Future of the church in a changing climate
Two points here. The first a comment about the last post – as long as the first post I admit, but needed to clarify and continue that conversation, and, a comment globally about the Arab Spring.
A few days ago, I unabashedly assailed the lack of democratic spirit and working together by the Tea Party. My lack of respect for them or the Christians supporting them is not a hidden agenda. I state that plainly. They are simple, too simple in their thinking, not working in a complex society for what is best for all, or allowing others to have any dissenting view. I think it is bad for the USA, and I think it is bad for the Kingdom.
Yet, in that same post, I also said at the end, with a twist unexpected by some of the emails I received. Some asked if it was an after thought or the point. It was the point. I think the Tea Party is going to hurt the economic, political and social future of the nation. I also think it will hurt the church, not just in the US, but globally. There will be less money going into mission. [Few are aware that we’ve lost almost 1/3 of the missions organizations that existed in 2008.] Furthermore, while it will be very painful for the church, I pray it will mean less paid missionaries, less paid clergy, less shiny crystal cathedrals (pun intended), it will prayerfully not be a continued and further sharp decline in the church, but rather the radical shock that will move the church from the marketplace, inferring the market unhealthy cultural influence over the expression and definition of the church, to something more historic, more Biblical, more Spirit led, more transformed lives that pedigreed leadership. Maybe it will be shocked into realizing how we are at the margins again, no longer in the seat of power in western culture, and it will bring about a refining missing in the western church for at least 120 years. Maybe, just maybe the contemptuous mess we face politically and socially will actually be the rebirth of the church.
Now, turning to the Arab Spring. The Arab Spring is the term used to refer to the Spring of 2011 when the world watched multiple Arab nations experience turmoil and a rising of the common people, demanding change to their governments. This was not driven by the Islamists, but by common people, educated (mostly western educated in the UK & US) people. It had a rising hope for real change in that part of the world, stretching from the Arabian peninsula, across the middle east, and even across North Africa.
I awoke this morning to see my friend, Steve Addison, had posted about the Arab Spring. The Australian is the Sydney paper and has a good solid web site (rate amongst papers and TV stations). It reports the reality not being carried by most network TV in the US (where most of our news isn’t what’s really going on, but “soccer mom” stories to keep each element of the society clued in… got get those ratings – even if we’re ignorant afterwards).
The reality is that the thaw of the traditional Arab demagog power states this past spring, where we saw multiple countries erupt into discontent with the abusive powers, and people demanding a democratic change to their governments. No one with any knowledge of the Middle East or North Africa expected US/European democracy, but there was some clear shifts that held promise for the future of the Arab world and also for relations with the Arab world and the ongoing issue of Islamic violence.
Most of that is failing. As the Australian reports so accurately, the unsettled and even over turn in several Arab nations, most notably – Egypt, has led to free fall economies where people are not seeing fruit of their sacrifice, but a fast growing collapse of their already anemic economic state, where they are losing almost everything, prices going through the roof, food and opportunity dwindling. With this comes a deeper discontent and a loss of appeal for democracy – enter the dark side…
Iran, sitting on the sidelines through the Arab Spring, caught off guard, and unprepared to influence and bring the violent Shia Islam it uses to extend its global political power and influence. They were the after thought, no role on the stage of what looked to possibly be a better future for all, less radical, less ideologically and religious fanatic driven. But – Iran, for all its issues of still being less developed than most western nations is a complex and growing power again. Losing so much influence with the dethroning of the Shaw, and the resurgence of Saudi Arabia (thanks to oil and the US), Iran is very shrewd and its regional, now wider Arab world influence is not growing because they are not stupid.
As the Arab Spring thawed, the euphoric hopes of changing governments, even government power and structure began to fade. The reality of very complex change to people who had no experience wide or deep enough to restructure entire systems in a short amount of time began to set in – and take its toll. The former unhealthy economic power control, for all their inefficiency or access by the local people, began to crumble, thus less economic thrust than they had before… the new systems not in place and certainly no “head of steam” yet, as they struggle for consensus as to what their futures hold. Some demagogs remained in power with empty promises of real change for the people, only to retrench and business as usual.
The result? People unsettled, controlled, pushed down, now losing whatever prosperity they had as their economies free fall. From North Africa, through to the Arabian peninsula, its bad news. Enter, Iran… ready to export Islamists with hope in Allah through jihad. The future will not be good. These “political-terrorist-military” parties, led, influenced, financed and shaped by Iran, are now entering the vacuum in these unsettled nations. They are financed, organized and motivated. As Steve and the Australian comment – he with the most organized and biggest toys wins.
The future? Iran with a growing global influence, centered in anti-western, violent, terrorist factories, exporting revolution and terror cells globally. Are you aware, most of the armed resistance in Iraq and Afghanistan is can easily be traced to Iran? Most of the weaponry, growing sophistication in IED’s, etc, leads directly to Iran. It’s not a secret. As they will grow a base of radical anti-west uneducated angry people, just what is our future?
1. The 21st century is further destined to be a century of war with radical Islam, which will further move to the center of Islam. …just wait till SE Asian Islam is infected by this little virus.
