America is in crisis. For years, the growing level of depravity evident in our culture has been clear to those with open eyes to see. This year, conditions have grown dire with the spread of disease and the very real prospect of severe economic difficulties to follow.
In the midst of this, I have noticed a common theme in the messages I have heard preached from church websites. “God loves you, he is in control, do not worry, everything will be fine.” These are good words meant to leave us feeling comfortable and secure.
Surely, these messages are Biblical, but suppose they do not reflect what God wants us to hear at this time. Is anyone willing to think differently about this or does our nation need to fall further into darkness to the point where it may be too late?
There is a pattern evident in Scripture that God’s chosen people, the nation of Israel, despite the many blessings they received from God, would eventually stray to the point of falling into deep, ingrained sin as a nation. It happened over and over.
In the New Testament, we see evidence that God’s adopted children, the Church established by Jesus, would follow the same pattern as Israel. In the Book of Revelation, three of seven letters written to churches issued sharp rebukes. As one example, Jesus chided the Church of Sardis, “You have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.”
Most notably, the three letters of rebuke were issued to believers who presumably felt comfortable in the practice of their faith, much like most Christians do today in our nation.
And that raises an interesting question for the churches in America that believe they are “alive,” and for the vast majority of Christians in America who may feel content with their level of devotion to God. Given the deep spiritual darkness that now covers our land, and the unprecedented crisis we now face, should we not consider that those very same Revelation warnings might apply to us, here and now?
It is easy enough for us to point to the culture and think the problem is out there, but the truth is there are churches everywhere in America and the evidence suggests our churches lack saltiness and are having minimal impact. Could it be that our nation is racing down the road to spiritual darkness because the church has lost its way? Who will ask, “Search me oh God,” when it comes to examining our own lives or the spiritual health of our church?
So let’s think about this for a minute and consider one simple example among many we could cite. God said, “My house shall be a house of prayer,” and this is how the early Christians lived. In fact, they “all joined together constantly in prayer.” By contrast, among the many churches I know or have researched, most do not have so much as one weekly gathering where the exclusive focus is prayer, and in the case of those that do, few people actually attend.
In the American Evangelical Church we greatly value nice buildings, fancy technology, well-planned programs, engaging messages, professional music, fun and fellowship, but where is there an evangelical church in America that is as a place of prayer? How can any church where such prayer is lacking consider itself “alive?” And if we belong to such a church, shouldn’t we be deeply grieved over our sin in this area?
Think about this seriously. Do our lives reflect the hard teaching of Jesus who said we must deny ourselves and take up our cross, or do our lives reflect a pursuit of comfort and pleasure as we seek to live the American Dream? If you were to stand before Jesus today, would you have just cause to think he would say, “Well done good and faithful servant?”
Sadly, most of us have fallen into the trap of believing we are just fine because every Christian we know is pretty much living the same way. In the midst of this current crisis, and in light of the immorality that is prevalent in our nation, the time for serious self-examination is now, and our measuring stick is not the church down the road, it’s the Church of the Bible and we need to stop making excuses to justify our failure to measure up.
By what authority may we create a new church model that does not resemble the Church of Scripture? They lived sacrificial lives, not lives of luxury and comfort we seek; they were One Body united together love, not isolated from each other in silo churches that have no meaningful connection; and unlike us, they spread the Gospel boldly, and “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Fueling all of this was the power of the Holy Spirit, unleashed in fullness because they “all joined together constantly in prayer.”
How can we possibly claim we believe Scripture is divinely inspired yet refuse to put these fundamental teachings into practice and sit idly while our nation creeps closer to judgment?
Yes, God loves us and he is in control, but everything is not OK, and God’s instructions for such a time are quite clear. “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 I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
In this time of crisis, we in the Church have a responsibility to reflect seriously on God’s warnings, to repent of our sin and put our spiritual houses in order. If we do this now, perhaps we might be able to remake our churches into houses of prayer that honor God in such a way that he will bring revival to America.
Jim Ash is the founder and publisher of the Main Street Journal, a local newspaper in Marlborough, MA where he has been covering news and writing commentary for more than twenty-five years. He is a co-leader of United We Pray, a monthly prayer gathering at Marlborough’s Union Common. For the past two years, he has been working with local pastors on a mission to bring the church community together into deeper prayerfulness.