09 August 2016


A few years ago I sat listening to Charles Colson as he spoke about the challenge of Christian living in our world. The most memorable moment in the talk was when he spoke about the fall of the Berlin Wall: "In the summer of 1989 nobody expected that the Berlin Wall would be coming down, and by November it was being dismantled."

His main point in saying this was to encourage the faithful work of the church in the world, even when it appears that such work is not making a difference.

This is quite an important lesson for American evangelicals, who often become desperate for certain victory that they are willing to do all sorts of things in order to win the short battle. This behavior arises out of the frustration of making no apparent headway into the cultural wars that confront the church. When we feel as though our efforts to live our faith are not changing the world, so often we decide to change our course of action and consider alternative means. This ought to raise the question: To whom is the church listening?

If we come to think that our faithfulness to the gospel is in vain, then we are being influenced by voices that do not align with God's Word. Within scripture the single evaluation of the church's effectiveness is faithfulness to Christ Jesus. It is when the church begins to listen to the world that we forget to focus on what really matters. It is no secret that the vast majority of media is engaged in a full-on assault on traditional Christian values. Yet, somewhat surprisingly, many in the church still give credence to the reports of the church's diminishing that are published by this overly-biased media.

But even if we were to take a look at the many negative trends in our modern culture, regardless of the media's biases, it is clear that the church's voice in our nation suffers a lack of influence. There are so many struggles within our culture that it can be discouraging to think about all that must be confronted. And, once again, this is when believers can be most susceptible to winning the world by speaking and acting as a moralized version of the world's ideals. We must resist this desire and remember that our calling is to be faithful to the gospel in all things, regardless of whether we win or lose in the public square.

At any given point leading up to November 1989 the leadership of our nation, who were strongly opposed to the Soviet regime and the Berlin Wall, could have used military might to break down the wall by force. However, this would have caused much more damage and destruction, and such conflict never broke out. Instead, the pinging of the rock-hammer against that wall continued until it cracked and crumbled.

The work of the church so often feels as though trying to break through a seemingly indestructible wall with nothing more than a rock-hammer – too small of an impact to make the difference. And yet, we do not know what lies just beyond the horizon of our present gaze — that which God is going to accomplish in his time, by his power, through the faithfulness of Christ Jesus at work among his people. And this understanding, seen throughout the course of history, ought to quiet the worldly desires among the believers that we might place our confidence in Almighty God alone.

If we are focused on our faithfulness to the gospel, then we will not be overcome by the victories and defeats that we will experience in our work. For God will give us enough for today, whether that be in the provision of daily bread or in the coming of his kingdom to the earth.

When Moses stood before the people of Israel, who were preparing to enter into the promised land, he encouraged them to be faithful to the covenant, and promised them the presence of God that would go before them: Do not be terrified by them, for the LORD your God, who is among you, is a great and awesome God. The LORD your God will drive out those nations before you, little by little. You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once, or the wild animals will multiply around you. But the LORD your God will deliver them over to you, throwing them into great confusion until they are destroyed (Deuteronomy 7:21–23).

God's kingdom will be established in his time, not according to our political schedules. The work of the kingdom does not operate on four-year cycles, nor does the gospel's effectiveness depend upon legislative action, executive order, or judicial decree. And it is beyond time that the American evangelical movement be reminded of this, lest we surrender the demands of discipleship to the temporary fame and power of immoral men and women who seek to take advantage of the church's frustration and impatience. Whether or not the church wins politically is no longer relevant when we have lost the heart of the gospel in seeking such victory.

And we too will not win this nation in one sweeping movement, but little by little — through the work of transformed lives, in which a more lasting and significant change will occur. This is known as making disciples, which can have a powerful effect when taken seriously. (In the last twenty years the abortion rate has consistently fallen, not because of judicial reform, but through the efforts to strengthen the message of life in our country, though much work still lies before us.) The work of the Holy Spirit does not need government intervention to enact change, but it does call for the faithful partnership of the church to reach into the world.

Rather than giving in to the fastest paths to power — those things that are touted by our culture as significant, but which scripture so often holds in contempt — it is time for the church to return its focus on the transforming work of discipleship, that we may see changed hearts and renewed minds. Though it may appear to some as an insignificant step, in the eyes of faith it will be the pinging hammer that will, one day not far from now, be that which God uses to reduce the mighty walls of this world to a rubble.

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