2. Christianity is inappropriately, but is in reality synonymous with “the west” in the minds of the Arab world. The Tea Party Christians are puffing out their chest affirming that right now… American = Christian, right? Ever stop and wonder why the Arab world hates us (never mind their sinful indulgences, remember who pushes these ideas)? Any person of moral virtue ever get disgusted by the media world’s espousing immorality on a global whole sale basis? What is the main exposure of the Arab world to the west? Remember more than 99.999% of the Arab world NEVER travels or will travel to Europe or the west. They only get the immoral value system pumped out through movies and music. So what do they judge western culture as being? Immoral – sexually, religiously, addicted to drugs, alcohol, killing Muslims, economically greedy and selfish – using anything and anyone, stepping on anyone to get rich, self indulgent, self absorbed and narcissistic. Our kids (through the media) are disrespectful, insolent and run us around by the noses (that might have a bit of truth in it, egh?). Globally, we not only bully the rest of the world, not only stick our noses into everyone’s business, we abuse and function like every empire in history – killing, occupying, invading, ruling over the smaller. Think where most US military power is projected today. We take their resources, abuse their governments and enjoy lives they’ll never taste in our big successful gluttonous consumerist, materialist lives. Remember they aren’t reading the Washington Port or the BBC… they only bury their dead, and read about others who are killed by the western invaders.
So, they hate us. For them freedom isn’t apple pie and every family with two cars, a summer vacation every year and a good insurance policy… it’s sin on a stick. Consequently, they despise everything about what our democracy brings. They despise the west.
In a spiritual war, the principalities use the western church’s incest with government and power, rightly and wrongly to label this as Christianity. When the church has been using and being used by government, imperial behaviors or not, we give an understandable confusion and mistaken identity by the Islamic world as Christianity (centered in the west – at least the past 1500 years) as the purveyors of violence, immorality, godlessness, empire, etc. When we say we’re “Christian nations” and even put “In God we trust” on our money, when we have all of our political leaders identifying themselves with Christianity (as the Roman political power magnets credited the gods, while living as heathen as our leaders do today) is it a wonder why they hate us – Christians, the church, and the western idea of democracy? For them, it is one and the same.
3. So, why such a laboriously long political rant on this? It has direct impact in the future of the church and the Kingdom, and the hope of the Gospel to reach these millions and millions of people. As Iran’s influence will expectantly grow in the coming decade, Christians and Christianity will be hated more, violence against both will increase and even be sanctioned, not just ignored, and the violence by Western Muslims in western nations will increase.
The Arab world will become even harder to impact with the Gospel. Missionaries will be driven even further under ground, and fewer will go as violence against westerners increases.
So why write about this? Because the failure of the Arab Spring and the absence of a healthy role being played by European and US powers will translate to a darker future for the Kingdom’s impact in the Arab world, and a darker future in our century of religious (mostly Muslim) armed and terror conflict globally.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem… and Paris, and Rome, and London, and Berlin, and New York, and… Pray for the Lord of the Harvest to send workers into the harvest fields. Consider where these workers come from… local churches, local families, local supporters financially. Implication? We need to send our own sons and daughters – rather than pushing them to pursue the American idea of comfort and security, we need to raise revolutionaries and give up our sons and daughters as living sacrifices for the Kingdom. There is a growing bile rising in the stomachs of most US Christian parents who read this far… Yes, we need to send our sons and daughters into mission here and abroad (a huge refocusing of our priorities and values), just not my child… let some one else send their child, but not me. God is calling us to live lives centered on the Kingdom not the good life in America, or Australia, or the UK, or even Godzone (New Zealand), but eternity. Take a read of 2 Corinthians 5.1-13:
1For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3if indeed by putting it on[a] we may not be found naked. 4For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
6So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
11Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. 13For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.
The future of the Kingdom will be through people who do not embrace the American dream, but disciples who emulate Christ, who emulate the example of those in the cloud of witnesses before us. As Paul said, “imitate me as I imitate Christ”. God is calling us to live as living sacrifices (Romans 12.1-3), for the Kingdom – for Him, not for our temporal home here.
May we distance ourselves from the culture that is godless and as immoral and deviant as the Arab world decries. May we lose our grip on the power the world offers us in our government, and rather be a counter-cultural (not anti-cultural) people who live a contrasting set of virtues for the King, who’s sacrificial lives smell of the fragrance of Christ, rather than “Babylon”. May we operate in the loving (sacrificial actions of love for others) posture that has historically been the power as Christ is manifested and embodied through such humble servants.
May the Arab world discover a new Christianity [from the wrong definition the world, and we, have given them until now]. May they discover a Gospel carried by hands and feet of servants, rather than on the wings of F-18’s.
Right now, hundreds of thousands of people (mostly women and children – small children) are dying of starvation in East Africa. Most are Muslim. What peace? What to dare bring this servant Jesus to them? Want them to embrace a different gospel? Every minute, three people die of starvation in our world. If you slept six hours last night, during that rest, 1080 people died of starvation. May we be a people who abandon the American dream for God’s dream.
Thank you for taking the time to follow my web of thoughts. I don’t apologize for my cultural indictments of the church. I actually sense God Himself leading me to prophetically indict the immoral and unhealthy attitude and posture the church has had with society and power. I do so, not because I am anybody. In fact, I am no body. But, I know I challenge and impact a few who live differently and see Christ glorified. For that I am thankful. Grace, peace and a consuming fire engulf your soul, one that burns unless your life is re-ordered to the costly, yet exciting life lived for the King.