What's the Cultural Challenge the Church Faces in 2018?
You never know when Jesus will show up.
Case Keenum's professional journey has been challenging. Despite a record-setting career in college, he went undrafted by the NFL. He was eventually signed by Houston, where he went 0-8 as their starting quarterback in 2013. He then played for St. Louis, went back to Houston, and then back to St. Louis.
After stints as their starter, he was benched and then signed a one-year contract to serve as Minnesota's backup quarterback for 2017. When the starter was injured, he took over in the second week of the season. He led his team to a 13-3 record.
After Sunday's last-second play that is already being called the Minnesota Miracle, he's now one game from the Super Bowl. When the game ended, with pandemonium all around, he told a national audience that the miraculous win "probably will go down as the third-best moment of my life."
What tops this stunning victory? "Giving my life to Jesus Christ and marrying my wife," Keenum said as the ecstatic crowd roared all around him. One reporter called it an "incredible postgame Jesus moment."
Four months ago, Case Keenum had no idea he would make national headlines today. But he was ready when his time came.
Is this 1776 or 1789?
The Colson Center's "BreakPoint" recently asked several Christian leaders to define "challenges facing the church in 2018." Os Guinness, one of this generation's most insightful evangelical theologians, offered a response that was so compelling I will reproduce it today in full:
"If we fight the battle at any point except where the battle is really being fought, we might as well not fight. Luther's famous maxim is urgent for Christians today. The U.S. is experiencing its gravest crisis since the Civil War, but there is no agreement as to what the crux of the battle is. The division in this country is not just between Progressives and Conservatives, 'coastals' and 'heart-landers,' and 'globalists' and 'nationalists.' It is between '1776,' and the heirs and allies of the American revolution, where faith and freedom went hand in hand; and '1789,' and the heirs and allies of the thinking of the French revolution, where faith and freedom were mortal enemies.
"The current crisis is a tale of these two revolutions. Both cry 'freedom,' but their views of freedom are diametrically opposed. They have different roots (the Bible versus the Enlightenment), different views of human nature (realism versus utopianism), different views of change (incremental versus radical), different views of freedom (the power to do what you ought versus the permission to what you like), different views of government (protective versus Progressive), different views of accountability ('under God' versus without God), and different views of righting wrongs (repentance and reconciliation versus reparation and revenge).
"If this is correct, the challenges are plain. The question before America: Is the 'constitutional Republic' to be restored or replaced? The question before us as Christians: How do we live and speak so faithfully that we honor our Lord and his ways in response to one of the greatest apologetic challenges and one of the greatest cultural challenges in all history? Now is a time for what Rabbi Heschel called 'moral grandeur and spiritual audacity.' All who are Evangelical and unashamed can be confident that the good news is more than sufficient for the gravity of the hour."
When Jesus is on trial
I am convinced that Guinness is right: there is a massive cultural divide today between Americans who see Christianity as foundational to our past and essential for our future, and Americans who see Christianity as irrelevant, if not dangerous.
You and I are alive "for such a time as this" (Esther 4:14). It is by divine providence that you were not living in 1818 and that you will not be on this planet in 2218 (if the Lord tarries).
Your Father intended you to follow and serve Jesus in this cultural moment. You have all you need to be faithful to his call. As the saying goes, God equips the called and anoints all he appoints.
One vital aspect of successful witnessing today is doing what Case Keenum did: be ready when your moment comes.
Jesus warned his disciples that they would face persecuting authorities. However, this was to be their posture: "Do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you" (Matthew 10:19-20).
When we have an opportunity to make public our faith in Jesus, we can feel as though we are a defendant on trial, with the other person as the prosecutor looking for ways to defeat our testimony.
In fact, Jesus is on trial. The Holy Spirit is the defense attorney, while Satan is the prosecutor. The person with whom you are speaking is the jury.
Your job is to go to the stand when the defense attorney calls you and tell what you know as he leads you. You may be the first witness called to the stand, so that you never hear how the jury decides. You may be the last, and thus present when the jury renders a verdict, hopefully for the Defendant. You will probably be somewhere in the middle.
The point: your job is to be ready. Tell what you know when given the opportunity and trust the results to God.
However, our witness is effective only if it is credible. Case Keenum's priorities are clear: faith, family, football. Are they yours?
First published at the Denison Forum.