Ministry In A Hostile Culture!
July 16th, 2014
I Peter 2:12 “Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.”
I Peter 2:15 “For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:”
Many segments of our nation’s culture are growing ever more hostile and hateful toward Bible-believing Christians, and as this transpires we must take care to be proactive, as Christ was. We must be intentional Christians in this day of postmodern influences. If we are not proactive we will be reactive, falling into defensive or oppositional positions. History has taught us that such reactions to the culture only further isolate us and minimize our influence and impact for Christ. As the United States shifts into a more and more postmodern age, we must confront the reality that this is beginning to reshape legislation, institutions and the very moral fabric of America.
I fear that many Christians today do not know how little influence we really have on our culture, our communities and our very own children. Last Wednesday evening in our church, I started a short Bible study series entitled, “Why Millennials Are Walking Away from Church.” This is a phenomenon that is stretching across theological borders. While we are experiencing this in fundamental churches, it is an even greater epidemic in evangelical churches. I refuse to bemoan this reality and just get nasty in my disdain for this apparent falling away, and to an even greater extent, apostasy. We must recommit ourselves to “overcome this evil with good.”
How does God tell us to respond when the culture turns hostile toward us? He tells us to actively live such “honest” and “good” lives among the pagan culture around us that they cannot deny our “good works.” (I Peter 2:12 and 15) I like to call this Aggressive Authenticity. Without this engaged energy shaping our lives and ministries, we will continue to be marginalized by the hostile culture in which we minister.
When we send a missionary to an unreached people group in the interior of the Amazon or the highlands of Papua New Guinea, we understand that there is a process that must be followed. First, the missionary must lovingly show God’s goodness and love and begin building relationships, learning the language and reaching out and investing in individuals, especially tribal leaders. These are just a few of the ideas that are involved in penetrating a hostile culture. Everything the missionary is doing is both gospel based and gospel focused. That is why he is there; but to ignore the relationship building and trust establishing steps is to almost certainly guarantee failure.
As crazy as it may sound, building strong Bible-believing churches in today’s American culture is nearly the identical challenge. For too long, we in the American church have expected non-believers to behave like Christians in a moral and Biblical manner. However, as we are witnessing in almost every arena of American life, our Biblical, Christian values are becoming less and less common and unfortunately, even viewed with hostility. We cannot continue to hide our light under a bushel. Let me quote the Saviour in Matthew 5:16: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
There must be a Revival of good and godly living among Christians again, as was mandated by the simple words of I Peter 2:12 and 15. Today’s shallow, libertarian believers cannot reclassify our “good works” as legalism. We must all re-evaluate the honesty and goodness of our lives among the pagan culture in which we find ourselves. The gospel still works (Romans 1:16)! Bible preaching is still the method of God’s choice to propagate our message (I Corinthians 1:21). But we must not let the Messenger hinder the Message. While our position must be Biblical, our disposition must also be just as Biblical.
Do not be afraid of sinners; Jesus was not. He was “a friend of publicans and sinners.” Why is it that sinners are afraid of us, but they were not afraid of Jesus? Are we more holy and separated than He was? I think not. However, in my humble opinion, they could not resist His Aggressive Authenticity. He reached the heart before He changed the life. We too must climb down from our ivory palaces and engage the individuals we work around and live among with His grace and His goodness if we hope to have any impact on our degrading culture.
On the sobering morning of September 11, 2001, the world watched after two airplanes crashed into the twin towers in lower Manhattan. An army of firefighters and first responders began to enter the burning buildings as thousands were exiting. Their heroic actions brought a holy significance to the senseless tragedy. If there is any hope left for a Moral and Biblical Revival in our land, we who name the name of Christ must be the ones running into the burning building while everyone else is running out. We cannot give up on the crumbling culture all around us. We must go after the addict, the oppressed, the broken, the divorced, the abused, the derelict, the scared, the vilest of sinners, the young, the old, the confused and even the contrary without regard for ourselves. The gospel is the world’s only hope, but we must get out in the streets where sinners live if we hope to change the culture. We do not need to defend ourselves - we need to go after the lost. As our culture grows ever more hostile to Christianity, I think of how Charles Spurgeon described the controlled silence of Jesus during his crucifixion: “The anvil breaks a host of hammers by quietly bearing their blows.”
Jim Elliot went to a hostile culture in 1956. His blood ran into the river where his plane landed in Ecuador. Jesus Christ went into a hostile world, and His blood ran from the foot of the cross. As we go into a hostile culture with the gospel today, we too will bleed. This is the great reality from which most modern Christians shrink and begin looking for a new and an easier way to live the Christian life. There is no easier way! The Apostle Paul testified soberly in Acts 14:22: “Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.”