Friday, June 17, 2011

The imminent revival -- part 3: The end of the culture war

Over the past couple of decades, I've rooted for the Republican Party -- to lose elections. It's not simply that I disagree with its platform, though I certainly do.

But there's a bigger issue involved: I believe that the less power the GOP has nationwide, the more likely spiritual revival will break out.

Before you dismiss me as a member of the loony left, hear me out. It's always been my contention that a focus on political matters -- specifically, conservative ideology -- has actually cost us in the long run.

The first thing you need to know is that the political right began as an entirely secular movement in the 1950s. Christians got involved only in the late 1970s, when former Nixon/Goldwater fund-raiser Richard Viguerie, whose spiritual leanings I'm not aware of, encouraged the late Jerry Falwell to found Moral Majority to add to the former's then-growing direct-mail empire. And that's how a pro-business ideology which has nothing to do with the Good News of Jesus Christ has wormed its way into "Christian" politics -- essentially, we sold out to the prevailing culture.

However, that alliance is crumbling, with "religious right" organizations becoming irrelevant -- notice that few people talk about abortion these days, and we've lost the war against "gay marriage" -- but secular conservatives becoming seemingly stronger by the day. Indeed, right now we couldn't witness to the non-religious right if we wanted to because our goals are almost exactly the same.

Thank God that He's doing something different. I look for a new movement that seeks reconciliation rather than division. I look for people more interested in ministry than demonization of "targets." And, above all, I look for reconcilers -- prayer warriors seeking Christ and His Kingdom and not satisfied with the trappings of modern "evangelical Christianity." So God has to take us out of all that -- and there will become a time when our so-called friends expose themselves as our enemies.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The imminent revival -- part 2

Those of you in my hometown of Pittsburgh will be pleased to learn that I believe that this metro area will likely become a haven of true spiritual revival that could sweep the world. I base that opinion on conditions in the church in general being right.

For those of you who don't live here, the religious culture of our city is such that you can hear a true Gospel message in even many of the "mainline" churches, whether Presbyterian (the largest Protestant denomination), Methodist, Anglican, Campbellite, Lutheran or Baptist; in fact, the "charismatic" movement started on a retreat of students from Duquesne University, the largest local Catholic college.

Renewal movements in those denominations actually started or are based here -- the local Presbyterian seminary is the PCUSA's most conservative, and the local Episcopal diocese left the national church two years ago, taking with it the majority of churches, over what it considered to be intolerable liberalism. Cults don't thrive here; during my days at the University of Pittsburgh in the mid-1990s I fought one which was struggling to get a foothold on campus. (And it still hasn't done so, from what I understand.) On top of that, "funky junky" theology doesn't go over too well either; the "prosperity gospel," "hyperfaith" and the so-called Toronto blessing and the Pensacola "revival" don't have that many adherents.

That said, however, I have an idea of three places where it might start:

1) My own church. In the 12 years I've attended there it has always sought to be proactive in ministry, looking for opportunities rather than excuses, and its leadership from my vantage point has always sought to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. Thanks to its extensive ministry it has a great reputation in the city and has even entertained leadership visiting from other churches across the country interested in similarly reaching people. But it would be willing to throw that reputation away to be faithful to Christ and His Kingdom.

2) My home area of Wilkinsburg, an eastern suburb which began falling on hard times when crack cocaine hit in the late 1980s -- drive-bys were a weekly occurrence and those who could afford to move did. Things have been so bad for so long that it has nowhere to go but up -- which is hopefully when folks there turn wholeheartedly to God. Also, a large number of good churches have always been there, so ... well, watch out!

3) Butler County, north of the city. I have a contact up there whose ministry consists of meeting with pastors to unify them spiritually to do work in that area, specifically because it has such a problem with heroin use especially among the youth that it doesn't even bother to hide it anymore.

Basically, God works primarily when folks trust Him to do the work and then obey Him. We in Pittsburgh might be at that point.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The imminent revival -- part 1

A couple of years ago, the Rev. Charles Stanley, pastor of First Baptist Church in Atlanta and who teaches through his "In Touch" radio and TV broadcasts, said that he saw no signs of spiritual revival in this country.

I don't agree with him. At all.

We need to consider just what he meant by "revival" -- when the enemies of what he considered "Christendom" were put away and that we would become, once again, "one nation under God." But, with all respect due to Dr. Stanley, that's not what He means by "revival."

Rather, revival can, and likely will, break out when the church realizes that it has sold out to the world's way of thinking and operating -- "selling" the gospel, softening its demands for the sake of an audience and focusing on changing the culture so that we don't have to engage in spiritual warfare. Just the opposite -- He is prepping us for a Great Battle but not using "carnal" weapons.

As such, the spiritual revival God has planned will not be obvious to everyone at first. Small pockets of believers praying for Him to move, realizing that things would be totally hopeless otherwise. A "remnant" focused only on His Kingdom and unwilling to compromise. Pastors shut up in closets until they hear from Him. And so on, and so on ...

When it happens, however, it might very well turn the established church upside down. The "hyperfaith" and "prosperity" preachers will be exposed. The "family values" groups will go belly-up. The Christian music "industry" might very well collapse. Mega-church buildings will sit desolate. "Inclusive" churches may find themselves completely excluded for forsaking Godly counsel.

In short, get ready for some big changes, as God Himself will, to use sports terminology, separate the contenders from the pretenders.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Disappointment -- part of life

Today marks the anniversary of one of the biggest disappointments of my life, if not the biggest one. Thirty-two years ago would have been my senior prom, which I didn't attend because there was essentially no one for me to invite.

At the time, it seemed that things were conspiring against me -- for a number of reasons I wasn't terribly popular with girls either at my school or in the immediate neighborhood and in fact didn't even have any casual female friends. Further, my dad never encouraged me to learn how to drive a car, so "importing" someone wasn't an option, either. It didn't matter that my closest friends at the time didn't go either. (And while I don't want to make a one-to-one comparison, I believe that my situation then is at least indirectly connected to why I'm still single today.)

I was a new Christian at the time, however; even then I knew that I was never guaranteed an easy life and wouldn't get everything I wanted. We don't always get the job, the girl, the house in the 'burbs -- in short, following Jesus may, and almost always does, mean sacrificing something, even cherished ambitions.

I'm reminded too that others have suffered as well, though perhaps not in the same way. When a formerly close long-distance friend, whom I did date at one point, came to visit we made it a point to get dressed up for an evening out, my wearing a tux. You see, six years after I graduated from high school, her prom date stood her up.

So perhaps its a good thing that we have some pain -- so that we can understand what others experience.