As I mentioned in the “In God we Trust” series, actionchurch was just beginning when President Barack Obama was elected for the first time. One week after his re-election, here’s some observations from this election, and the opportunities I see for our church’s next four years.
- America is now a post-christian country. NEITHER presidential candidate in this election claimed to be an Evangelical Christian. For the first time, Gay marriage became legal in 3 states due to popular vote instead of court mandate (Including our neighbor Maryland). In this election, being for abortion was a positive, believing that all life comes from God was a negative with voters. Traditional, biblical positions taken by candidates in house and senate races were mocked and often aided in their defeat. You might think I would be depressed about the future, but I see GREAT opportunity for actionchurch to be a LIGHT in our current national climate. As a church we are uniquely positioned to defy stereotypes of what “church people” or “Christians” are like. I believe in a post-christian society, where there is no religious guilt or societal norm pushing people toward church attendance, a church like actionchurch is created for “such a time as this”. In our second term we don’t need in any way to CHANGE who we are, we just need to CONTINUE to Love God, Love people, and take action. As long as we do not fall into the common church traps of becoming self-focused or self-righteous, our church is perfectly positioned to thrive, just as churches have done for thousands of years in non-christian or even anti-christian climates!
- It’s the Economy…sort of. Exit poles show that the majority of people are worried about our nations economy. It’s already been nearly five years of economic downturn. People are hurting. What little reserve that many people had has been depleted. If this downturn continues (or worsens) we will see even more need in our community. actionchurch (and almost every other church for that matter) has always about meeting those needs. In the next four years, I believe we can pivot beyond just providing temporary financial help. Last year our country spent nearly a trillion dollars on welfare programs and “administration”. If you have a really big calculator it’s obvious that if that money actually would have been divided among the poor-there would be NO poverty in the US. (at least this year). I believe churches can (and have to!) be more effective and efficient than our nations current way of dealing with poverty. Instead of just assisting people in subsistence, I want actionchurch to be a place that assists families and individuals in the same financial turnaround I’ve experienced over the years in my own family. In the next four years I see actionchurch continuing to serve those who are dealing with tough financial situations with money and supplies, but I am most excited about the possibilities of actually going beyond sharing gift cards and groceries. In the next four years I see actionchurch actually transferring financial knowledge and life skills through our actiongroups, financial peace university, and mentoring. We are working to set up an exchange where individuals in our church can conveniently share things they need, along with items and skills they have, so that actionchurch people can generously help EACH OTHER. (Imagine the first church in the Book of Acts with technology) I believe we can see families in our community move from financial disaster to financial health…and then become an example and helping hand to others who struggle! It’s possible…it’s happening…and it’s needed more than ever.
- Arguing the TRUTH is not enough. One thing is certain from this campaign, and particularly the presidential debates. Someone(s) was lying. :-) Both candidates painted sharply contrasting and contradicting pictures of current conditions and future projections. They disagreed on easily verifiable facts. There are NOT multiple truths…so someone(s) was not telling it. The most interesting thing to me was that in the end it did not matter. Truth was NOT the issue. What happened again and again is that Romney folks believed their candidate, and Obama folks believed theirs. All of the arguments over fact were largely ignored. Here’s why I think that matters. In a society where a majority of people believe that the Bible is true and inspired by God, the job of preachers and churches is relatively simple: Tell folks what the Bible says, and allow them to either obey it or reject it. In a culture where that is NOT true, where truth ITSELF is considered to be relative and subject to argument, the job of the church is much different. This is NOTHING new. Many of the cities that we read about in the epistles of Paul were EXACTLY that kind of culture. The church spread like wildfire in the New Testament under similarly hostile circumstances, and I believe actionchurch is a church that will also grow and gain influence. As a church we have never taken for granted that others believe and love the scriptures as we do. We have ALWAYS worked to make every week understandable and attractive to those among us who may not have a faith background or even a core belief in the existence of God. It’s not enough to just expose people to truths from scripture and expect them to automatically accept it and make the necessary changes in the way they live. Skillful, Bible centered, preaching is valuable (and I believe as we all recognized Sunday) it is going to be even BETTER in the next four years as we hear from other members of our leadership who have great communication skills! However, the future of our church in a post-christian world is in small groups, personal relationships, Holy Spirit guided “happenings”, that will bring people far from God into a place where they hear God’s word preached and say “Wow, that sounds EXACTLY like the answer to what I’m dealing with”. God’s word has not lost it’s power. Truth is truth. The Holy Spirit still moves in hearts and minds. Our job and focus is to be as skillful and relentless in loving and leading our community well as the first followers of Jesus were. They were able to spread their faith EVERYWHERE under similar conditions. We can too!
If you’ve made it this far through this way-too-long post, I hope you’ve at least “got” that I’m excited about what God can do through actionchurch in the coming four years. It will be difficult. It WILL test our courage and our faith in God, but I think that the ideas that we learned in the “In God we Trust” series will serve as a guide for what is to come in our “Second Term Agenda”.
Don’t think like everyone else thinks.
Don’t fear what everyone else fears.
Fear only God, and trust him to keep us safe.
(based on Isaiah 8: 11-13)
I can’t wait to see what that looks like over the next four years…