I am filled with a tremendous sense of optimism that is not generated by politics, current events, the media, the economy, or any other worldly thing. Neither am I fueled by some Pollyanna spirit. Yet, I cannot shake this swelling tide of hope that fills me on a daily basis. It is a hope for what the church and its members can be in the face of the growing challenges we face in this culture and around the world. Why are these such exciting times?
The darkness is allowing the light to shine brighter! Sadly, moral, ethic, philosophical, and civil behavior is eroding. The messages being sent by those in power and authority are increasing anti-biblical. Those who have lived for any length of time have witnessed a pretty dramatic shift in thinking and behavior. This is reflected in so many things from language on the job and on “the street” to what is allowed and promulgated in TV and movies to the blatant lifestyle choices of the rank and file. What all this means is that as Christians we can, by leading “a quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Ti. 2:2; cf. 1 Th. 4:11), shine the light of Christ (cf. Mat. 5:14-16). As we share Christ with those in our circle of influence, we can countermand the marching orders of the “world forces of this darkness” (Eph. 6:12). That, brothers and sisters, is exciting!
People are earnestly searching! I read with interest the studies about exiting millennials, new world orders (not just conspiracy theories, but fundamental shifts in worldviews), spirituality over organized religion, and the like. For all of that, down where we live day by day on our jobs, at school, in our neighborhoods, and our community and civic activities, people are longing for meaning and purpose in their lives. Yes, they can be confused and misguided. Yes, they have broken and messed up lives. Yes, this produces a great challenge to churches as we are intentional and outwardly focused. But, we have not seen a day in any of our lifetimes where biblical ignorance and, thus, directionlessness has been greater. Remember what Jeremiah said: “I know, O Lord, that a man’s way is not in himself, nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps” (10:23). There are many who would say with the Ethiopian nobleman, “How can I (understand, NP), unless someone guides me?” (Acts 8:31).
The church is ripe for revival! It seems that the tale most churches with whom I have contact tell boils down to larger numbers, greater involvement, and younger members occurred in the past! Thus, panic, pessimism, and perplexity lace the private conversations and public addresses of the pulpits, the pastors, and the pews. Perhaps it is time for congregations to consider moving from the defensive to the offensive. I don’t know that individual Christians have ever been more impressed with the dire urgency of evangelizing than right now. I believe the conviction and dedication of our Christian soldiers is palpable. With bolder leadership, concerted efforts, and a faith-filled plan of action, I believe the church as a whole is poised for growth. This will require a change of priority, focus, and commitment, but I believe that we are more than ready for it. We are eager for it!
But, time is short! Paul is right. “The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light” (Rom. 13:12). If ever the mantra, carpe diem, has applied, it is right now! May our anthem become, “Rise up, O men of God!”