Our nation is at a crucial juncture. Whether we accelerate toward our demise or reverse course toward the Lord hinges on what happens the next few months – or weeks. Churches and Christians will either show a nation divided what unity looks like or miss the best opportunity in decades to demonstrate the radical love of Jesus to a society intolerant of differing opinions.
The Presidential and Congressional elections clearly displayed the depth of America’s division. With militias forming, protests raging, recounts pending, and anger spewing there is no better time to shine a bright light into pitch black darkness. Yet with COVID-19 threatening the survival of countless churches and persecution looming for Christians at risk of losing jobs for holding countercultural beliefs, it is tempting to worry right now about our own interests and not the bigger Kingdom picture. While churches scramble and pray for an end to the pandemic so they can return to normal, believers inundate the social media airwaves with personal feelings about their next President or Senator.
Soon the window will close and Christians will have dashed their hopes and dreams for revival by their own self-centeredness, oblivious to what could have been if they had only understood that convincing the world of Jesus’ lordship and love depends on one thing – unity. After this election in this nation at this time, we must live differently, love differently, defy the world’s division and unite around what all Christians have in common – or watch as secularization further infiltrates the landscape and law of the land.
We Could Divide…
Fast forward and picture the State of the Union or the State of the Church address in 2024. We’re inclined to think both will be predicated on the events of the past week. However, election of a church-friendly President in 2016 did not lead to church or spiritual growth in America. Politics does not determine the strength of a country’s churches or the faith of its citizens. No doubt, Christianity is likely to face powerful headwinds that threaten to diminish its impact, influence and perception in society. However, given the rapid decline in those departments over the past four years, we are left to wonder whether the Church would have fared any better under President Trump’s rival. Christianity historically tends to thrive under pressure and ultimately answers to Jesus, not the federal government.
The feet of all Christ-followers should be on the Rock, but we will appear divided to a watching world to the degree that we each succumb to temptations to…
- FIT IN – Becoming disingenuously politically correct to avoid hassles, maintain a standard of living or attract church members. Adopting society’s revised and unabridged dictionary of religious terms that offend “snowflakes” like “sin”, “truth” and “Jesus” – without which it becomes impossible to share the Gospel. Making faith about this life – worldly and practical – touting what it can do for “me”.
- GIVE IN – Surrendering to the political and social establishment, calling it “staying out of politics”, “not being judgmental” or “none of my business”. Obeying the command to submit to authority but in the process compromising the values that should unite Christians. Not following the example of Jesus who criticized leaders who chose self-righteousness over love, compassion and justice.
- FACE OFF – Fighting for survival of an individual church at the expense of the universal church by “fitting in” or “giving in”. Defending the status quo, the right to build a church without building disciples. Engaging the culture war through an air war of verbal bombs rather than a ground war with love and compassion as our chosen weapons.
- CLOSE OFF – Fearing the worst and protecting turf, retreating inside the comfortable confines of a church building surrounded by fellow believers. Becoming a passive, pensive or private Christian rather than a multiplicative disciple-maker. Worrying about minor resistance today, leading to paralysis that opens the door soon to real persecution.
- MOUTH OFF – Holding society to Christianity’s standards when non-believers haven’t adopting those standards as their own. Imposing morality has become the focus of evangelicals during this election but unity in the body of Christ will never happen around moral issues. We must lead people to accept the authority of Jesus before expecting them to obey God’s laws.
Any post-election self-righteousness or self-interest will divide the Christian community along those lines, making us look just like the world instead of presenting an attractive alternative.
We Could Unite…
Being like-minded means having the “same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had” who wants us to be “perfectly united in mind and thought” with no divisions. Thinking alike and living together in harmony entails having the same desires, passions, and ambitions. Yet we see Christians reacting quite differently to the election results, presumably all aware that God is still on the throne but more vocal about their anxiety, anger or excitement over who will occupy the White House. Now is the time to sacrifice personal opinions for Kingdom goals…
- POUR IN – The lost need the Gospel, seekers need answers to tough questions, and lukewarm believers need repentance. Teaching truth, not a “better life”, would lead millions more to experience God’s forgiveness and amazing grace.
- BUILD UP – Spiritual infants need to reach maturity, marked by humility, dying daily to self and equipped to be a reproducing disciple, not an active church member.
- SEND OUT – We are not all a “hand” or a “foot” in the body of Christ, but we are each called to be the “hands and feet” of Christ. Claiming evangelism or discipleship “isn’t my gifting” isn’t a valid excuse.
- PAY FORWARD – What is poured into us should spill over and pour out, but most churches do compassion only infrequently and transactionally. We need to #ReimagineCompassion and realize investing year-round in helping the poor is a mandate, not an option, for those who are saved.
- LOOK FORWARD – The election does not change our eternal reality, which all Christians share. Each believer’s future is secure so faith should overcome our fears and uncertainties in this life, no matter who is in charge on Capitol Hill.
Believers should all agree on these guiding principles, but they take a back seat today to the prevailing message of Christian music and messages – that Jesus came to save me, die for me and help me through my troubles.
Roadmap to Unity in a Divided World…
To present a unified front at this critical moment in the history of our nation and the American Church, we urge every pastor to get on the same page now by following these five steps…
- Common Sense of Urgency – Like 9/11 when Americans suddenly put aside their petty differences when an attack threated all of us, God’s children must overlook what divides them
- Common Identity – Confess that “church” is not a place, building, leaders or a weekly event and partner with other Christ-centered organizations to pursue the real “customer”
- Common Mission – Reconsider dynamics that have driven division (e.g. expensive brick-and-mortar, staff-heavy models to attract consumers) as the economic and cultural environment for churches becomes more challenging
- Common Metrics – Scrap “butts and bucks” as measuring sticks and adopt shared metrics to incent team-oriented participation in city-wide Prayer/Care/Share strategies
- Common Example – Demonstrate our love and confess our sins to show our need for Christ’s righteousness, which will shine a spotlight and make humanity aware of its sinful nature
Powerful, well-entrenched forces are at work to prevent unity across churches and ministries. Seminaries, denominations, theology, budgets, members, consultants, coaches, facilities, and egos all demand differentiation. Unraveling church growth and Artificial Intelligence models designed to build walls between institutions and Christians will require an act of God – which is why we pray for Him to miraculously bring unity to a nation at a time when it’s in short supply.
It’s Your Turn…
Begin implementing the five steps above in your own life and at your church…and urge others to do the same before it’s too late!