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Why Christians Feel Marginalized in Contemporary America Part III

In the previous two posts we saw how American society has moved from a culture in which religion was central to one in which religion is marginalized from the public square.  This change has come about because of a worldview that in the final analysis rejects the centrality of the vision of a world created and redeemed by God.  It opposes Christian claims to truth, undercuts the moral basis of society, impoverishes the meaning of freedom, and allows each person to be his own God.

How then should Christians and their Church respond? Let me suggest five responses.

  1. Repent. We need to realize that we are not unaffected by these philosophical and cultural changes.  In fact, we have often supported them with a very individualistic privatized understanding of the Christian life that often has little concern for God’s creation, human society and at times even for God himself.  Nor does such a privatized faith do justice to the biblical emphasis on the essential role of the Church in the life of faith.
  2. Make Disciples. We are too focused on attracting large numbers of attendees and not on developing mature Christians. This false emphasis on numbers has led to a shift to worship as entertainment rather than as a time where God’s people are in the presence of a holy God who wants to change them into his likeness.  As the culture becomes increasingly hostile to genuine Christian faith and practice, we need to make sure that our people are being conformed to Christ and not the world and that we as a body are prepared to receive sinners who have been severely damaged by contemporary society and help them on the path to restoration.  God will bring in the lost to a Church committed to his will.
  3. Think. All too often we have been satisfied with a simplistic understanding of our faith that produces neither mature Christians nor an effective witness to the world. In a time when even a vague Christian worldview is no longer the cultural norm and when an anti-Christian one is becoming dominant, we need to be obedient to the biblical command to be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who ask you for a reason for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
  4. Persevere. The changes in American society and the shortcomings of the contemporary American church did not happen overnight and they won’t be changed overnight either. The work of repentance, making disciples and serious reflection about the Christian faith will take time and will not produce quick results.  Indeed, this work will be ongoing until Christ returns.  However, the perseverance will also need to be courageous.  It must be realized that we live in a society of competing and clashing worldviews.  When worlds collide, there is conflict and suffering.  A Church that says we love you but cannot condone your sexual immorality will be called judgmental and haters of men.  A Church that says we love you, but Christ is the only way to God will be mocked as proud and bigoted.  A Church that says we love you America but you’re not our God, will be condemned as unpatriotic and disloyal.
  5. Pray. Such perseverance can only be maintained through the help of God’s Spirit; that is, by prayer. We as a people need to call upon God in prayer more diligently and fervently.  Often our worship services have little time devoted to prayer.  Also the majority of our prayers are requests for physical healing or employment.  These are legitimate.  After all, Jesus taught us to pray for our daily bread (Matthew 6:11), but prayer requests in the New Testament are overwhelmingly for the spiritual maturity of the church.  Jesus taught us to pray first of all that God’s name would be hallowed, for the coming of God’s kingdom and the performance of his will on earth (Matthew 6:10).  As we devote ourselves to biblical prayer, we won’t worry about the current situation but will be confident in God’s power to accomplish his will against any opposition.

Christians, let us neither weep nor rejoice over the passing of a previous age that had both positive and negative features.  Rather let us recognize that this is the time in which God in his sovereignty has placed us to serve him, and to remember that his promise to a disciple-making Church is “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

4 thoughts on “Why Christians Feel Marginalized in Contemporary America Part III

  1. well done Bill,
    The 5 points of response are perfect; #2 and #3 are the most neglected, in my experience. It comes form being a populist base church and relates to the general anti intellectual thrust of that kind of culture. Just watch the political words coming from the Republican majority in our state government as they whittle away at our UW system budget and the role of tenure.

    1. Thanks. I have often said that American Evangelicalism is a populist movement and has both the strengths and weakness of populism. Now that popular culture has changed so radically we need to look more closely at ourselves. Not having ever been in a posiiton where tenure is even a consideration I probably underestimate its value.

  2. “…simplistic understanding of our faith” in pt 3 is perhaps why you write these. As Christianity in the US has evolved (largely due to afuence and ease) we indeed have been lulled into too tight a meshing of gov’t culture with biblical culture. Both Paul and Peter explicitly write about transformed minds so as to distinguish the Kingdom that is not of this world (ala Jesus to Pilate) from the one we’ve been entangled in. Thanks Bill.

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