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Why churches and families are under siege

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Why is it that churches in contemporary times seem to suffer turmoil and division, while simultaneously, marriages and families are in a state of collapse?

Many people leave churches because church fights seem constant and wearisome. Men and women divorce because it seems impossible to attain and maintain peace in the home. Many individuals are battle-weary in both church and family, and just want out.

After spending more than 40 years as a pastor counseling hundreds of church leaders and husbands and wives and seeking to understand the forces that try to bring about the destruction of both institutions, I believe the root issue is spiritual.

Why should we be surprised that both church and home are under a constant barrage?

In one sense, it is a mark of their authenticity and mission, and victories over the adversary.
Church and family are the primary defenders against sheer chaos overwhelming societies. The fundamental struggle in the fallen world is chaos against cosmos, and church and family are vital in resisting the pull into deepening disorder, a descent into Hell itself.

Church and home each have a distinctive role in this relentless warfare. The Church is to teach us about transcendence, including our accountability to the Lord God that goes with it. A clear understanding of God’s transcendent majesty in a world where people worship themselves and the idols of their own making as the highest of “gods” and “goddeses” is of high urgency.

Meanwhile, the Family is to show the importance of solid boundaries and how to construct and maintain them in a world in which many people want to run wild.

The strength and stability of a free society are related directly to the authentic, biblically based church. Russell Kirk, a brilliant political theorist in a past era, said of America and the West: “Fundamentally, our society’s affliction is the decay of religious belief. If a culture is to survive and flourish it must not be severed from the religious vision out of which it arose. The necessity of reflective men and women, then, is to labor for the restoration of religious teachings as a credible body of doctrine.”

All societies rest on a fundamental worldview and the values, beliefs, and systems of governance arising from it. No wonder the powers of chaos will always seek to destroy the fellowship and function of the biblical church.

Why should we be surprised when church and home suffer constant tensions and outright battles? They are a threat to the goals of the powers of darkness, and spiritual warfare is inevitable. To throw up one’s hands with respect to church and home is desertion under battle. It is cowardice, faithlessness, and hopelessness.

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“Do not remove the ancient boundaries which your fathers have set, says Proverbs 22:28. The setting and protection of boundaries is a function of the Family and if there is a father in the home he is to take the lead. If there is no godly dad present, then the authority devolves to the mother” (1 Corinthians 7:13-14).

Whatever the case, loving parents are the best boundary-builders because when cold institutions and their bureaucracies try to establish a boundary, all they can do is write a law that then becomes the responsibility of a police officer, a court, or some other magistrate to enforce.

I remember a dear friend of decades ago who lived in a “broken” home. He complained about his single mother making him go to church every Sunday, and to a church-based boys’ club on Wednesday nights. This was in an immediate postwar era, and most of the men teaching the boys’ groups were just home from war.

“I kept you in Church,” she told her son decades later “because you needed the influence of godly men.”

Positive discipline in the atmosphere of love and relationship that only an effective family can provide is crucial in a culture that often regards discipline as the means of squelching the pleasure that broken culture celebrates as the highest goal. The aim of discipline should be internalizing the lifestyle of personal discipline. The parents should have as a major goal of creating a learning environment where vital principles are built into the child’s worldview (See Psalm 78)

It is naïve to be surprised that both Church and Family are under continual assault from the powers of darkness. Of course the promoters of idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, and carousing will fight against the encouragers of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,  faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:20-23)

Don’t raise the white flag to the forces of chaos by abandoning of church or home. It is precisely because of the important role of biblically based churches and families that tensions and pressures and the temptation to flee will come … and in many cases, it is because of the victories in spiritual warfare that the struggle becomes more intense.

This age of intensifying madness is not the time to give up.

Wallace B. Henley is a former pastor, daily newspaper editor, White House and Congressional aide. He served 18 years as a teaching pastor at Houston's Second Baptist Church. Henley is author or co-author of more than 25 books, including God and Churchill, co-authored with Sir Winston Churchill's great grandson, Jonathan Sandys. Henley's latest  book is Who will rule the coming 'gods'? The looming  spiritual crisis of artificial intelligence.

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