As Christians, we must let our light shine before an onlooking, skeptical, and mocking world.

By Michael Brown Published on March 20, 2017

Whenever I hear Christian leaders talk about the inevitable collapse of the church of America (or elsewhere) I ask myself, “But hasn’t Jesus risen from the dead? Didn’t He ascend to the right hand of the Father? Hasn’t all authority in heaven and earth been given to Him? And aren’t we commanded to go and make disciples in His name and by His authority?”

If so, how then we can speak of any inevitable collapse of the church (or, specifically, of Christian society), regardless of how inevitable that collapse appears to human eyes?

I therefore differ strongly with conservative journalist Rod Dreher who has written, “The culture war that began with the Sexual Revolution in the 1960s has now ended in defeat for Christian conservatives. … Don’t be fooled: the upset presidential victory of Donald Trump has at best given us a bit more time to prepare for the inevitable” (my emphasis; from his new book The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation).

The culture war has hardly “ended” and there is nothing “inevitable” about the collapse of Christian society in America, although, without question, the patient is mortally ill and in need of radical surgery and rehabilitation.

The culture war has hardly “ended” and there is nothing “inevitable” about the collapse of Christian society in America, although, without question, the patient is mortally ill and in need of radical surgery and rehabilitation. But the heart is still beating, there are millions of committed believers throughout the land, prayers are ascending to heaven 24/7 for another great awakening, and it’s actually possible that America’s best days are still ahead, regardless of how bleak things look right now (and without a doubt, they look very, very bleak). Are not all things possible to him or her who believes?

A Backsliding Church

What makes today’s spiritual pessimism all the more galling is that, in my view, the biggest reason for America’s current moral and spiritual decline is the backslidden, unengaged, carnal state of the much of the church. In other words, America is messed up because the church has been messed up, because we who profess faith in Jesus have all too often been superficial in our commitment, as a result of which the world has changed us rather than us changing the world.

The church is supposed to function as the conscience of the nation

When it comes to the mainline denominations, in many instances there has been a wholesale departure from the authority of Scripture and the lordship of Jesus, leading to the abandonment of our moral compass.

When it comes to evangelical Christians, we have often preached a narcissistic, “what’s in it for me” gospel, a self-centered message that bypasses the cross and calls for virtually no sacrifice or service, a message that empowers the sinner rather than transforms the sinner, leading to “Christian” rappers who talk about Jesus in the midst of profanity-laced rants (all while still getting high, going to strip clubs, and partying), and to “Christian” models and actresses who strip down in the most seductive poses, simply because it’s part of their job — and I assure you they can find big churches in America who will welcome them with open arms and celebrate their “liberty” in Jesus. (It’s one thing to welcome the worst of sinners into our midst with open arms and without condemnation; it’s another thing to celebrate carnality and compromise.)

Little wonder that the rest of the public is so confused. After all, the church is supposed to function as the conscience of the nation.

Fulfilling Our Mission in the World

When it comes to social issues like abortion and homosexuality, the vast majority of Christian conservatives in our country have no almost regular engagement with women having abortions and engage in very little compassionate outreach to those who identify as LGBT. As for those of us who do get involved in social issues, we tend to do it politically, looking to the government (especially the Republican Party) to fix things, as if passing a law alone would “fix” the desecration of life or reverse the breakdown of the family.

In that regard, Dreher is quite right in urging us not to put our trust in the political system, and I wholeheartedly affirm his conclusion: “We are going to have to change our lives, and our approach to life, in radical ways. In short, we are going to have to be the church, without compromise, no matter what it costs” (his emphasis).

But being the church means heeding the words of Jesus, who calls us out of the world when it comes to participating in sin but into the world when it comes to fulfilling our mission, which is to shine like lights in dark places, to boldly proclaim the message of redemption, to reach out to hurting and suffering sinners, to make a difference in the communities in which we are planted, and to stand for truth and righteousness “without compromise, no matter what it costs.”

If we back down and retreat, who will reach this generation with the good news?

After all, we’re here as the Lord’s ambassadors, declaring the gospel to a dying world, and if we back down and retreat, who will reach this generation with the good news?

But to say, “We’ve failed so far so let’s concede the war” is like a coach saying to his team at halftime, “We hardly played at all in that first half, which is why we’re way behind, so let’s quit now before it gets worse.” To the contrary, he sounds a loud wakeup call, urging his team to play like never before, since the rest of the game is still ahead.

As theologian Douglas Wilson said, “I am against surrendering in any case, but I am really against surrendering before the battle is really joined.”

The solution, then, is not to retreat into some kind of monastic refuge but rather to repent of our sins, to give ourselves afresh to the Lord, and to let our light shine before an onlooking, skeptical, and mocking world. That is the gospel way.

