It’s the Church, Stupid

clouds hands dt29In Bill Clinton’s first campaign for president, chief advisor George Stephanopoulos, famously wrote, IT’S THE ECONOMY, STUPID in a prominent place on a markerboard. By keeping the main thing the main thing, he kept the campaign on message and won the victory.

As a Christian, I look at a world in its accelerating swirl down the toilet. It’s enough to make you dig a fallout shelter in the back yard and join the Preppers. Economic collapse. Impending austerity measures. Domestic terrorism. Wars and rumors of wars. Sexual mores abandoned on an epic scale. Christianity under attack. The rise of false religion. Bold-faced corruption in the highest places in our land.

Hand me an antacid, please.

Who is sufficient for these things?

It’s the Church, stupid.

The local church is the hope of the world. As goes the church, so goes the culture. In a democratic republic every citizen has a right and obligation to raise a voice of opinion and to vote. Without doubt, God calls Christians into the political sphere, to be salt and light in that highly influential corner of society.

Even so, I have no hope in the ballot box to solve the problems of this land. Our solutions are not primarily political. They are spiritual. Without denying the importance of political involvement, I wish to affirm to primacy of reformation and revival within the church. God can unwind decades of societal decay in short order when the church rises up to her stature as a city set on a hill.

I use the words reformation and revival in their technical senses: reformation always precedes revival.

REFORMATION: a large-scale recovery of biblical doctrines that have been largely lost among the people of God. In Acts 2, it was a recovery of Spirit-powered prayer as the basis of church activity, coupled with a repentance from human-powered legalism. In the 16th century, it was Luther’s recovery of the doctrine of justification by faith. When the church recovered the doctrines of grace — in numbers large enough to pass a tipping point — and when she repented of her unbiblical and carnal practices, God sent a spirit of SCRIPTURE and PRAYER. The truth-telling, God-seeking church catalyzed the blessing of God, and it was the blessing of God that changed society. Any legislation was a by-product of divine transformation in countless hearts and lives.

The new life and energy in the church aroused the attention of an onlooking world.

So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?” (Acts 2:12, NKJV).

REVIVAL: a large-scale inpouring of new believers into the church. In the Acts revival, 3,000 new converts in one day. William G. McGloughlin, in Revivals, Awakenings, and Reform, argues it was three revivals that installed Christian values into largely secular, sex-crazed, alcoholic, early America. We became a Christian nation because of the First and Second Great Awakenings, with a booster shot from the Third. God reversed the course of the nation. He did in short order what decades of legislation could not.

It’s the Church, stupid.

The Temperance Movement and Prohibition drove drinking’s black market, creating an underground economy and thriving liquor trade. Too bad the church didn’t learn an earlier lesson.

The Great Awakening dried up demand. Formerly drunk men who met Christ went home after work instead of to the saloons. They sang hymns and read Scriptures with their families. The saloons went out of business without a law being fired.

A revival in Wales in the early 1900’s had similar effect. G. Campell Morgan wrote:

Wales is ablaze for God, already 50,000 converts have been recorded and the great awakening shows no sign of waning. It’s sweeping over hundreds of hamlets and cities, emptying saloons, theatres and dance halls [citadels of prostitution, alcoholism, violence], and filling the churches night after night with praying multitudes. Go where you will, into the bank, the store, the trains and everywhere men are talking about God. . . . Temperance workers saw the Spirit of God accomplish more in three months than they had accomplished in forty years.

Neither the Supreme Court, nor the White House, nor the Congress can fix what ails America. No laws can reverse the collapse of western civilization. Whatever moral, financial, political, or religious tipping points we have reached will not be undone by Washington DC or state capitols. My hope is not the ballot box. My hope is not popular opinion.

It’s the Church, stupid.

The world has never been a friend of God’s truth. It never will be. God never expected the world to be like the Church. I am not as troubled by secular culture’s slide as a I am by the Church’s slide away from Scriptural values. What if it turns out that the only way to fix America is to focus [not exclusively, mind you, but as the main thing] on the Church being the Church in faith, in prayer, in worship, in doctrine, in community, in love, in truth, in conduct? No, don’t abandon politics, but don’t put your hopes there either.

Spurgeon exhorted young preachers:

Ah, my dear friends, we want nothing in these times for revival in the world but the simple preaching of the gospel. This is the great battering ram that shall dash down the bulwarks of iniquity. This is the great light that shall scatter the darkness. We need not that men should be adopting new schemes and new plans. We are glad of the agencies and assistances which are continually arising; but after all, the true Jerusalem blade, the sword that can cut to the piercing asunder of the joints and marrow, is preaching the Word of God. We must never neglect it, never despise it. The age in which the pulpit is despised, will be an age in which gospel truth will cease to be honored…. God forbid that we should begin to depreciate preaching. Let us still honor it; let us look to it as God’s ordained instrumentality, and we shall yet see in the world a repetition of great wonders wrought by the preaching in the name of Jesus Christ.

Back to the Bible! Back to home Bible studies with worn out leather [or well-used digital] Bibles! Back to prayer! Back to personal holiness! Back to getting on our knees and seeking God for revival! Back to the apostolic preaching of Christ Crucified! Back to a passion for souls!

Oh, that You would rend the heavens! That You would come down! That the mountains might shake at Your presence– (Isaiah 64:1, NKJV).

“if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14, NKJV).

There’s nothing wrong in this country that reformation and revival in the Church won’t fix, and fix fast. That’s the main thing. That’s the secret to victory.

It’s the Church…

How do you feel when you watch the news? Where is your hope for a better future? How are you part of strengthening your church? 

As always, sharing is appreciated. 


5 thoughts on “It’s the Church, Stupid

  1. I would HIGHLY recommend John Howard Yoder’s “The Politics of Jesus” and “Body Politics” to add to your list of references. In one of his writings titled “Royal Priesthood” he wrote:

    the churchls responsibility to and for the world is first and always to be the church

    Anabaptists for centuries have been calling for a distinction between the politics of this world and the politics of the Kingdom… it sounds like you are reflecting much of this. I spend much time on my blog stating as much…that politics in our country are useless when it comes to changing the world…true change will only come through the People of God acting like the People of God

    • I have not seen that book, so thanks for the recommendation. I’d probably allow for more influence by Christians at the ballot box as salt of the earth, but I do love the quote: the church’s first responsibility to and for the world is first and always to be the church. Amen.

      • I agree. Blanket statement of “no one should vote” I think is as bad as “everyone MUST vote” when it comes to witness as believers. However, I think that voting should be approached with a great deal of discernment. How much of our practice of voting is maintaining the status quo of government power? How much of it is trying to make over the government as the primary instrument of God’s Kingdom? How much of it is buying into the idea that this is a “Christian” nation and, therefore, the “savior of the world”? These questions give me pause every time I approach the ballot box… and there are times when I abstain from voting because, in my conscience, I cannot choose any of the candidates presented.

  2. Hi Bill, Liked the piece! It certainly encourages us/me to be less self absorbed. A detail jumped out at me when I read the sentence: The “local” church is the hope of the world. The word local sounded odd in the context. Does that have a special meaning (I may have missed it in one of your other articles)?

    • Thanks for stopping by, Kevin. Sometimes the word Church refers to the totality of Christianity in the world… when I say local church, I mean the groupings of real people scattered in churches big and small around the globe. Probably too fine a distinction, I’d say. But I was trying to make it concrete instead of abstract. The real flesh and blood people in real nitty-gritty communities of faith around the globe. Thanks.

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