
commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Matthew 28: 19-20, ESV
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in
the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:58, ESV
4. We must set an example of prayerful support for our new President.
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be
made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a
peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.
1 Timothy 2:1-2, ESV
Every day I am burdened by the many visible Christians and spiritual leaders who continue to fan the flames of dissent regarding our government and the recent elections. We cannot expect the next generation to prayerfully support and intercede for the government when we are verbally antagonistic toward it. This must stop soon.
These are critical times. We have sown the wind in many ways and are currently reaping the whirlwind in our response the surprising results of the election and the national response to it. The choice opportunity of the hour is for believers to step up, with our leaders out front, to bring the joys of redemption and the promise of eternity to the realities of our times.
Jesus said it---"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33, ESV).
That's it! Peace!