In the words of Jesus, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:14-16; for further scriptural exhortations, see here).

The Light the World Needs

I’m all for separating ourselves from the pollution of the world as much as possible. At one point, 95 percent of the families in my home congregation homeschooled their children. And for many years of our marriage, Nancy and I chose not to have a TV in our house. I have other friends who live in shared community, while still others have left business and careers to serve and live among the poorest of the poor. At the same time, I am not for withdrawing from our calling to go into the world and touch the lost.

If America is determined to go to hell, then let it go to hell over our dead bodies.

By all means, then, let us live with a sense of holy urgency. After all, we’re here for a moment and then gone, with eternity ahead of us. And let us make a fresh, complete, and uncompromising commitment to our Lord. But let us stand up, not shrink back, raising our voices for the world to hear and living our lives for the world to see. And if America is determined to go to hell, then let it go to hell over our dead bodies.

As Charles H. Spurgeon famously said, “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.”

To our knees, then, in holistic repentance, and to our feet, in wholehearted obedience. This generation desperately needs the message of new life in Jesus — the message you and I have. Don’t hide it under a basket!

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  • Autrey Windle

    AMEN!

  • eddiestardust

    Amen!

  • Howard Rosenbaum

    Voices like Mr Browns are indicative of that call the Spirit of God is making to the body in this time of conflict & confusion among those who would be strangers to His gentle yet pronounced articulation. This unseen presence is affirming a righteous standard in the midst of a culture that has largely forgotten the concept as it pertains to godliness. I prefer to believe that this episode of contemporary western culture is simply a prelude to an outpouring of compassion & power that perhaps only a proverbial handful of believers
    has any affinity for at present. God is not to be outdone by culture, political society, media charades or any other compromise heralded as reasonable & correct by those who themselves contradict the meaning of those words. This would not be the first time God has diminished the effects of a culture gone wrong – in spite of those who refuse , at present to
    be an active part of the equation …

    • Autrey Windle

      I’m just sayin’… My Father likes to show now and then why He is more than just Father of the year; He’s Father of all time, space, creation and Holy Order. I just love it when He takes me to the Father/ daughter dance and shows off a little or a whole lot! He knows I love surprises…

      • Howard Rosenbaum

        That just put a smile on my face …!

  • Patmos

    “For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?” -Romans 3:3

  • Sandra Alexander

    thanks, Mr. Brown! Giving up is not an option!

  • Royce E. Van Blaricome

    “Are not all things possible to him or her who believes?”

    No, they are not. NOTHING in Scripture even remotely suggests that.

    • Autrey Windle

      the devil found himself outgunned when he tried to tempt the Son of God to answer a question about God based on half-truths of God’s words in the garden…don’t be on the wrong side of possibility through the righteousness of God.

      • Royce E. Van Blaricome

        Agreed. A half-truth is a whole lie. Just to be clear though, I wouldn’t say Dr. Brown is of the Devil and wouldn’t want anyone else construing that from my comment.

        Usually he is spot on but I just felt that was a bit too misleading to let lie. We can do all things THRU Christ who strengthens us. That is not the same as being able to do all things.

        • Autrey Windle

          I am glad to hear your response as your original comment surprised me coming from you. I do believe that all things are possible to believers, in this battle especially, and I thought you might be giving our strength through Christ a half-thumbs up. I think Mr. Brown was spot on this time though he knows I am a little more warrior-like on other subjects than he may be. I see what you mean with his omission of the ‘through’ but I accepted it as implied. You , in fact , were more correct than I. I would feel safe in saying neither one of you are ‘of the devil’ not even a little bit ever.

  • You voted for Trump, right? Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin

    • Patmos

      You are clearly a confused and self centered person. You don’t have to be. The teachings of Jesus are relatively simple. God made it about as easy as he could make, because he loves the world and that includes you, but as long as you continue serving yourself you will not make it.

      • I’m sorry I don’t meet your moral standards.

        I have been married to the same person for 35 years, rather than three different people.
        I have never defrauded anyone, instead of having to pay millions to those I’ve conned.
        I pay my bills, rather than stiffing creditors.
        I don’t lie to hurt others, then double down on those lies.
        I’m sorry that you find my behaviour unacceptable.

        I have many of what I see as moral failings, mainly sins of omission, not being as kind or patient as I should be. I won’t list them or I’d be here all day. I fall so far short of perfection, or even minimal acceptable level by my own standards, it’s tragic.

        You may see those faults as virtues though, since you approve of Trump so highly you wanted him to be the single most powerful man in the world.

        I don’t think so though, it was more a case of shutting your eyes to behaviour that “everyone does” in your circle, or would do if they could get away with it, as the End justifies the Means. That way you get to feel particularly pious, no matter how dishonest or cruel you may be. Deus Veilt, right?

        Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin.

        • Patmos

          Like I say, completely self centered. I challenge you to read the accounts we have of Jesus Christ, the first four books of The New Testament, without assuming you already understand them first which I get the sense you will probably do. They have the power to change your life, and bring you to the kingdom of God’s glory. The alternative is not an option. Here’s a hint to get you started: It’s not about what you do or what you have done, it’s about what’s been done for you.

        • Jim Walker

          Trump is also a sinner, probably more “broken” than you.
          Can’t you let him do his job ? Pray that God will use him instead…

    • Autrey Windle

      Thanks for the heads-up Zoe! I know the rule of the enemy is almost over and appreciate your confirmation in God’s first language of that prophecy. I know Trump is not your king…

  • Mark Sealy

    Thank you Mr. Brown!
    We are the Church!
    “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”‭‭ Hebrews‬ ‭10:23-25‬

  • Bezukhov

    Christians Should Not Surrender the Fight for Our Culture

    So if Christians win this fight does that mean Christians will decide what I can see, hear and read?

    • Autrey Windle

      don’t pretend to be an idiot!

      • Bezukhov

        Answer the question, s’il vous plaît.

        • Autrey Windle

          Don’t be an idiot, Frenchperson. We do speak english in this country so if we decide what we will let you read we may let you read it in french…AND IN FRANCE!

          • Bezukhov

            I’m not French. Or Russian for that matter. I’m a third generation Italian living on the East Coast of the U.S..
            ANSWER THE QUESTION!

          • Autrey Windle

            MOVE TO FRANCE!

          • Bezukhov

            Still not answering my original question. Don’t you have the courage of your convictions?

          • Autrey Windle

            If you actually asked a question that makes any sense instead of throwing down a bigoted passive aggressive gauntlet you could have started a conversation but you just wanted to start a fight so I just say MOVE TO FRANCE since I sincerely know that is the nicest thing I have to say to you.

          • Bezukhov

            I’ll take that as a “Yes, Christians must beat people over their heads and tell them what they can can see, hear and read.”

          • Nels

            No one cares about you or your opinion.

          • Bezukhov

            You cared enough to respond. How nice of you.

          • Autrey Windle

            I think the new tag to send to trolls should simply be ‘MOVE TO FRANCE’; it’s simple, not insulting and doesn’t call attention to how shallow the water is that wants you to think they can drown one. Yes, I like it… I think it could work.

          • Timothy Horton

            If you like theocracies so much why don’t YOU move to Syria or Libya?

          • Bezukhov

            Now what fun is a “Theocracy” if it isn’t your “Theos” doing the “Cracting.”

          • Triple T

            I’ll bite. It does not mean that Christians will decide what you see, hear or read. It means that others will not decide what or how Christians can think, say, and act.

          • Bezukhov

            Wouldn’t it be more efficacious simply to ban anything Christians might find offensive? So your brothers in Christ don’t get tempted.

          • Triple T

            No. Banning things does not necessarily reduce temptations and may well have the opposite effect. And let’s not forget, Jesus Himself was tempted.

          • Jim Walker

            I think this answers the question from Bezukhov.

          • Nels

            This is a Christian country. You have to go back.

          • Bezukhov

            And where did Jesus or any other New Testament writer ever exhort Christians to set up “Christian Nations” where they can then lord over and dominate others?

          • Nels

            America is a Christian nation. You are neither Christian nor American. You have to go back.

          • Bezukhov

            Again, where did Jesus or any other New Testament writer ever exhort Christians to set up “Christian Nations” where they can then lord over and dominate others?

          • Nels

            Where did He tell us to breathe?

            You are no American. You have to go back.

          • Bezukhov

            Where did He tell His followers to be a-holes? Your doing a fine job at it.

  • Nels

    Jesus didn’t meet with sinners – Jesus met with repentant sinners. That’s a vital distinction! Jesus met the repentant in their sin and led them out of it. Jesus met the unrepentant in their sin and called them whitewashed tombs, and nests of vipers. Jesus forgave sins after repentance, but He never forgave without repentance.

    Either way, Jesus always engaged and sometimes enraged the culture.

  • bbb

    What has happened for some odd reason is that too many churches have become extremely devoted to ‘social justice’ issues and to inclusion thinking and to globalist ideologies.
    The original teaching of the Holy Spirit and the power of God over all the world is quite rare.
    The church is strong when it gives itself 100% to God and teaches His word and salvation through Christ and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Anything less and what you have is a religious Elks Club or branch of the United Way.
    The Christian culture is either the inerrant word of God preached and practiced and lived and loved, or simply a bunch of do-gooders who sing “when we all get to heaven” and haven’t the foggiest idea how to get there.

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