CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

We Are Not In Kansas Anymore

Aug 9, 2014

A fascinating passage in the Old Testament speaks about the sons of Issachar. These were “men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chronicles 12:32). They had discernment, insight, and knew that which needed to be done.

The church certainly can use some sons of Issachar today. We need wise, incisive and perceptive believers who can help guide the church through perilous times. We need prophetic voices who have God-given insights and understanding of how the church should act.

Let me provide just one example of this need. We are finding more and more cases of Christian bodies who are doing great work, but because of government funding, they are being forced to compromise, capitulate, or be co-opted. While there was plenty of freedom for such groups just a decade or two ago, today things are changing radically.

There have been all sorts of Christian groups, parachurch organisations, and churches which are up to their ears in helpful social services and programs. But the problem is more and more of them are being forced to water down their Christian emphasis.

dorothyAnd sadly, many Christians, especially older ones, are thinking in terms of what things were like 20, 30, 40 or more years ago. They still think all is smooth sailing here. But things have changed in the West – radically. It is not just that most Western nations are no longer Christian. It is not just that most nations are now post-Christian. The real problem is that most Western countries today are becoming actively anti-Christian.

And that should not be surprising. The secular state has always rested uneasily with the church. Sure, until recently, many Western states knew the value of biblical Christianity, and were happy to support their charitable works and social programs, whether by tax-breaks, direct financial assistance, or other means.

Now I think that a case can be strongly made for why such government help in the past was sensible and justified. Christian groups, churches and individuals have done a huge amount of good in society over the centuries. Often they have been far more effective and helpful than any impersonal government program.

So there was always a good reason, up until recently, for such groups to get some government help and promotion – even some government funding. But we are not in Kansas anymore. Things have changed greatly, even over the past few years.

Today Western governments are becoming increasingly secularised, leftist, and hostile to all things Christian. Various activist minority groups have effectively won over government support, and they are waging a war against Christianity and Christian values.

Of course all that is to be expected, and the Bible warns us about this time and time again. But sadly some Christians still think everything is peachy here. They are living in the past on this one. They are not aware of how greatly the landscape has changed.

Are there still great Christian groups doing great Christian work today? Sure. But they are becoming fewer and fewer, as more and more compromise occurs, and more and more engage in self-censorship in order to keep government funding coming, or to maintain state approval or accreditation.

I am personally aware of a number of such groups. They started out strong as forthright Christian groups, but today much of their Christian witness has all but disappeared. Many of these groups even forbid their workers to share the gospel or actively proselytise or even pray for their “clients”. In order to keep the state happy – and to keep that money rolling in – they have watered down the gospel big time.

And what concerns me is the fact that millions of Christians still support these groups with their hard-earned dollars, thinking they are supporting an explicitly Christian organisation. But if they end up doing no more than pagan social programs and aid groups, then why keep supporting them?

Indeed, what is the point of a Christian organisation being out there in the first place, if they cannot talk freely about the gospel, and share openly about vitally important biblical truths. Simply the way in which such groups can no longer say anything about key issues such as marriage, family and sexuality is a huge concern.

Activist groups have gotten the ear of the state, and they are forcing Christian groups to adhere to their PC line, or face reprisal. But if a group has to agree to that many restrictions and constraints, then why even bother? Any secular humanist group can then do the job, if the gospel has been so sidelined or suppressed.

If a Christian organisation is not able to freely and fully proclaim biblical truth, for whatever reason, then it needs to undertake a major rethink. Just why are they there, and what is their core mission? And more importantly, who do they fully trust in all this?

My challenge to the church in general, and to these aid and charity groups in particular that still call themselves Christian is this: why not spend a bit of time alone with almighty God, and seek his face as to where things are at? The CEOs and board members should certainly take time out of their busy schedules to do this very thing – regularly, if they are not already doing so.

They need to let God search their hearts and give him room to speak. Is God still the object of their complete and unreserved trust, or is the state bit by bit taking that place? Has the gospel been allowed to be compromised or even silenced, so that these many good activities can still take place? Has the original vision and calling of the group become lost or marginalised?

I fully believe that God is today shaking and sifting his church in the West. He is separating the wheat from the chaff, the men from the boys, the true followers of Jesus from the nominal ones. I believe this time of shaking is also involving parachurch groups, Christian organisations, even entire denominations.

God is reserving for himself a pure bride, and any worldliness, carnality, compromise and fear of man must be weaned away. That is why I believe God is allowing all the recent church and state skirmishes to take place, including the most recent one with SU.

The time for playing games is over. The time for compromise is over. The time has come for the fear of God to replace the fear of man. We must choose this day whom we will serve. We have had too many sad cases in church history of once strong Christian organisations now fully compromised, secularised, and effectively paganised.

We thank God for all the wonderful groups which have done so much in the past for Christ and the Kingdom, and still are in many ways. But as the state continues in its anti-Christian march, these groups need to decide ahead of time which way they will go.

Will they do everything they can to keep onside with the state, and the state gravy train, or will they declare that God comes first, must come first, and always will come first, even if it means losing all state support – financial or otherwise?

And if it takes being shut down or radically wound down for a Christian organisation to free itself from government shackles to properly minister in a fully biblical fashion, then I for one have no problem with that. I would much rather have a full-on Christian organisation operating biblically with its own funding, than a compromised and half-hearted one depending on state monies.

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12 Responses to We Are Not In Kansas Anymore

  • Amen!
    The shaking and shifting gets stronger by the day!
    The challenges! The pressures!
    Thank you again for this prophetic message.

