“When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan.”
We are living in a time of intense spiritual and cultural conflict in America… and the world. We are in the midst of a great societal revolution in which the forces of postmodernism have successfully marginalized the Judeo-Christian tradition, with the result that religiously derived values and morality are no longer admissible in the public arena.
The prophet Amos spoke to the secularized culture of his day, and his Spirit-inspired words are an accurate description of the secular culture in ours: “They have rejected the law of the Lord, and have not kept his statutes… their lies have led them astray… they hate him who reproves in the gate, and they abhor him who speaks the truth.” (Amos 2.4; 5.10)
The conservative right continues to embrace the core principles of the Constitution and the American founding, while the progressive left rejects those timeless principles and seeks to establish new policies that are a radical departure from the beliefs and practices that produced the freedom and opportunity that have shaped our nation and its people.
As a result of this intractable impasse, discontent and division in America are at an all time high, and the politicians, pundits, and provocateurs have no solution. In fact, these pseudo leaders seem intent on pouring fuel on the fire of our nation’s escalating moral confusion and conflict.
What of the church? Sadly, because of its tendency to be inward-oriented and disconnected from culture-shaping institutions, the church has been largely ineffective in the face of this massive social revolution despite the fact that the number of professing, church-going Christians in America remains very high.
The Christian community has allowed itself to be relegated to a place in our culture that is privately engaging but publicly irrelevant. In other words, Christians in America are saved, not always significant.
Note: Thankfully, there are churches in America who are deeply committed to Jesus and having a powerful impact in our nation. However, we need more high-impact churches. A lot more.
Further, the church increasingly assimilates the thought and behavior patterns of the world. A great concern is that American culture is influencing the church more than the church is influencing American culture.
As Amos and the other prophets make clear to us, God’s primary call, his address to us, always has two dimensions: revelation and response, summons and invitation, law and grace, demand and offer. Amos and the prophets also make clear that how we respond to God’s call determines whether we partake of his retribution or his redemption, his judgment or his salvation. “Seek good and not evil, that you may live,” Amos proclaims, “and so the Lord, the God of hosts will be with you… Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.” (Amos 5.14-15)
When God speaks through the voice of the prophets or the pen of the apostles, it is our duty to respond. A life lived in right response to God is a life lived before the audience that supercedes all others—the Audience of One. As those called by Christ, we are not to live our lives in response to the fads and fashions of contemporary culture; we are not to be guided by personal preference or political agendas; rather, we are to live our lives in response to His voice, His vision, His call and commands.
The call of Christ is unequivocal. It is crystal clear: “Come, follow me,” Jesus said. To respond to His call we must be willing to forsake anything and everything that would compromise our allegiance to Him. The call of Jesus allows neither refusal nor rivals: it costs us every allegiance that competes with him and every practice that contradicts his lordship. We must be willing to forsake possessions, position, even family, if the situation requires, for the sake of following Him. Indeed, to follow Christ a man must die to himself. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
It is time—indeed, long past time—for the church to respond to the call of Jesus. I contend that our impact in our generation can be restored if Christians address and restore the integrity of the church in the following five critical areas:
- Biblical integrity.
We are experiencing a loss of the authority of the Word of God. We need to recover our commitment to God’s word.
- Spiritual integrity.
We are experiencing a loss of authentic spirituality. We need a revival of our life in the Spirit.
- Intellectual integrity.
We are experiencing a loss of sound thinking. We need to renew our minds.
- Relational integrity.
We are experiencing a loss of healthy and strong interpersonal skills. We need to rebuild our relationships.
- Social and cultural integrity.
We are experiencing a loss of the relevance and impact of the church in society. We need to re-establish the church as salt and light in society.
In the coming weeks we will look carefully at each of these five critical areas. May we trust God and do the work of restoring the integrity of the church.