Spiritual Readiness: The Stream’s New Saturday Equipping Emphasis

By Tom Gilson Published on August 11, 2018

These are the hardest days the Church in America has ever faced. Are we ready? Our country as a whole has faced worse crises: Wars on our own soil in our first century of existence, the Great Depression, the world wars, the riots of the 1960s. Never before, however, has the Church been singled out for attack as we are today. Never have we been the enemy at home. Now we are, in the eyes of many. So again: Are we ready for this? We’d better be.

Are we ready to stand strong before the insults? “Homophobic!” “Intolerant!” “Bigoted!” “Idiotic!” “A backward people that thinks a 2,000-year-old ‘holy book’ is good enough still for today.”

Are we ready to be sued? We ducked a close one this summer, when Jack Phillips won his right to stand up for conscience as a Christian wedding baker. It’s not over yet, though.

Are we ready to lose our jobs? A friend of mine was fired from two major consulting gigs because he’d taken a Christian stand for marriage and morality.

Three Crucial Questions

It really comes down to three questions of greatest importance:
Spiritual Readiness Logo - 400

First: Are we equipped to stand together? Can we stand together firm, confident, loving and filled with faith, when people all around are shouting, “Christianity is wrong wrong wrong”? (You say you haven’t seen this? Check out the Emmy-winning The Handmaid’s Tale. Just one example.)

Second: What about our youth? They’re the ones under the worst assault. Most of them are leaving the faith. Most of them! I say that based on information from multiple research studies, not just one. These aren’t unchurched youth, or even liberal-church youth. They’re students who’ve grown up under solid teaching in good, solid, believing churches. Statistics say there’s a chillingly good chance it’s your own kids.

Third: How can we take this opportunity to shine Christ’s light into darkness? For though these are bound to be American Christianity’s hardest days ever, they could also be our best and brightest.

We’re Not Ready for This

Are we ready for all that? From what I’ve observed, the answer is no. So far we’re doing church the same way we did it a couple decades ago, as if elite American culture hadn’t turned against us (it has).

And we’re acting as if the answers we gave back then are still good enough today. I used to share the gospel with a booklet that opened, “God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life.” It’s still true as ever — but now I have to explain what it means by the word “God.” And I have to be prepared for questions like, “How can God be love when he hates gay people?” (Don’t worry, there’s an answer, and He doesn’t hate gay people anyway. The question is confused, but even so it still deserves a real answer.)

The Stream‘s New Saturday “Spiritual Readiness” Theme

We’ve got to gear up, both for the challenges and the opportunities of this strange new day. The Stream is convinced: We’ve got to get ready for this strange new day. So with this article The Stream is introducing a new weekly Saturday feature we’re titling “Spiritual Readiness.” It’s not new territory for The Stream to cover, it’s just a new, more intentional way to zero in on it.

We’ll run several articles each Saturday covering five essential points of readiness:

  1. Strong, thriving Christian community
  2. A vibrant life of prayer and fellowship with God
  3. A firm grasp of what we believe — the essentials of Christian doctrine and ethics
  4. Just as firm a grip on why we believe
  5. Effective outreach, both personal and cultural

You can expect us to spend more “Spiritual Readiness” time on the last three points than the first two. That’s not because they’re more important than the others. It’s because the Church in America is much less equipped in them. Or at least, less equipped to talk about them. We can always grow in prayer, devotion and community.

Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

(Eph. 5:14b)

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  • KC

    Thank you

  • Paul

    This can be a valuable series, looking forward to it

  • tz1

    The error is the Church itself is divided and more interested in attacking the soft targets within instead of the Gates of Hell of which we are assured will not prevail against us.
    It is worse than the bloody wars of the Reformation.

    Don’t believe in the Darby-Scofield dispensationalism? Then you are an anti-semitic Nazi!
    Don’t believe that God didn’t intend all Nations to merge into one gray blob without any nationalism? Then you are a racist!
    Don’t believe that while they have equal dignity, God created men and women different and to have different roles, e.g. the admonitions against women in leadership are to be taken both seriously and literally, then you are a misogynist sexist.
    This causes worse attacks than any Catholic v.s. Protestant dispute. And they are attacks, not reasoned discussions, or even “agreeing to disagree”.
    Don’t think they should have universal “single mother” acceptance? Uncharitable!

    There needs to be two changes.

    First, unless they are bearing actual visible bad fruit – abortions or out of wedlock pregnancies, porn, something like that, they should be treated as fellow Christians and not attacked and let them defend their views – we can disagree if a war is just, or a practice is prudent. If we spent half as much time attacking the world, flesh, and devil as we do each other, we would have another revival, awakening, and America would be a de facto Christian country again.

    Second, we need to be the Chuch militant. There’s too much church of mammon where pastors say convert and get rich. And too much virtue signalling and feminization, accepting divorce, adultery, fornication, even homosexuality and abortion (condemn the sin, save the sinner from condemnation to hell). We want to be “nice”, but nowhere in the bible are those defending their faith “nice”. There are spiritual, intellectual, and physical weapons. But although the former are the most powerful, we would rather live lukewarm in Laodicea. And reason and evidence can be denied or ignored. But do you want things to get so bad it has to get physical as the last war between the states?

