From the Pastors' Desks

Bad News & Christ's Kingdom

I don’t know about you, but reading and watching the news these past few months has tempted me to despair. It is unrelenting bad news! No wonder the rest of the world feels like they are watching America implode.
While our family was not overtly patriotic, I did grow up with an ingrained sense that America was the greatest nation in the world, and that we as Christians should be deeply thankful for the freedoms we enjoyed. I’m old enough to remember the “old people” (my parents and grandparents) talking with great concern about the assassinations of 1968 (Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King) and the Kent State shooting of 1970. Anarchy seemed to be taking hold. Then there was the Watergate scandal that took down a Presidency (1974). I remember the long gas lines and soaring interest rates during the Carter administration (1976-80). America was in the midst of a Cold War and a cultural revolution and seemed to be in irreversible decline.
And then came Ronald Reagan. It really did feel like a new dawn for America. Good things began happening! The Iranian hostages came home. A bunch of college kids actually beat the Soviet Union in hockey (The Miracle on Ice, 1980)! I remember feeling so happy. Interest rates declined and the economy surged forward.
While Reagan promised to make America great again, the Moral Majority (Jerry Falwell and gang) vowed to make America good again. Evangelical leaders promised us that we, the Christian Right, could, by the exercise of political power and cultural engagement, fundamentally reshape America into the Christian nation it was always meant to be. There was genuine enthusiasm and expectancy about what we could accomplish in and for America as a Christian cultural force.
Unfortunately, while the evangelical church committed itself to cultural reform, its “gospel” became increasingly politicized, socialized, and marginalized. The primary goal shifted from rescuing sinners from the wrath of God through the preaching of the gospel to rescuing America from the atheists and liberals by the exercise of cultural might. As the evangelical church fixed its mind on the things of this world it became increasingly worldly, its message became increasingly banal, and it became increasingly powerless to actually transform this world.  
The error of the Christian Right has been taken up with zeal by the new Christian Left. Once again we are seeing professing Christians (many of them raised in conservative churches) act as though political action and social engagement are the primary call and mission of the church. And once again, the gospel message is politicized, socialized, and marginalized.
And the nation crumbles. 
David Robertson, the Pastor of St. Peter’s Free Church in Dundee, Scotland, asks the question – “Can the American Gospel Save America?”  The short answer is: No, it can’t. The only gospel that can save America is the Biblical gospel that is alone sufficient to save sinners – red, yellow, black, and white - and bring them all together at the foot of the cross of Jesus. This is a time to soberly reflect on what we, Christians of the right and left, are powerless to do by means of the weapons of this world – and to joyfully remember what God is able to do with the mighty weapon of the gospel of Jesus Christ! It actually IS the power of God, unleashed in this world to accomplish the saving purposes of God and build the eternal Kingdom of God!   
By the power of this gospel, the church of Jesus Christ is growing His kingdom as the nations of this world totter. As Christopher Ash says so well,

“The world is breaking apart at every level.
Marriages and families creak under all sorts of strains;
nations are riven by tribe, race, class, or culture.
At every level, the world is characterized by
fragmentation rather than integration.
But the local Christian church is to be a sign
that alongside this disintegration there is another and supernatural
process taking place, of integration, of assembly.
And this assembly happens by the preached word of grace.” 
(The Priority of Preaching, 90)

Nothing I’ve said in this article is meant to suggest that there are not real sins and issues that need to be addressed in our society. Nor have I intended to imply that the church has no role to play in speaking to injustice. Of course we do. But the only power that has ever proven able to change this world is the gospel of Jesus Christ as it transforms sinful men and women into new creations!  History has shown that if we really want to work for the peace and prosperity of this land we must commit ourselves to the unique calling and character of the Church of or Lord Jesus Christ. As we devote ourselves to preaching Christ and zealously following Christ as His disciples, we may expectantly pray for Jesus to impact this sinful, broken world, with His truly transforming power and reconciling grace. 

Yours in Christ,  
Pastor Dale

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