I think the Church is in trouble. As I travel around the country and around the world to see what God is doing, I think the Church, referred to in the Bible as the Bride of Christ, in America is stumbling because we’ve taken our eyes off of Jesus, the Bridegroom. Yes, the Bridegroom is still storming the gates of Hell, let me assure you of that, and the only thing that will invigorate our souls and ravish our hearts is for us to sweep away the toxic fog of self-indulgence and turn our eyes back onto Him, the Bridegroom. I believe that the Church is the most powerful force of good in the world today.
There’s a story of a French historian about 170 years ago who traveled around America to look at the land and consider what makes America so great. He said that he went to the fields and he saw the forests and the rivers, but her greatness is not in that. He saw her mines, her mass commerce, but her greatness was not there. He even examined her Congress and Constitution, but her greatness was not there. Instead, the historian concluded: “Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.”
I think I would say that a little differently. I think America was great because her churches were great. If America's churches ever cease to be great, America will cease to be great. And so the question is, what does the Church need to do in order to ignite followers of Christ to go on the offensive once again? Winston Churchill said during the time of World War II that, “Wars are not won by evacuations.” Maybe you’ve heard the statement, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for men to do nothing.” When people ask me what I think is the greatest hindrance for the building of the church in America, I say, “It’s Christians who want to sneak into Heaven without ever considering the radical call that Jesus has on our lives.”
I believe that you and I are in the midst of a transformational generation. We have the spiritual responsibility as Christians to show people the freedom that they can have through Christ’s cross. Luke 4 contains one of the greatest passages about freedom in the Bible. In this passage, Jesus stands up in the synagogue, unrolls the scroll written by the prophet Isaiah, and reads:
“‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.’
“Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’” -Luke 4:18-21
“I’m it, and I’m all in,” is essentially what Jesus is saying. He brings freedom to the poor; He preaches good news to the prisoners; He offers freedom from captivity to the oppressed; He restores sight to the blind; and He releases the burden of sin from the heart. Yes, that’s Jesus, and He longs to do the same today in our time.
What makes the church great? The church is great when Christians are committed to support the right cause, to live in the right way, and to embrace the right values. Let’s think about what it means to be committed to the right cause.
We as Christians have a great cause. The Apostle Paul wrote, “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:20-21).”
And so even if someone came along to say, “Paul, we’re going to kill you,” Paul’s response would be, “Eh, no problem! To me, to die is gain.”
“Well, we don’t want that attitude. I’ll tell you what we are going to do. We are going to let you live.”
“Well, fantastic! For me to live is Christ,” Paul responds again.
“Well, we don’t like that attitude either. So what we’re going to do, we’re going to beat you up, we’re going to take your assets away from you, we’re going to make your life miserable.”
“No problem,” Paul replies.
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” -2 Corinthians 4:17
Jesus and His purpose, life, and work changes everything. That is why you and I as Christians need to embrace Jesus as the reason for not retreating. Let’s continue to encourage one another, and invite those around us to come and see what we have found in Christ.
John's travels for ministry behind the Iron Curtain led him to found East-West Ministries International in 1993. John and his wife, Susie, live in Dallas, Texas and have a grown daughter and two grandchildren.