I Know Who Will Lead Us

Church In America

Over the weekend, CNN ran an article under the headline, “Who Will Lead Us?”  In it, Stephen Collinson was bemoaning the current leadership vacuum in American life.  He was essentially throwing his hands in the air and wondering out loud how we’re ever going to get out of the mess we’re in as a people.  It’s a good question.  And one that has few promising answers when you survey the landscape of political, cultural and moral leadership in modern America.

But if you bring the church into the conversation, you start to find hope.  When you bring Jesus into the mix, everything becomes possible.  Our country shouldn’t have to be looking around for hope.  We should see it flowing out of every church and out of every Christian.

This is the church’s moment.

 

America needs the church far more than the church needs America.

Yes, I enjoy the freedoms of religious liberty.  Yes, I like gathering with my church without any fear of arrest or persecution.  But most of us can’t imagine the church without America and that’s just wrong.  When you drop the church into the persecution of China, she thrives.  When you drop the church into the hardships of Africa, she explodes.  We don’t need to worry about the church – she’ll be just fine.  In fact, not even the gates of hell will prevail over her. (Mt. 16:18)

The question is whether she’ll thrive and explode in this American moment.

I believe she can and I believe she will.  The country is looking for hope – for people not afraid to talk about the deep wounds of racism, for people willing to confront the brokenness of humanity, for people who will point the way towards justice and peace, for people who have been deeply impacted by the message of grace.

The grace of Jesus will inspire people to do what no law can command.  It’s in response to an infinitely rich God who became poor for our sake (2 Corinthians 8:9) that we start living generous lives.  It’s in response to a God who died for us while we were enemies that we find the courage to love our own enemies. (Romans 5:8 and Mt. 5:44)  It’s in response to the cross that we find the strength to fight for justice.

This isn’t a time for the church to be quiet.  This is a time for us to hold out the hope of the gospel.  The hope of a God who forgives all.  The hope of a God who changes hearts.  The hope of a God who will one day make all things new.

This boldness can’t just come from the pulpit.  It must flow from our lives.  We, like Paul, must not be ashamed of the gospel.  Why?  It’s the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16).  We must take up our calling to be ambassadors of Christ.(2 Cor. 5:20).  Be salt and light to our world.(Mt. 5:13-16)

Don’t feel bad or embarrassed that you follow Jesus.  Be thrilled that you know the One who is hope.  Delight in the privilege of being His child.  Be bold, be wise, be loving, be gentle.

Just don’t run from the world.  Run to it with hope, grace and the name of Jesus.

 

Hope For A Weary Land

Sparlers

A 37-year-old black man was shot to death on Tuesday while he lay on the ground in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  On the same day, one presidential nominee narrowly escaped indictment and settled for a blistering attack on her judgement and trustworthiness.  Meanwhile, the other presidential nominee was busy sharing reflections on what he admires most about Saddam Hussein.

And those are just the headlines.

As a country, we oscillate between outrage and apathy.  Fear, indifference, anger and division increasingly dominate the national conversation.  For some reason, we still seem convinced that yelling at each other on social media is going to accomplish something. The ability to disagree and treat one another civilly has almost evaporated.

It’s all just hard to watch.

Our country is crying out for hope.  And we as Christians are largely silent.  That’s the part that’s hardest for me to watch.

I’m not talking about our social media activism or political engagement.  I’m talking about our willingness to talk with others about Jesus.  Somewhere along the way, we became afraid to talk about Him.  Somewhere along the way, we learned to apologize for Him, hide Him or leave Him out of the conversation.  Maybe we didn’t want to offend.  Maybe we were afraid.  Maybe we didn’t know exactly what to say.  But we learned to be quiet.  We learned to raise our hands in worship on Sunday and go undercover on Monday.

Our country is desperate for the hope we’re afraid to share. 

The wounds of racism, injustice, corruption, greed and self-interest can be healed.  No one needs to live in the grip of bitterness, fear and alienation.  The gospel not only saves souls.  It transforms communities.  It gives hope for eternity and power for the challenges of today.

Christian, you don’t have anything to be ashamed of.  The hope our world needs is alive in you.  You’re an ambassador of Christ.  You’re a herald of grace, of love, of hope.  The world needs you.  The world needs Jesus.  The world needs you to carry the name of Jesus.

Young Christians, Don’t Be Afraid of Veteran’s Day

VeteransDay

Every year it seems like Veteran’s Day produces some low grade angst in many young, urban Christians.  Very few seem opposed to the holiday (especially if they get the day off from work) but there seems to be a lot of hesitancy about how vocal we should be.  Many of the questions I’ve been asked are good ones from well meaning followers of Christ:

  • If my citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20), should I dial back on anything that could be seen as patriotic?
  • Could thanking veterans erode my ability to reach the international community in my city?  Maybe my thanks won’t play well with people from countries where troops have been or are currently deployed.
  • Not everyone in my church is American.  I don’t want them to feel marginalized or isolated.
  • I want to maintain the ability to reach people with all kinds of foreign policy views, so I don’t say anything that could ever hinder that objective.
  • The military just isn’t my thing.  Jesus is my focus.

Rather than answering each of these questions point by point, let me offer two simple thoughts:

Settle Down.

Most of this angst comes from overthinking the situation and overestimating our own importance.  Nobody thinks that you saying thank you to our troops is somehow an endorsement of every military action ever taken by America.  You’re not endorsing an interventionist or isolationist foreign policy.  You’re not making a statement about budget priorities in Washington.  You’re saying thank you.  There’s everything right with taking a day to say thank you to our military families who sacrifice so much on our behalf.

Focus On What Matters.

I promise you the great obstacle to reaching people from the other 195 countries on the planet is not Veteran’s Day.  It’s our self absorption the other 364 days of the year.  The best way to demonstrate our citizenship in heaven is by loving across cultures, borders and barriers on a daily basis.  The world is desperately waiting for the church to lead the way in bringing hope, justice and life to every nation, every tribe and every tongue.  We are to be the ones who love the alien and stranger, the widow and orphan and the least of these.  The world needs us actively engaged in the mission of God, not looking for ways to compensation for and distract from our disengagement.

You can see the Pentagon from where our church gathers on a Sunday morning.  I have the privilege of pastoring a number of military families and I’ve seen first hand the sacrifice, bravery and service that define their lives.  I love Jesus and I love these families.  I’m grateful for the blessing of being an American and I’m grateful for a day to honor those who defend our nation and our freedoms.

Happy Veteran’s Day!