  • I read that exact same passage this week Bill and had very similar thoughts.
    I wonder if we have come to value tax-deducability too highly in our giving and organisations? Or is it just easier to give to large organisations and programs because we don’t have to really follow up on what they did with the money or what their biblical stance is in their programming?
    When we give to people or groups it needs to be fully accountable to the Word of God and Spirit led. I have started giving on a much more individual basis, where it is easy to discern true need and the person’s true heart. I am also conscious of not creating a welfare mentality. I believe Australia has enough of a problem with that already.

  • Well said Bill.

  • Yes

  • I hear you Bill.
    Just this week I have made the decision to cut off my support from Micah challenge. In the past I have supported them and appreciated their work.
    Lately they seem to be quite misguided about what ‘Christian issues’ are and have decided that climate change should be the focus for our churches.
    They also advocate for asylum seekers and foreign aid in very over simplistic terms, as if these things are black and white for Christians.

    Unfortunately, pressuring the government to increase foreign aid is pretty useless as many of the government overseas programmes mean pushing abortion onto third world countries. Decreasing infant mortality rates because abortion has increased is nothing to celebrate.

    They have said and done nothing when it comes to the marriage issue or abortion.

    What a shame…

  • Reminds me a bit of state versus private education in the UK; if you go with the state’s education system then you have to put up with the perverted and manipulated content that it is now dishing out. Loads of parents are saving up like mad to get their children out of state ed and into choosing schools or alternatives with more concrete values and attitudes.

    So it seems the same may need to be the way for our Christian organisations…tell government to go stick their money, and move off to be independent (although not of course independent from God). That is certainly one interpretation of being set free.

  • Men who understand the times, like prophets, need to be recognised, and this means tried and proven, so please be careful who we deem to be Men Of Issachar. Good article as always Bill.

  • The other side of this coin is that the state should get out of the “compassion” industry, the realm of the church.
    For many years leftists have complained loudly that there should be ‘separation of church and state’ whether it is in Australia, the USA, the UK, etc.
    At the same time, usually but not exclusively, socialist left policies have been adopted to make the state the church and all seeking “compassion” (social security) benefits are directed by the government to the government agencies that dole out taxpayers money. When the church did this exclusively, before Big Govt. Inc competed directly with church agencies, the public saw faith, hope, love and Grace in action.
    The public now demand that they have unfettered access to the Govt. purse (other people’s money.) The current affairs programs regularly tell stories of financial fraud and rampant welfarism.
    Welfarism and the poverty trap and deceptions that go with it are a pathetic counterfeit of church welfare.
    If the government was actually limited to taxing a maximum of 10% of income, and all people paid a full 10% tax during their working life (not ‘avoiding’ tax) they would have sufficient income for just running the government, defence and securing the nation. The govt. would be forced to trim or get rid of every scam agency or politically ‘correct’ program that steals money from taxpayers.
    Government is turning into Big Brother, the Nanny State, the agent of every evil promoted by perverted ideologies and pursuing anti-Christ doctrines of devils. And they can only do this by stealing people’s money via taxation.
    The church will then have to rise up and fill the void, do the social gospel while fully dispensing the Full Gospel without PC hindrance to those who seek aid.
    People don’t seek compassion from the govt., but they do from the church. Holy Spirit led ministries should follow the Holy Spirit’s leading and not the crumbs from the govt. with manipulation attached.

  • I agree that this is a growing problem and that some rethinking is needed, but the money is not the only problem. The chaplaincy program is largely funded by government, I gather, but the Religious Education classes in schools is not, it being done by volunteers (there is a small amount of funding I believe). But even though they are not reliant on government funding for that, they are still reliant on government, to have permission to even be in the schools.

    With other governments not allowing this, and mainstream media doing hatchet jobs on it, the situation seems to be precarious. So the people doing this work must prepared to pull out entirely or try their darnedest to meet stringent requirements to stay there. An outsider (like me) might say that perhaps the time has come to pull out entirely (and perhaps they should), but with good being done and with many schools actually wanting them there, that would be a very difficult thing to do. And once you are out, the chances of getting back in will be Buckley’s and none.

  • I honestly believe that if Christian churches and Christian organisations took a strong vocal biblical stand against the works of Satan that are being pushed throughout the secular West that we would see a revival of the likes never seen before in history.

  • “He who pays the piper calls the tune.”

    How true, and we’re seeing more and more of this in our society. I know of a church-run aid organisation which this year said “No thanks” to Australian Government funding for overseas development projects because of the strings attached. Understandably, the Foreign Affairs Department can’t allow taxpayers’ money to be spent on political or religious proselytising, but of course the churches in e.g. Africa (which carry out most of the hands-on medical,educational and sustainable farming projects) simply cannot draw this line: it’s not practical to do so and in any case as far as they’re concerned it’s all God’s work anyway! Not to worry, the Lord will provide: the Australian agency of which I speak has some very generous Christian donors who give with no strings attached and who seek no recognition (and possibly don’t even claim tax deductions for their gifts).

    Sadly, so many large Christian charities have become so heavily dependent on “Caesar” that they simple have to bow to his pagan demands and restrictions!

    I must say that one thing that bugs me is the number of Christians who will give only to tax-deductible appeals. I would give the same amounts even if there were no tax deductions; in fact I don’t claim for most of my gifts. The widow at the temple (Luke 21:1-4) who freely and anonymously gave her last two pennies for the Lord’s work was not looking for a tax break!

    Keep up your great work Bill. May the Lord continue to inspire and encourage you and protect you, your ministry and your loved ones.

    Brian Pratt
    Australia

  • Many thanks indeed Brian.

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