As the results of the recent election became clear, I became concerned, not because of party or political issues, but for spiritual reasons. Those who elected our nation’s leaders reflect the hearts of our nation’s citizens. When a political party jeers at the name of God, rejects God’s plan for marriage, and endorses the killing of preborn children—and America elects those who hold these positions—we are in a difficult situation.
As one of the 58 million Americans who did not vote for President Obama, I will still pray for him and respect his office. I will not spend my days in depression or anger. My hope and strength is in Jesus Christ. A hostile political climate is nothing new for Christians.
As we approach the Christmas season, I am reminded of a far more dire political time in which John the Baptist began preaching. By Roman authority Herod Antipas governed Judea and Samaria with pettiness and self-interest. The ruling Jewish leaders treated John the Baptist with contempt. Yet he was faithful to his calling to “prepare the way of the Lord.”
Our responsibility today is similar to that of John the Baptist’s responsibility. We too are preparing for the coming of our Lord. “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him” (1 Thessalonians 4:14).
What are some steps every Baptist pastor can take to help make a difference and prepare the way of the Lord?
1. Earnestly Seek Revival
America has been blessed of God with multiple revivals that began in a single church or area that spread nationally. In the time following the American Revolution, this country was in spiritual decline. For instance, Thomas Paine’s book Age of Reason sought to debunk biblical Christianity, and it gained great popularity in American colleges. In 1794, a group of Baptist pastors drafted a “circular letter” to churches of every denomination asking their members to dedicate days in prayer for revival in America. By the end of 1795, the Second Great Awakening had begun and continued for fifty years. God’s people drew close to the Saviour, and whole towns were converted to Christ.
Our prayer for today is the same. “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?” (Psalm 85:6). Revival is a moving of God where repentance is made toward God and toward one another.
While I have personal and ministerial convictions, I have no interest in participating in online dialog with anonymous commentators about my “feelings regarding another Christian.” Yet the same people who live in this caustic and hurtful world will complain about a changing America. Homosexual activists have more unity than “Bible believers.”
Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, I saw God grant favor in fundamental churches, both in leading many to Christ and influencing our nation. But that influence was lost through pride, unnecessary divisions, jealousy, moral failures, and ministry philosophies that had little emphasis on discipleship and sound preaching.
For the last twenty years, the “Seeker churches” have led the way in American church culture. In the words of Steve Farrar, many of these churches are more about “setting a mood.” (Steve Farrar. King Me: What Every Son Wants and Needs from His Father. Moody Publishers, Chicago. 2005. pp. 125–126). They are unwilling to violate their seeker philosophy to confront our erring nation. The results are reflected in their voting patterns.
While visiting Morocco recently I observed grown men in their places of business falling to their knees to pray to Mecca. There was no doubt who they worshipped. It appears that Muslims are more ardent in their faith than the average American Christian.
Our hope is not found in any circle of Christianity or political party, our hope is in the Lord alone. The future of our nation rests not on the “elephant” or the “donkey,” but on the Lamb that was slain. Submission, purity, and humility prepare our hearts for revival.
2. Walk in Integrity
While we are commanded to preach the Word, we must also live the Word. If we fail in our personal lives, the message of truth with which we have been entrusted will be rejected by a cynical and doubting generation. “Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly” Hebrews 13:18.
3. Get back to the Great Commission
When souls are saved, lives are changed. When enough lives are changed, nations are changed. A Christian nation is made up of Christian people. Yet our calling is not political. The Gospel brings people into the kingdom of God, and sets their citizenship eternally in Heaven.
We witness out of obedience to the command of Christ and response to the love of Christ’s demonstration on the Cross. We need no other motivation. Fleshly motivations can work for a season, but do not produce the spiritual, sustainable life of service God designed for us.
As America is slipping toward a post-biblical mindset, a spiritual revival with the fruit of soulwinning and discipleship could truly make the difference. We are not party boosters, but think with me how the cumulative efforts of Baptist churches in America could sway our nation.
There are approximately 45,000 Southern Baptist churches and 15,000 unaffiliated Baptist churches. Sixty thousand churches reaching and discipling ten adults a year for four years is 2.4 million people. This is approximately the difference in the popular vote of our most recent election. Again, what I am concerned about is the hearts of those who elect our leaders. The soul of our nation is swaying away from biblical Christianity and into the false promises of secular humanism. More important than the vote on a next healthcare bill is the eternal destination of millions of men and women in America.
