We celebrate today the birth of a country founded 240 years ago by men willing to subvert the "old order" of doing things. America evolved into a republic in which individual rights...in particular, freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of religion.
Within what seems to be a blink of an eye we find ourselves subjected to a new tyranny as our culture has placed higher value upon the right to self-determination and sexual liberty. Anyone who refuses to affirm the revolution is likely to face increasingly serious consequences. Those who place their trust in politicians or government to protect them will be sorely disappointed.
What are we we do?
Jesus reminds us that his kingdom is not of this world, and our primary allegiance needs to be to Him and Him alone. Our job is to reflect the love of Christ as he seeks to re-establish his kingdom here on Earth. For the time being, the outposts of the kingdom that he's established in our corner of the world are under siege. Our calling is to wrestle against the powers that oppose the King and the Kingdom.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Ephesians 6:12 (ESV)
Here are five ideas for Christians as individuals and churches collectively for advancing the Kingdom in a post-Christian America...
We can go the extra mile for kids and families in need who cross our paths. As I enter the twilight of my career in my line of work, I find myself (when appropriate) looking for ways to go above and beyond the care and support families have come to expect. One way I do this is by showing up in person for a family's IEP meeting. I want parents and families and school officials to remember how things once were.
What might that look like for a church? Maybe it's footing the bill for a consultation with a specialist that a family desperately needs but isn't able to afford? Maybe it involves the special needs ministry director going with a family in need of services from their local school, mental health center or developmental disabilities board when the family feels like they're hitting their head against the wall? Maybe it involves recruiting volunteers from your church's respite or disability ministries to watch over a child with suicidal thoughts or plans when no hospital beds are available?
We can become far more intentional in educating our youth. We need to be at least as intentional about promoting the moral and spiritual development of our kids as we are in building their academic and athletic skills. Anyone who seeks to exercise control over society will desire to shape the thinking and culture of generations to come.
We need to provide the same (or better) quality of educational support services for kids in Christian schools that families are able to access through public schools when children have learning disorders or other conditions that interfere with their ability to reach their academic potential. The folks at CLC Network can help. We need to be prepared to come alongside parents looking for the right things to say when their kids encounter ideas in school, from friends and while surfing the web that run counter to the teachings of our faith.
We can mirror the value God places upon human life. We're fighting a multi-front war with proponents of radical self-determination. We need to start preparing now for how we might support families pressured to abort their children prior to or following birth. In the same way that the church supports crisis pregnancy centers, we need to be prepared to establish support centers for persons with chronic medical conditions living in places where "right to die" laws facilitating physician-assisted suicide will inevitably lead to a "duty to die" when the caregiver burden or cost to society for ongoing medical care becomes overwhelming.
We can be deliberate in seeking ways to serve the vulnerable in society that lead us into relationship with those outside the church. It's a real eye-opener to my non-believing friends in the mental health field to see the church meeting practical needs of kids and families impacted by mental illness. It's cool when the church decides to do this. Or this.
We can prepare to support one another when there's a price to be paid for living out one's faith. There will be teachers and principals who will lose their jobs for standing up for traumatized kids forced to share locker rooms with members of the opposite sex. There are pharmacists losing their jobs for refusing to dispense the "morning after pill." There will be physicians and nurses who will lose their livelihoods by refusing to facilitate requests for assistance from patients desiring to commit suicide. It will be easier for our brothers and sisters to live out their faith if the decision to do so doesn't render their families destitute. I suspect that many of our future church leaders will come from among those required to sacrifice their careers in order to avoid compromising their witness.
I've had a hard time coming to grips with the reality that earthly life may become far more difficult for those who publicly identify as Christian and seek to live out the Gospel outside the walls of the church. At the same time, Christianity hasn't exactly been proliferating in an environment of religious freedom and is demonstrably more vital in countries where believers face persecution. God can still love me while prioritizing his Kingdom and his glory over my comfort.
Do we cower in fear as the country around us changes, or do we fight back with the weapons we've been given?
Know a family impacted by disability in need of help finding a local church? Encourage them to register for Key for Families. We can help connect families with local churches prepared to offer faith, friendship and support, while providing them with encouragement though our Facebook communities. Refer a friend today!