The Church has not been immune to the problems afflicting our culture. During the last fifty years, the Church has slipped from its former high moral ground. Although there is evidence of revival fires in a few locations, the Church in general is in decline and in desperate need of renewal. While we are struggling with our fast-changing and often adversarial culture, the faith our fathers passed down to us grows frail—and has been largely forgotten.
In the same passage where Jesus speaks of believers being the shining city on a hill, He also describes the Church as salt. “You are the world’s seasoning,” He teaches, “to make it tolerable. If you lose your flavor, what will happen to the world?” (Matthew 5:13, TLB). The obvious answer is that the world will decay without a generous portion of Christian preservative influence.
Francis Schaeffer expressed a similar concern almost twenty years ago: “Our culture, society, government, and law are in the condition they are in, not because of a conspiracy, but because the Church has forsaken its duty to be the salt of the culture.”1 Because of our laxity, the decay has intensified, yet the Church still has not understood its purpose.
The Church’s Responsibility
Who is responsible for our culture’s assault on faith? Is it the ACLU? The courts? The schools? Obviously, all these organizations must bear part of the blame. But I believe the cause is far more disheartening. We have fallen to new moral lows in America because of the absence of a reasonable, responsible, and clearly presented defense of our faith by the body of Christ. In short, you and I have failed to know what we believe, why we believe it, what our rights are under the law, and how to stand our ground against the enemies of Jesus Christ and His Church.
Therefore, when we begin to assess the conditions in modern society that have led to the current crises in our social and cultural institutions, we must begin with the Church. Peter writes, “The time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God” (1 Peter 4:17, NKJ).
For that reason, what follows is hard for me to write. Not because stepping up to take the blame is so difficult, but because those of us who make up the body of Christ are bound together in love. The Scripture reminds us that the world will know us by the love we express for one another (John 13:35). Paul urged believers to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Real love means sharing honestly and openly. It demands accountability. Tough love means that we hold one another to a higher standard of behavior. Therefore, it is necessary for us to examine ourselves first before we go on to impact our society.
I believe the reason our culture is in an advanced state of decay is largely because the followers of Christ have retreated from their responsibilities to society.
There are two reasons why we need to intensify our influence. First, whether secular society recognizes it or not, the Christian Church exerts a major influence on national culture. Whenever the Church has been strong and passionate in its allegiance to Christ, the nation has flourished.
Second, Christ’s return could happen at any moment. Paul urges, “Another reason for right living is this: you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for the coming of the Lord is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is far gone, the day of [Christ’s] return will soon be here. So quit the evil deeds of darkness and put on the armor of right living, as we who live in the daylight should!” (Romans 13:11–13, TLB). Even today, the Bridegroom may be putting the finishing touches on the home He has prepared for His bride. But by the time the American Church wakes up, it may be too late to ready ourselves to meet Him in white linens.
The Church’s Call
We have heard about God’s purpose for America: to help fulfill the Great Commission. That call has implications beyond obeying the command of our Master to help fulfill His program for the ages. God also warns of the consequences to our own future if we disobey His call to warn others about impending judgment for wickedness.
The Old Testament defines this responsibility as serving as a watchman for God. God commanded Ezekiel to warn his countrymen of the dangers of their rebellion against God:
“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man to turn from his ways and he does not do so, he will die for his sin, but you will have saved yourself” (Ezekiel 33:7–9).
In the New Testament, Paul considered spreading Christ’s message to be the top priority for the Christian life. He felt so strongly about this issue that he said, “Let me say plainly that no man’s blood can be laid at my door, for I didn’t shrink from declaring all God’s message to you” (Acts 20:26,27, TLB).
Do we have blood on our hands? Have we declared all God’s message, or have we shirked our duty and allowed our culture to go on its way without warning? Although some Christians have been faithful to follow our Lord in this responsibility, most have become so wrapped up in the unrighteous lifestyles of our time that they cannot warn others. If we hope to avoid the wrath of God, individually or collectively, we must begin now with a thorough cleansing of the house of God. Before we can hope to reclaim America for Christ, we must get our own house in order.
The time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God. (1 Peter 4:17, NKJ)
By Bill Bright & John Damoose, Red Sky in the Morning
©2023 Copyright Bright Media Foundation