    Peter Kreeft noted that there is one reason we aren’t like the saints of old. Because we don’t wholly want to be. It is that simple. To really love God with all our hearts, minds, and strength, because that strength comes back into us multiplied – courage, wisdom, and even physical strength.

    • Paul

      It seems like you’re presenting a contradiction with your two changes. First point is talking about not attacking others in the church while the second can be seen as attacking others in the church.

      • tz1

        There needs to be a bright line, but some congregations expel people with traditional values, including deacons and pastors with a code of conduct.
        I pointed out my standard, obvious bad fruit, and if they attack others. The former simply means they are FakeChristians, the latter means they are generally not willing to coexist in peace until the common enemy is defeated.

        Also allow me a few ambiguities and contradictions when trying to point out something important in a comment box with limited space and formatting.

  • Trilemma

    Should be interesting. My experience in church is that they’re very good at teaching what to believe but not very good at teaching why. The why tends to boil down to because God said so in the Bible.

    • Andrew Mason

      Some things are because God said so. We can only speculate about why.

  • Paul

    Jay’s series on fasting should get connected to this

  • Nick Stuart

    Every week The Stream has another article detailing a fresh outrage perpetrated in a public school. It isn’t confined to districts in deep-blue, ultra left wing cities either, it’s nationwide.

    While getting Christian children out of the public school system is not the only thing, it is one of the most important things. This is an extremely urgent matter bearing not only on the child’s spiritual safety, but their physical safety and even their basic education.

    The extent to which pastors and other church leadership support private Christian education and homeschooling is a key indicator of how serious they are about equipping the people in their care for the challenges the future holds.

    Rather than relitigate the arguments pro-and-con Christian children in the public schools, I’m going to categorically state a proposition:

    You cannot place children for 13 years under the tutelage of a system whose foundational worldview is atheistic materialism, whose creation myth is mechanistic Darwinian evolution, whose sacraments are safe sex and abortion on demand, where marriage and family are whatever combination of people seems right to the people involved, where basic biological differences between male and female are denied, and expect that those children’s spiritual condition will not be adversely affected.

    This proposition doesn’t even address the fact that in many cases the public school system fails in even its basic mission of graduating minimally literate, numerate young adults.

    Families will have to either make a lot of money to afford to send their children to a private school, assuming a suitable one is available. Or, one parent will have to stay at home to homeschool the children.

    Churches will have to unlock that building that sits empty for six days a week, get involved in supporting Christian schools, and pass up buying that new espresso machine for the coffee bar to help moderate the cost of tuition. Churches will have to stop treating homeschooling like some kind of bizarre hobby for a few weird families who can afford for one parent to stay at home and not work outside the home.

    Christians who do not have school age children will have to dig in and help families who do with the financial end of their child’s education either directly gifting the parents, or by contributing to the school [OUCH! Just left off preaching and got started meddling].

    Educating children in a private school or at home is of course not a guarantee that they will grow up to be Christians. You can only do what you can do, at some point it is up to them. God calls us to do what he’s called us to do, the results are in his hands. Ultimately it’s up to you to decide if God is really calling you to get your children out of the public schools. Just like it was up to Lot to decide if God was really calling him to get his family out of Sodom. Pro-tip: don’t look back.

  • Pastor Steve

    Awesome! Sounds like a quality response to our battlefield realities. May you prosper in your vision for this, and may it find receptive hearts more interested in cooperative kingdom service than either doctrinal domination or cultural compromise.

  • Stephen D

    A beautiful and inspiring musical picture of the need for spiritual wakefulness in given in the Lutheran hymn ‘Wachet auf ruft uns die Stimme’ set to music by Bach in the famous chorale we know as ‘Sleepers Awake!’ (BWV140).
    Good music like this strengthens the will and uplifts the spirit, empowering believers to live for God.

  • Stephen D

    Here in Australia things are much the same. But be encouraged! Along with millions in Christian communities around the world, we are the beneficiaries of the boundless outpourings of Christian literature, music and videos from the United States. It might be hard for you to appreciate this perspective, but imagine visiting a Christian bookstore in a far-off land and finding that almost every single book, every bible version, every commentary, every devotional or inspirational work, bears the legend “Printed in the United States of America”. We see America as the powerhouse of modern global Christianity, the home of (to us) vast numbers of theological seminaries and even Christian universities (which are unknown here). I tell you the honest truth, when I say that my wife and I often say “Thank you God for America”. We are praying for America today.

  • Az1seeit

    A quick observation: if you accept God’s sovereignty, then the church’s current readiness is meant to be… Just sayin’

  • Ray

    In Acts 19, Paul asked some believers, “Have you received the holy Ghost since ye believed.?” He didn’t just stop with preaching Jesus and baptizing them.

    We need the same sort of thing today, along with learning the fear of the Lord.

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