FEATURE ARTICLE – A PROVOCATIVE WORD FOR AMERICA AND THE NATIONS
Editor’s note: This word has been distributed by the International Prayer Council to whom the writer is known. It is a reminder from someone viewing the world through a non-western mindset that our western view of Christianity and the world may not always be the right one and gives us thought for prayer and reflection.
I have been following the prayers that are going on at this time in USA both in the context of the Presidential Elections and the Global political situation. I do not claim to see in visions and dreams but as a preacher called to the nations I make scripturally reasoned and spiritually discerning observations, analysis and conclusions about situations and conditions of both church and the world. Here is what I want to say about the situation in America and by implication other parts of the world as well. To begin with: In my reckoning one conclusion that can be drawn regarding America is that there has been a progressive ascendency of evil spiritual powers over America over the last several decades.
This is clear from the candidates who recently stood for President, whatever their public or private stance regarding the Bible. In fact this ascendency has been happening over the last several presidential elections. This conclusion can also be drawn from the way evil in its various forms has been on the rise. Notwithstanding the prayers and claims among Christians. In fact as I see it, both the presidential candidates personified the spirit of America! There are several prayer movements concentrating on specific sins of America and engaging in repentance, confession and prayer for America. I am not against prayer nor against confessing and identificational repentance. But I believe there is much more than what we think are our national sins, which require repentance and confession in order to regain our authority and witness.
It is as if Samson wishing to engage in confessing and repenting for the sins of Israel, having given away his hair to Delilah. In allowing Delilah to cut his hair whether consciously or otherwise, he not only compromised his calling but lost his identity. I believe this image explains much of what is going on today in the church worldwide. The people of God, practically the world over have compromised their calling ‘to be God’s own people’ and in the bargain have lost their identity as ‘God’s own people’ and thus have lost their witness. There might be exceptions but I am talking in general. There is gross worldliness among God’s people today. Worldliness in the form of ‘middle-class lifestyles’ that practically everyone of us have adopted, pursued and celebrate, with very few exceptions.
We have not cared to see that such lifestyles are a result of capitalism which itself is a dubious economic model passed off as scriptural since it came through the backdoor of Puritanism and on a faulty interpretation of scriptures. Today, it is not just our lifestyles but even our churches and ministries are being run on the same model of private entrepreneurship, which is a euphemism for private business. Several so-called big ministry leaders have built their private fiefdoms in the name of ministry. Since they have the numbers and the big national and global sized structures to show – everyone is awed into silence. And both the rank and file as well as the leaders claim to have prayed and quote scriptures as proof of Lord’s leading to do what they have done – we sit in silence lest we fall into the trap of becoming judges of our own sisters and brothers.
If the largeness of numbers and structures is the criteria for deciding that God has lead them, one has to only come to India to see the kind of numbers and structures some Hindu gurus draw and built. One could even site the temples built by some Hindu groups in your own back yard – in New Jersey and California. When will the church learn that numbers and size don’t matter to an eternal and infinite God. By adopting such models as proof of God’s blessing upon one’s ministry have we not undercut our own witness and authority? If these mattered in the Kingdom of God, why would Christ be born the way he did? We have lost our vision of the Trinitarian God and the incarnation of His Son. Until this is recovered, we shall continue to grope around like blind Samson, looking for a pillar to pull down the strongholds of evil.
Actually the fiefdoms and dominions we have built in the name of ‘ministry’ have in themselves today become strongholds of the evil one. I strongly believe that we have established newer principalities, powers and dominions and are enslaved to them! Having lost our spiritual authority, we have courted the political and economic power centres of the world in order to gain acceptance and credibility. We have solicited and feted the ill-gotten wealth of the so-called ‘Christian businesses’ (in my reckoning the term is an oxymoron). When has mammon become necessary for the building of the Kingdom of God? Who sits in the White House has nothing to do with the Kingdom of God. We haven’t learnt this from Jesus or Paul!
And some of today’s leaders preen in this borrowed glory from the world – strutting about in the dignity and confidence of gaining the world. Does their confidence spring from knowing Christ and denying everything that the world has to offer? This is the reason why I say that the people of God are actually ‘cohabiting with the world’. In the 1980s John White, writing about personal morality, the quest for affluence and the worship of success among Christians, said that we were ‘flirting with the worl’. In the 1990s, Os Guinness writing about the mega-church and mega-ministry movements said that they were ‘dining with the devil’. But I want to say that we have not only been flirting and dining but have been cohabiting with the world for a few centuries now!
The fruit of this illegitimate relationship is all around us to see both in terms of mal-formed ‘Christians’ and several illegitimate activities passing off as ministry! I am referring to all the ministries that have been spawned to serve needs arising from pursuing the world. My point is that most of these so-called ministries have sprung up to serve the needs of those pursuing the world’s agenda. And I do not just refer to the prosperity gospellers (at least they are shameless and open about it) but to the main line evangelicals and to all those who have egged Christians on, to pursue capitalism driven middle class lifestyles in terms of educational, career and material prosperity.
You see what I mean? Most of us have adopted unquestioningly career-driven, middle-class lifestyles as a given. We have not raised a question nor batted an eye-lid to wonder if this was a biblical or Christ-given model for life. In so doing we have not only brought in the world among us but have compromised our calling and lost our identity. In fact, having acquired and attaining the securities and identities offered to us by the world, we have practically obliterated the line of demarcation that should have existed between us and the rest of the world. Neither does the world see any difference between us and them except our religious or spiritual jingoism.
Another aspect of worldliness among God’s people, which has not only led to compromising with the world and thus have lost their identity but has given them newer identities alien to scripture and to their calling, is through the systems and structures they have adopted to ‘run churches’ and to ‘do ministries’. The organizational and governing models are all of the world. In fact their origin is in Babel and not in God. By flaunting these identities we think we demonstrate God’s power not knowing that God’s power is demonstrated by making ourselves vulnerable, small and simple. My point is unless the people of God in America or anywhere else in the world take their calling to follow Christ serious and recognize, renounce, and repudiate everything and anything that is of the world and follow their Master by making themselves small and vulnerable, there will be no demonstration of God’s power nor would they recover their witness and regain their authority in Christ.
And all our efforts and exercises in prayer and intercession would remain just that, efforts and exercises, we might see some marginal changes or fringe benefits, but nothing significant as far as spiritual powers are concerned. The ‘people of God’ today are drunk with the world, we are so enamoured and in thrall of it that we have not only cavorted and cohabit with it, but do not wish to recognize our sin (As a drunk always denies he is drunk!). We show our big structures and numbers to show that God is on our side and have not cared to ask, if this is how and what the Kingdom of God is about? If our strength, our power, our energy, our dignity and our authority is because of the bigness of our ministries/churches, or because of our education, money, influence or anything else (or even our proximity to the White House) that the world could offer, then we have already compromised. And God’s ‘manifold wisdom’ cannot be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places’ (Eph 3:10)
When God’s people live by their calling and derive their strength, power, energy, dignity and authority from their God alone, they will have God’s power and authority at their disposal and the ‘manifold wisdom of God’ will be made known not only to the rulers and authorities in heavenly places but to the people around them as well. “Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. “Is Israel a slave? Is he a home-born servant? Why then has he become a prey? The lions have roared against him; they have roared loudly. They have made his land a waste; his cities are in ruins, without inhabitant.” Jeremiah 2: 12-15. See, I have spoken! The voice of one crying in the urban wilderness of the 21st Century!
Source: by Enoch Era, a preacher and teacher from India