A local pastor friend of mine exhorted his congregation to “Turn off FOX News; its making you paranoid.” While it may be great counsel, it is important to recognize FOX News is only one of numerous voices making us paranoid as it relates to Christians living in our current culture and society.
In the Church today looking forward, far too many of us have come to believe and accept our ticket to ride a certain hand basket on its way to a certain destination. Yes! The times are changing at the pace of the Internet, and our culture and society are increasingly opposed to the values and lifestyle of the follower of Jesus, but I see great hope for what will develop, by necessity, because of these realities. There are many reasons to exchange your ticket for a more hopeful future.
1. This is nothing new
God’s people have always had to live among a dominant culture that does not affirm their values, lifestyle, or their claim to One Truth. This is nothing new. It may feel new to us who have been believers through a more comfortable time, but we cannot disregard the reality John reminds us of; “this world and its desires are passing away” (1 John 2:17). We will not and cannot turn the world around, and we cannot pretend that this opposition is anything new. We stand on a the shoulders of history in this reality.
2. The Value of the Local Church
Do not entirely believe the statistics that portray a declining church in America. Understand that correct statistics misinterpreted are false statistics. The Church is still and will continue to be quite large. The question will be whether its impact will be strong in the coming generations. Its impact will be stymied if all of its talent, time, energy, and resources continue to be used outside its walls instead of through it. The next generation needs a reason and a reminder to fall in love with the local church. We cannot continue to separate from “religious institutions” and wonder why they are not lasting.
3. Higher Call To Discomfort
As circumstances grow less comfortable for the believer, it becomes more impossible for the Christian to simply float in and out and up and down on the waves of the culture. The tide is changing so rapidly, the future generation will be stronger believers because they will have to be. The Christian will be increasingly marginalized in our culture, but that means the true believers will be exactly that; TRUE valiant believers. The days of lukewarm comfortable Jesus following are swiftly drawing to a close. That is good news!
4. Vision Is Unheard; not Unspoken
Young Christians want to be part of the visioning to bring about new life and new energy to the Church. The future is coming at us faster than ever before, and keeping up will require the Christian to be as fast. There are young Christians prepared to do this with a commitment to truth. They are listening to the same things in the media, which says our future is doomed. When we believe this perception, we devalue the voice of young Christians who are prepared to stand valiantly in this culture.
5. Discipleship Is Key
When you look at the Chinese Church, you will not actually see anything. The Chinese Church is growing by droves in a country where Christianity is criminal. By necessity this underground Church is incredibly committed and unwavering. As American Christians are increasingly marginalized, one-on-one discipleship is going to be more and more vital in the spread of Christianity here.
6. The God-card
Ultimately, we must always trust in a sovereign God over and above whatever happens in our culture. I would close with the hope we all ought to have forever. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him—but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.” (1 Cor. 2:9-10)
The opposite of love is not hate; it is fear, and love drives out fear. We are not given the spirit of fear. As we look to the future, we have no reason to fear if we have truly had an experience of the loving God who will remains sovereign, regardless of the paranoia you hear on television.