The church of Jesus Christ is meant to be a prophetic voice to the world, challenging its assumptions, rebuking its sins, and exposing its evil agendas. It is meant to exist as a sharp contrast to the world, not a pale imitation of it. The church is to be the only genuine counter-cultural institution out there.
But so often the church simply parrots, reflects, and slavishly follows whatever the world is up to at the moment. Instead of being that powerful prophetic voice, it is often an anaemic pathetic voice. The watchmen seem nowhere to be found, the prophets are asleep, and God’s people seem to love it this way.
A good test of just how effective, biblical, and sold out to Christ a church is, is this: if the world loves it, applauds it, and thinks it is really cool, then it is probably a sham church. If on the other hand the church ends up offending people, dividing people, and causing controversy and conflict, then it may well be doing its job.
Of course we do not seek to go out of our way to be contrarian, offensive, or pugilistic. But by its very nature, a faithful gospel-believing and gospel-proclaiming church will ruffle feathers, make some people angry, and polarise the community.
This happened constantly when Jesus was on the earth, and it happened constantly when the early church was in action. They produced a reaction alright – often an angry reaction. But this is part of the Christian job description. We are clearly told to expect this:
-“You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another.” (Matthew 10:22-23)
-“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” (John 15:18-20)
-“Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you.” (1 John 3:13)
Of course these warnings – and many more like them – probably go a long way in explaining why so much of the church is not speaking out, not being salt and light, and just going along with the status quo. It hurts to stand up and proclaim truth, especially in a hostile culture.
It is not fun being scorned, mocked, ridiculed and hated by the world – and even by other believers – when you decide to stand up for truth, no matter what. It certainly takes its toll – but we are called to do it nonetheless. That is what it means to be his disciple.
In this regard I wish to highlight just one other verse. It comes from Matthew 10:32-33. In it Jesus said this: “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.”
It is clear that if we will not stand and proclaim Christ in the public arena, but are instead ashamed to do so, then the Father will be ashamed of us. But this proclamation is not just limited to telling people that Jesus died for them and they need to believe the gospel message.
It includes much more. Speaking the whole counsel of God is part of this. It includes speaking up about the things that weigh heavily on the heart of God. Many things spring to mind here, but some clear examples would be the genocide of the unborn, and the destruction of his institutions of marriage and family.
Yet very few believers seem willing to stand up for these vital issues. Far too many never say a word about these things. And that includes so many of our leaders in the pulpits each week. There is deathly silence about some of these crucial matters, as if they have no bearing on our Christian faith whatsoever.
Not only is there way too much silence here on these key topics, but there are even many Christian leaders who think we should not highlight them at all. Indeed, I know of some of these leaders who have actually attacked me and others like me for speaking to these matters.
They think I am quite amiss to emphasise these things, as if God does not care about the unborn, or about the sacred institution of marriage. They think I should ease up on these matters for some reason. Well they will not get me to shut up.
These things are far too important to clam up about, for fear of offending people, or rattling a few cages. The truth is, people do need to be shaken out of their complacency and lethargy here. God cares greatly about the slaughter of 100,000 unborn babies each year in this nation.
Shedding the blood of the innocent, especially to make a profit, is abominable in his eyes, and he will not hold guiltless those who are doing it. We must be his voice here on earth. We are to be a voice for the voiceless. We do not need less believers speaking out about such things, but far more.
We are in desperate need for real prophets of God who will speak his word courageously and resolutely. We need to pray that God will raise up prophets in these dark days to represent him aright. Men and women who fear nothing but God alone and will fearlessly proclaim his word are the need of the hour.
I cannot do better here than to conclude with the induction prayer of A. W. Tozer as a pastor of a church in 1920:
“Lord Jesus, I come to Thee for spiritual preparation. Lay Thy hand upon me. Anoint me with the oil of the New Testament prophet. Forbid that I should become a religious scribe and thus lose my prophetic calling. Save me from the curse that lies dark across the modern clergy, the curse of compromise, of imitation, of professionalism.
“Save me from the error of judging a church by its size, its popularity or the amount of its yearly offering. Help me to remember that I am a prophet – not a promoter, not a religious manager, but a prophet. Let me never become a slave to crowds. Heal my soul of carnal ambitions and deliver me from the itch for publicity. Save me from bondage to things. Let me not waste my days puttering around the house.
“Lay Thy terror upon me, O God, and drive me to the place of prayer where I may wrestle with principalities and powers and the rulers of the darkness of this world. Deliver me from overeating and late sleeping. Teach me self-discipline that I may be a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”