Joy and I were somewhere between Amarillo, TX and Fontana, CA when I opened checked my email and a friend had sent a link to a 9 Â½ minutes political cartoon from 1948 titled. Make Mine Freedom. It was fortuitous because even as I opened the cartoon link Joy and I were listening to George Orwellâ€™s novel 1984 and the description of Engsoc (English Socialism), New Speak and Double Think. Orwell was not opposed to Socialism per se; in fact he was a member of the Labor Party which was Socialist. However, he was concerned about what he saw in the future if left unchecked which would be totalitarianism. The political cartoon has a snake oil salesman selling â€œIsm,â€ which is guaranteed to give you what you want. One individual warns the others to beware and taste it before they buy it and what they discovered in their taste test was that â€œIsmâ€ leads to totalitarianism. The political cartoon and Orwellâ€™s book were both done in 1948. Both shared the same â€œFuture Sightâ€ of what happens with extreme government intrusion. Both were challenging their audiences to beware of the consequences of their decisions.
Most of us get involved with a variety of things without considering the end result, or what Scripture describes as counting the cost (Luke 14:23-35. What will be the end result of your decision and what will be the sacrifice or cost required to get there?
As Christians in the United States we live fairly comfortable, protected lives. We often think of persecution as someone making fun of our beliefs and/or practices. The ridicule or rejection â€œhurts our feelings.â€ Pastors have a particularly difficult task. Many of them are hired with the idea that they will â€œgrow the church.â€ The meaning of that is bringing in more nickels and noses. More people and more money, but not necessarily more spiritual maturity for that might really cost with diminishing numbers, less money or both. For the pastors who teach verse by verse through books of the Bible, they will often have folks that come to them and say, â€œPastor, you hurt my feelings and I think I will have to leave.â€ Ergun Caner, President of Liberty University, says he does not have the gift of pastoring for when people said that to him his response was â€œâ€¦so leave!â€
I have often said that I am concerned about the state of the church today. There is so much emphasis on being culturally sensitive and non-offensive. The drive to eliminate Christian symbols and replace them with â€œspiritual practicesâ€ which are largely pagan in origin. Programs, books, conferences and even specialists abound to meet the churches â€œfelt needâ€ without regard to or even consideration of the end result. There are also real needs and those who see them tend to think that everyone should be just as involved and passionate as they are in those issues. However, not every individual can be as passionate or involved in every facet of ministry as every other individuals. I think we even see that being implied in Ephesians 4 with the gifts God gave to the church:
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the (AC)knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. (Eph. 4:11-13)
Not all are prophets. Not all are evangelists. Not all are pastors and teachers. All perform some of each of the functions in what they do but have particular areas of passion, emphasis and pursuits. The end or â€œfuture sightâ€ has been thought through and expressed. Paul then explains how this impacts the current and immediate future focus of individual believers:
As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
Notice the language, â€œevery joint,â€ â€œeach individual part,â€ â€œcause the growth.â€ There is stability because sound doctrine and critical thinking are employed by at least most of the believers and they say hard things when necessary (the truth) and they do so because they love those who need to hear the hard things. All are involved and are involved with different things which the body needs.
Donâ€™t get me wrong, there are good churches and solid pastors. I count several as my friends. The pastor of my home church, Mike Wiley, a group of pastors in my area that I met with on Thursday mornings for prayer before Joy and I started truck driving. My friend, Pastor Dan Cox, MCOI Advisory Board members, G. Richard Fisher, Gino Geracci, Phil Ballmaier and many others. These leaders are also concerned about the future of the church and the larger portion seems to be lurching ever farther away from its moorings without consideration or realization of the end result of where it is going.
I am persuaded that we cannot really understand the present condition or future or either the church or culture without a good understanding of the past. Philosopher George Santayana is attributed with having said in volume 1 of his 1905 book The Life of Reason:
Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it
He is correct. What can give good future sight is a solid grasp on the past which brought us to the present. In future blogs Jonathan Miles and I will be looking at five areas which have shaped the church and culture in the present. The church, science, psychiatry/psychology, economics and politics. Many of the issues were not connected initially but their individual trajectories converged in the 1970s with devastating impact on culture and the church. I am persuaded that a grasp of the past and present helps us answer the questions of â€œWhatâ€™s next?â€ and develop a solid â€œFuture Sightâ€ and direction for the church and individuals within it.