As we witness, we have the opportunity to proclaim the love of Christ. I do not believe the vast majority of women voted for Barak Obama because they desire abortions. I believe they want a sense of understanding and help with their unique burdens. My job has never been to point men and women to a politician, but I can point them to a friend that sticks closer than a brother—to a burden bearer named Jesus.
4. Plant Churches in the Inner Cities
If your goal is to market to suburban yuppies, build new buildings, and reach people just like you, this point may not interest you. It’s time to radically rethink our missions strategy and look at our own inner cities as our mission field. The inner cities of America have largely been abandoned by Bible-preaching churches. (See this county-by-county map of primary denominations.) The souls of people in these areas matter to God. We must not wait for a denomination or fellowship to start new churches. Churches start churches, and it’s time to get our churches involved in the process. Lancaster Baptist has started the Victory Baptist Church in North Hollywood-Burbank and the Los Angeles Baptist Church, but we need a hundred more in these densely populated areas. We need far fewer conferences and much more action. As we pray and fast, the Holy Spirit will send laborers out of local churches. (See Acts 13)
5. Reach Every Cultural Group
Everyone in this country, no matter how they came here, are people in need of Christ. It is a missions opportunity and our responsibility to reach every cultural group in our community. With Hispanic communities growing throughout our country, few churches have reason not to begin a Spanish ministry. One of my great joys is being the pastor for over 800 Spanish-speaking people who gather on our campus every week. They love the Lord. They believe God knew John the Baptist in his mother’s womb and that God created Adam and Eve. Their allegiance is to Jesus Christ, and they are guided by the Holy Spirit in matters of family and public life.
6. Establish Campus Ministries
The anti-God movement has had its foothold in our secular universities for decades. Politicians know what is being taught in the university. The Democratic Party ran busses from these campuses to polling places for the recent election. Perhaps we could run busses from the campuses to Bible-preaching churches. Perhaps we could establish Bible clubs on these campuses. As local churches, we must not take the attitude that, “Someone else will reach our Jerusalem.” It is our responsibility, and we must not abandon the spiritual destiny of the next generation to parachurch organizations.
There may be no life stage that faces stronger spiritual warfare than single adults. Satan wants to rule this time of life, yet God’s more abundant life must be shared with this generation with joy and energy. A recent study showed that religious “nones,” those who identified with no religion, has risen to 20% of Americans. Among adults ages 18–22, the proportion is 34%.
You can impress people from your office, but you can only impact them up close. If our churches will continue to be salt and light in our communities, we need teams who will impact college campuses for Christ.
7. Pray for National Leaders
I miss Jerry Falwell. Whether you agreed with all his actions or not, he had a national voice and was willing to speak as the prophets of old for righteousness sake. Men today with similar resources and a national voice often appear more concerned with self-preservation and avoiding offense than proclaiming the Bible truth.
Some attempts have been made to call men to righteousness, but we need God-anointed leaders. These will not be men who simply insert their opinion into the moment. They will be men like Moses and David who have dedicated themselves to service for God. God can raise them up. When God heard the prayers of Zacharias and Elisabeth, He gave them John the Baptist—the forerunner of Jesus Christ. God will still hear the prayer of righteous people calling for revival. He can even raise up leaders who will lift up the name of Jesus.
Republican Party leadership has proven their ineffectiveness, yet we see the same lack of leadership in church life. George Müller once observed, “The great fault of the children of God is, they do not continue in prayer; they do not go on praying; they do not persevere. If they desire anything for God’s glory, they should pray until they get it.” Pray that God would raise up men with convictions and courage for this hour.
8. Stand for Truth
Ephesians 6:13 teaches us, “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”
I truly am concerned about the America my children and grandchildren will grow up in. I may not be able to change the direction of large groups of people, but I can grow in grace and personally stand for the Lord. I can give the gift of a faithful example to my children and church family.
Our Christian friends in China have proven to us you don’t have to be in a democratic or Christian nation to be true to Christ, to evangelize, and to establish new churches. Our hope for America may pass, but our hope in Christ will always stand.
It is my prayer that pastors across America will evaluate this eight-fold call and determine to engage in each area for the cause of Christ. As one unknown author said it best, “Only one life will soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.”
Note: A more extensive action plan will be given at the 2013 Spiritual Leadership Conference June 10–12.