Let me come out and say it: the American church needs awakening. As a pastor, I have a responsibility to call God’s people to live passionate Christian lives and to engage in bold Christian witness. Certainly I have a responsibility to preach and to live this kind of Christian life. We are God-ordained leaders who have the responsibility to . . . well . . . lead, and do so by example. When we look back at the driving force behind the first and second awakenings we see preachers of the gospel, yea pastors, leading the charge. They boldly called people to a radical change beginning with conversion, i.e. trusting Christ and Christ alone for their salvation followed by a changed life in Him.
Ravi Zacharias, an eminent apologist for the Christian faith, was asked if we find ourselves in post-modernity or if we are moving towards a new chapter in the philosophical development of America. He answered by observing that modernity and its rules of logic win the day when Christianity and the gospel are opposed; but post-modernism is invoked when moral structures are defended. That is to say, when one desires to oppose Christianity they present rational, coherent arguments against the faith; but to defend a worldview that allows for their lifestyle, rationality and coherence are thrown out the window and “what works for me is good for me” suddenly becomes the foundation. Post-modernism is essentially the “freedom to serve our sinful nature” (Galatians 5:13, NLT). We are living in post-modern modernity. This is evident in the evangelical American church. Feeling trumps thinking in our churches. What others think of our worship service is more important than what God thinks of it. Too often people are motivated by guilt rather than godly affection. The American evangelical church has—hook, line, and sinker—bought into church-growth theories. Our worship services are built upon the sand of seekers rather than on the firm foundation of God and His word. To put this plainly, we have put a premium on what is good for our groove rather than what is good for our soul. Therefore, the light of America’s evangelical soul is becoming alarmingly dim—perhaps it has already died out.
Because of God’s grace and His sovereignty, the light continues to shine in other parts of the world. Indeed, it is shining and shining brightly. The American Academy is doing all it can possibly do to push out anything that even hints of Christianity or a Christian world-view. The most prestigious Universities in America, once Christian institutions, are now the bastions of liberalism (Oxford University’s motto, for example, is Dominus Illuminatio Mea, which means “the Lord is my light” from Psalm 27:1). In contrast, Chinese universities are asking for substantial theological publications from American Christian authors to translate, publish, and make available to their students. At one point, the Shanghai Post quoted Mao Tse-Tung as saying the final chapter of Christianity had been written in China. Contrast that to the new Chinese President’s statement that Christianity ought to be the dominant religion in China because Christians are good citizens, therefore a Christian China would be a great country. It has been rightly noted that this statement sees Christianity as a means to a socialist end (see the article found here). Nevertheless, the door to spread the gospel is being pushed open in China by God’s superintendence. God has often used civil rulers to unknowingly serve as instruments to accomplish His purposes (cf. Proverbs 21:1). It is said that the underground Chinese church is thriving, close to 80 million strong and comprised of many professionals and intellectuals of Chinese society.
It seems to me that Christianity is a light “hid under a bushel” in America. Thanks be to God that He remains faithful and will keep for Himself a faithful remnant. What alarms me is that the remnant seems to be diminishing in America. There is a growing remnant in China as the sun of Christianity sets on the west and rises in the east. This saddens my heart and it serves as a rousing call to perform my pastoral duties faithfully. Awakening begins when people’s holy affections are stirred up. What follows is a commitment to be devoted followers of Christ. David Wells rightly stated:
Many churches have not learned the lessons that most parents stumble on sooner or later. Churches imagine that the less they ask or expect of believers, the more popular they will become and the more contented the worshippers will be. The reverse is true. Those who ask little find that the little they ask is resented or resisted; those who ask much find that they are given much and strengthened by the giving (David Wells, God in the Wasteland, 226).
2 Chronicles 7:14 “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” Let’s pray as God’s people (and preach as pastors) for a third awakening in America. We need it.