"Great civilizations are not murdered. Instead, they take their own lives" - Arnold Toynbee, author and historian.
In our home, I have a plaque prominently displayed that reads, "Make sure that you fulfill the ministry you have received in the Lord" (Colossians 4:17). The charge was given to Archippus whom Paul called his "fellow soldier" (Philippians 1:2). Was he holding back in a time of intense spiritual warfare?
We are unmistakably in a similar time, where pornography is a "click away", gay marriage has been normalized, institutionalized and celebrated, socialism is seducing masses, physician-assisted suicide has been legalized, and now, abortion at any time and for any reason alongside killing of newly born babies is acceptable.
When pastors should have been hyperventilating amidst our cultural catastrophe, speaking boldly and equipping people on issues transcending politics, many capitulated to cowardice and avoided controversy to pursue non-offensive church growth strategies. Spineless shepherds succumbing to this seduction should reverse course or consider resigning lest their example influences others.
"What man is there that is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go and return to his house, lest his brothers heart faint as well as his heart in the day of battle" (Deuteronomy 20:8).
How many pastors will do almost anything to draw more people when the root problem is not new plans and shuffling personnel but repenting for not fulfilling the ministry they've received from the Lord? May we follow another shepherd, David, who exclaimed, "My eyes shed streams of tears because people do not keep your law" (Psalm 119:136).
In the 19th century, Charles Finney led in the battle to stop slavery. Pastors criticized him for getting “political “instead of” just preaching the gospel. He responded by admonishing pastors: "Address this monster… call it sin! …It is doubtless true that one of the reasons for the low state of religion at the present time is that many churches have taken the wrong side on the subject of slavery, have suffered prejudice to prevail over principle, and have feared to call this abomination by its true name."
Civil War, societal breakdown, and the loss of 620,000 lives was the toll from the church sleepwalking through what should've been its finest hour.
Cowardice and Disobedience
Another time multitudes of pastors and therefore much of the church slumbered to its collective shame was during the Civil Rights era. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people."
When the soul of our nation is being torn asunder as it is today just like then, it is time for leaders to chose the fear of God rather than fear of man and financial security. Multitudes are awakening as they observe what's resulted from the pastoral negligence.
Scores of church members now accept homosexuality along with the adoption of children by gay and lesbian couples. Entire denominations ordain gay and lesbian ministers and officiate same-sex "weddings." Multitudes of young people in our churches embrace the gay, bisexual, and transgender lifestyle as okay along with cohabitation before marriage.
Many leaders have been hiding rather than heralding biblically informed moral positions. It's time to challenge those reluctant to lead responsibly.
I experienced this first hand a few years ago when I was told in a church to stop putting out objective voter guides because they thought it might upset African American members, and to cease working on an educational video exposing ten deceptions of gay "marriage" as it would be too controversial, possibly inviting death threats. This, they said, would be a "deal breaker" concerning continuance in the church.
I was soon let go with some severance without any announcement to the church. When I inquired if something could be said to the people I served for years I was told, "Just go. Don’t come back."
We are directed by God to be "salt" influencing society positively as an antiseptic holding back decay. We're to winsomely communicate and demonstrate the Gospel and unchanging biblical truth. Addressing issues truthfully and redemptively is nonnegotiable.
"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how shall it be made salty? It is from then on good for nothing but to be thrown out and to be trampled underfoot by men" (Matthew 5:14-16).
Many pastors and people today sit silently on the sidelines because of too narrow an understanding of "the Gospel" and the kingdom of God. When Jesus commanded us to "make disciples of all nations... teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you" (Matt.28:19-20), He meant more than "trust Me for forgiveness to go to heaven" but bring the domain of your King to this world.
His directive was teaching "all things I have commanded you." This entails all He taught in the Gospels as well as the Epistles that come by divine inspiration. Serious about fulfilling our ministry during these "perilous times" (2 Timothy 3:1), let’s reject any pull towards "cultural acceptability" and unscriptural "inclusivity". Let's do some evaluation.
Do I seek the approval of the world over faithfulness to God's Word?
Am I compassionately declaring that a homosexual lifestyle is a sin? Am I silent in speaking the truth on same-sex "marriage" as being sinful and contrary to God's design for man and woman in marriage?
Am I afraid to say abortion and infanticide are both serious sins?
As a leader, have I avoided controversial issues to not offend members or lose financial support? Can I say with Paul, "I did not keep from declaring to you the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27)?
Discerning the Times
Jesus once upbraided a crowd for readily forecasting the weather but failing to realize the urgency of the hour. "Why do you not know how to discern this time?" (Lk.12:56).
He's saying the same to us today as we're experiencing a staggering sea change where pride, godlessness, immorality, violence, perversion, and rebellion to God's commandments are at an all-time high. We're in a period of "training for reigning" so we'll not hold back.
This is not a time to say, "Let others get involved"... "God is Sovereign"..."I'll just pray... I'm busy"… "We’re called to just preach the gospel"… "It's all going down anyway."
"If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point that the world and the devil are at the moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages is where the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides, it's merely flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point." – Martin Luther
A.W. Tozer said, "When we become so tolerant that we lead people into a mental fog and spiritual darkness, we are not acting like Christians, we are acting like cowards." As Paul told Archippus, "Make sure you fulfill the ministry you received in the Lord." Let's rise up in faith before another Civil War unfolds. May this be the Church's finest hour leading to America's Third Great Awakening.