Why Do We Need the Church?
by Angela Wenell
This is part one of a two part article. Part two will be published this afternoon on stevedeace.com.
Over the last year and a half, through various incidents in my life, God has motivated me to learn about who we are as a nation and what has happened to who we used to be. I have scoured books about our history, government, the Constitution, our cultural decline, and philosophies that have undermined God’s plan for us. Through this I have developed an undeniable burden for our culture and the Church. This journey has led me to conclude many churches are overlooking important truth necessary for living in our modern culture.
I think there are two types of issues churches needs to equip people for. The first are individual issues that all people from all cultures from all time periods face, like pride, lust, greed, idolatry, etc. Then there are issues that entire cultures struggle with as immorality always finds its way in. These vary from culture to culture, and are the issues I feel the Church is struggling to deal with.
In order to understand where our culture is today though, I think it’s important to understand who we were at our beginning and how we got to where we are today. The start of my literary journey began with an education on our nation’s founding. Despite the revisionist history of my public education, I discovered the miraculous endeavors of people like Columbus, the Pilgrims, and the Puritans. Although admittedly none of them were perfect, they were all people with a deep faith in God, following Him on a journey they didn’t fully understand, and would never live to see the fruits of their obedience. But through their diaries you would never read about in history textbooks, the hand of Divine Providence over them is undeniable. They were convinced they were leading the way to a City on a Hill, “God’s New Israel” as they called it.
Fast forward a hundred years. Through the deep religious roots of our first settlers, a small culture developed, founded on biblical principles. I’m not saying these people were ALL well intentioned. It is undeniable that horrific events occurred. But the culture of the time was anchored by a deep religious faith of most of its inhabitants. It was a culture of imperfect people trying to hold on to perfect ideals. And out of this culture came our most famous founders we are all familiar with. Knowing that there was something fundamentally wrong with the governmental makeup of their English roots, these founders were passionate about discovering how their Creator would design a government. Through the principles of “inalienable rights” (God-given rights) the “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God,” looking straight into the Bible to how Moses set up the government of Israel, and many miraculous events only God could have orchestrated, our nation’s government was conceived.
So why is all this so important? I believe the destruction of our culture required the destruction of the knowledge of our biblical roots. If our culture does not understand the principles by which their liberty is granted, we cannot defend them. If we fail to see God’s design and hand of Providence in these principles in the founding of our nation, then we fail to see that they are worth fighting for. And if we do not understand the importance of God’s hand in our beginning, we cannot see His vision for our return. It was through these principles that our nation was governed for over 150 years and were understood by nearly every American. Then things began to change as they were eroded from the schools and challenged in all public arenas.
Over the last fifty years America has been inundated with a countercultural revolution. The 60’s represented a generation throwing off all cultural (and biblical) norms, and questioning everything moral. Ever since then our culture has been in a steep decline. While there were plenty of moral struggles before that time, as in all of human history, the culture was still steeped in a biblical worldview, and immoral behaviors were generally not the norm. But when the tide began to turn, I think churches were not prepared to deal with the barrage of a moral revolution. Soon biblical ideals were no longer the popular sentiment of the culture, and the Church was largely unprepared to respond.
The cultural disintegration has only worsened since then. Many books blame this occurrence on philosophies such as evolution, moral relativism and secular humanism, just to name a few. While this is true, all these ideas have two things in common that I believe are at their root: human nature and spiritual warfare. We have in our sinful nature a desire to turn from God and become our own god. We do not want to be held accountable to an all-knowing Creator. Combine that with an enemy that seeks the destruction of Creation at every possible turn, and you get these philosophies, which when followed by nations, end in events such as the Holocaust or rulers like Stalin. These ideas have seeped into the moral fabric of our culture and reveal themselves through notions that we can define marriage because there is no universal truth. We can murder our own children because we can define when life begins at our convenience. Kids don’t need dads really, as long as the government helps provide for them. Islam is just another religion with some radicals in their midst, and all cultures are morally equivalent. How many people in our church could recognize these philosophies and explain what they are and how they contradict with a biblical worldview? Even further, could we connect the dots to how they have created the destruction of our culture?
When I look at what the Church stands for today, I see many great teachings. In my own life I have been challenged to look at my shortcomings in areas like humility, looking for God’s purpose in difficult circumstances, and spreading the Gospel. These are great things. But when I read the writings of Paul in the New Testament, he addresses not only these issues, but also issues of culture. Paul never backed away from dealing with tough issues that were controversial in the culture at that time. One issue Paul boldly addressed to the Romans that we can relate to is the issue of homosexuality. I believe the church has a responsibility to tell the truth about difficult subjects like this so that we can “be prepared to give an answer to the hope that we have.” We are very good at telling the truth about individual issues, but it seems as though we often forget that the Bible is also applicable to current cultural issues of the day, and the church needs to equip its people on how to respond biblically. It is imperative that we confront these issues and teach people how to effectively engage the culture.
One of the most important jobs of the Church is to equip the people to go out into the world and proclaim the truth by giving them a “lens” to look at the culture through a biblical worldview. Colossians 2:8 says, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” If confronted directly, many Christians would probably recognize the false claims of moral relativism. But how many believe homosexuality is a trait you are born with? How many could connect Islam in retrospect to the Old Testament? I would guess that the majority, if not all, Christians believe abortion is wrong, but how many fall for the lie that we should make so-called “exceptions”? At least we are saving some, right? But God doesn’t call us to stand for half-truths.
Responding to these issues biblically requires a delicate balance of truth and grace. While the effects of truth without grace are obvious, and just as damaging, many are falling too far on the side of grace with little or no truth, afraid of being called “bigots” because of a cultural acceptance of a distorted view of “tolerance”. But by not speaking the truth we are allowing those that have fallen into the “popular” sins of the day to believe there is nothing wrong with what they are doing, and prevent them from seeking help. And we are aiding and abetting evil. Ephesians 5:11 says, “Do not participate in the fruitless works of darkness, but instead expose them.”
We need to remember that the unbelievers are also created in the image of God, and God’s laws are written on their hearts too. (Romans 2:14-15) We are all created with the conscience of God, and the truth is freeing. People are tired of being told what they want to hear through these false philosophies of moral relativism. I think people are hungry for truth, and God’s truth is comforting to the hurting. If the Apostle Paul were to write us a letter, what would he be saying? What would he be warning us about? I believe he would be addressing the most blatant issues undermining the foundation of God’s truth in our culture, issues that are slowly but painfully slipping into the cracks of our churches. We need to teach people what it looks like to engage the culture in truth and grace with “the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit,” Ephesians 6:14-17. This is necessary for not only the adults, but also so parents can arm their kids, who are often the most inundated with the negative culture in the schools.
So what does this mean for people living in a culture, in a nation as unique as ours? What should we be calling them to do? Aside from addressing these issues within the church and equipping the people to be effective truth-bearers in the culture around them, our nation is unique from any other in modern history and demands a unique response.
Angela Wenell is a Des Moines area mom of three, and began a search for truth after her daughter came home from school saying Christopher Columbus was a “rapist” and a “murderer.” Through this journey she has realized that parents must be the guardians of truth for their children.