By: Thomas F. Booher
Maybe that should be the overarching name that most identifies conservative churches in America today. The SCA (Shattered Church in America) comprises Christians from various conservative denominations that would consent on paper and proudly affirm the authority of Scripture, the trinity, the full deity and humanity of Christ, and the five solas of the reformation. There may be Arminians and Calvinists and people in between. What they are all united in would be the above affirmations, even if different camps emphasized them and expressed them in slightly different ways. From the Bible belt to the burnt over district, these believers see themselves as the champions of orthodoxy, the heart and soul of American spiritual vitality.
I think our heart has almost stopped beating.
We have marketed Christianity. We have made church into a mirror (albeit poor one) of popular culture. We have lost most anything that is distinctly Christian, and we have turned Jesus into a soft, desperate romantic in need of affection. When we have proclaimed the gospel (which isn't often for most), we do so almost apologetically, and we do so without presenting the demands of the gospel- submission to Christ as Lord.
I don't know what will happen to America. I have grave concerns. I also know that God is sovereign and no matter what happens, He will get glory. I take comfort in that, even if it means discomfort for me and my family. What does upset and concern me is the great number of conservative Christians that seem to be unaware of what is happening. Unaware because they don't really care. They will bend to the will of the government, you see. They haven't wanted persecution in the past when there hardly was any, so now that persecution is increasing, they will be all the quieter. They will be compliant when they tell us we can't speak out against homosexuality, when they say we cannot call abortion murder, when they say we cannot preach the gospel because it is seen as a political tool to incite a riot to buck against their system.
America is shirking any standard of truth that comes from without, replacing it with a purely subjective standard of truth that comes from within. This will lead to some form of majority rules, of the dictatorship of the spirit of the age. I think some believers have given up and accepted this is the road America is going down. But I do not think we have yet begun to fight.
We have a secret weapon. It is stronger than any other. It is the sword of the Spirit. It strikes soul and spirit, not flesh and bone (Heb. 4:12). It kills to give new life, but it does not obliterate the person. It renews them. It is an ancient weapon more powerful than the one ring that rules them all, and it is the only weapon capable of saving man and thus saving America.
It is the gospel. More than the gospel, it is the whole Word of God. More than that, it is a man living full of the Word of God. It is a man full of the Spirit, freshly struck by its sword, who is being cut from all his evil and fears to think, speak, and act contra mundum. It enables one to shine the light of Christ from their entire being, not just what they say they believe on paper which is stuffed away in some filing cabinet anyways. It causes one to glow, to shine like lights of the world, because the Light of the World is shining within them.
How do we acquire that fire? We don't, if you are a true believer, you already have it. We all have the Holy Spirit, but we find ways to take spiritual drugs to douse its conviction on us. We find ways to pour water on the fire in our hearts, thinking it's a bad thing instead of a good thing. We even smother the work of the Spirit by appealing to the gospel, convincing ourselves that if we are saved we shouldn't need to feel bad about sin. After all, it's already forgiven. So what we need is to let the Spirit work, rather than try to snuff it out. My hope is that when persecution is fierce enough, the Spirit will leap in the hearts of men so that they cannot snuff it out. My fear is that many will suppress harder, some to their eternal damnation.
So how do we pick up the pieces of our shattered churches? It starts with those who read this post, and all those who know what the Bible says. Firstly, we need to pray. If we have been, we need to pray more fervently. But what do we pray for? That God would work a miracle and save this sinking ship? I think we need to pray that God would save like He always saves- through the gospel, which is a miracle, and through men boldly proclaiming the gospel, which is a miracle too. This is how the church grew in the face of opposition near its inception in Acts 4. Peter and those with him have been preaching the gospel boldly, and have been enabled to do so because of the coming of the Spirit at pentecost, and later because they have prayed to God that they would be bold (4:29, 31). We have the Spirit. We don't need to pray for the Spirit. What we should pray for is that we would not resist the Spirit, that we would seek to live in the Spirit, to not cover but increase its convicting in our hearts. We need to go to the Word of God and read it, to hear it preached, and to preach it to ourselves, asking God that He would cut us to the heart again and again with the sharp point of the Sword of the Spirit. This is the only thing that will embolden us to stand pat in the face of opposition, of increasing persecution.
We not only need to do this for ourselves, but encourage our Christian friends to do likewise. It is not enough to keep this fire in our own hearts. We must seek to spread it to other believers, and to unbelievers through the proclamation of the gospel. The biggest problem I see is that many pastors in conservative Christian churches, in the SCA, are not preaching this. They are not preaching that we should cultivate a love for God by walking and living in the Spirit, likely because they are not preaching to themselves an active cultivation of a love for God by walking and living in the Spirit. If you understand the importance of living in the Spirit, you cannot fail as a pastor to preach it repeatedly, earnestly, passionately, to your congregation. We have feel good sermons from seeker sensitive churches that reflect the world and popular culture, and we have high-browed lecture sermons that tickle ears yet skillfully avoid any blows to the heart. Both are part of the problem, and for those who are reformed like I am we need to confess this and repent, starting with reformed pastors and then their congregations.
My recovery plan for the churches in America is my recovery plan for the nation of America. The church is taking its cues from the world, but it should be the other way around. Pastors need to start preaching, then believers will start living and preaching to those they come in contact with at work, school, and so on, and then unbelievers will come into the sheep fold. What we don't need is everyone to quit their jobs and start street preaching. That would be helpful for some to do this, but what we really need is for all believers to live as salt and light in their areas of influence now- within their own hearts, within their family life, within their friends, and within the outside world that they regularly see because of their jobs, hobbies, etc. If believers did this faithfully, day in and day out, rather than hide our lights under a bushel, the world would change. Hopefully many would be converted, but if not, at least we would be less represented by the fools on television that masquerade as pastors and representations of God and more by the common, every day Christian who is seeking to live faithfully to Scripture.
We need to go back and read Matthew 5, and we need to take it to heart. We, myself included, need to repent to God and confess that we have not been living out the beatitudes. I will close with this portion of Matthew 5, and I ask that you the reader would reflect on it and pray that God would convict you through His Spirit to be salt and light to this lost and dying world, even in the face of reviling and persecution. Only then can the shattered church in America be put back together and the lost see a more complete portrait of Christ to glorify:
“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.