What Now, What Next and Why?
“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world. ” -C.S. Lewis
So, what happened in America? How did we get here?
Like a prophet of old, Francis Schaeffer warned us that there were two idols emerging among us evangelicals. Two things that in and of themselves are certainly not bad (like most idols), but left unchecked would ultimately destroy the church’s moral and spiritual influence as salt and light to the world. Those idols: “Personal Peace and Prosperity.”
Beginning in the 1980’s, Jesus and the American dream became a marriage that was too good to resist. Want a great marriage? Want your kids to turn out right? Want to be upwardly mobile financially? Want to be a success in everything? Jesus is the answer! The gospel became a means to personal fulfillment, success, and comfort. The message of the cross: sacrifice, suffering, and the call to love our neighbor in word and deed, and live holy lives unstained by the world to fulfill the Great Commission was largely buried, diminished, or forgotten. This “feel good” Christian life flourished until recently.
It seemed like it all happened all at once, but it really didn’t. Academic institutions, including Christian ones, had been gradually shifting under the pressure of changing social norms especially with regard to sexuality, marriage and gender issues. Younger Christians were questioning their parents’ faith which seemed to have little impact on their private lives. Many stopped going to weekend worship because they were not really interested in going to “the show” as they called it. We knew we were in real trouble when surveys about Millennials began to surface that they were leaving the faith in droves.
Rapidly changing pop culture, the rise of the internet, the development of mobile devices and platforms, the compromise among Christian churches, homes and academic institutions, and the lack of a vibrant and passionate faith being modeled in most Christian homes combined to bring us to where we are today.
So, what now? What next? And why?
Those are the three questions I’ve been pondering deeply for the last several months. The pandemic and recent election drama certainly have raised the stakes and accentuated the need for a clear direction for God’s people in this unique time in history. The pain C.S. Lewis refers to is now the Christian experience in our own country.
Perhaps some reflection might shed light on our path forward. I wonder if our national trajectory would have been different if our churches had been filled with Christians who “actually lived like Christians.” Need they be perfect? Absolutely not! But where would we be today if we had been passionate in our pursuit of Christ, honest about our faults, transparent with our struggles, and had our priorities focused on purpose rather than prosperity. What if we had defined success by knowing God, loving our neighbor, and discovering His unique calling for our lives and doing it? We would have replaced the “feel good” Christian life with authentic discipleship. Could our current pain be “God’s shout” that it’s time to change? If so, how?
Is change really possible? Yes… but it’s impossible on our own.
Far from being discouraged, or angry at Christians, or feeling in any way superior, let me just suggest that most Christians don’t know how to change. They don’t know how to move from “feel good” to “authentic.” It’s not that they have not tried. The normal pattern is “try hard, try hard, do good, fail” followed by the “try hard, try harder, quietly quit and fake it.” This cycle of frustration that many Christians have experienced is due to a lack of power, clear teaching, and understanding of how God changes a life.
After pastoring for over 35 years and having grown up in a Cultural Christian home where moral values and expectations existed without supernatural power or relational connection to Christ, I know going through the Christian motions is not the answer. I have met, pastored, counseled, and taught thousands of Christians who are sincere, who want to grow, but who are frustrated, tired, and longing for life change. Sadly, they simply do not know or understand how to break free from the small and large bondages to sin, the world’s values, and the spiritual forces of wickedness that thwart their progress.
I’m convinced that… God is shouting in our pain to draw us back to Himself to revive and restore us personally and corporately to fulfill His will!
That’s why I’ve included an advanced chapter from my new book, Yes, You Really Can Change… a clear and practical explanation of Ephesians 4 that will help you and those you love “really change” from the inside out.
God’s greatest moments in history are in seasons of great need, moral decline, and social dysfunction. In each era, He raises up a cadre of “Christians who really live like Christians.”
Together, let’s be those kind of Christians today!
CEO and Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge
P.S. Would you consider pre-ordering the Yes, You Really Can Change book as pre-orders determine availability, the impact, and distribution to God’s people?