My conversation with my Christian brother continues here…
The tone of my response sounds formal because of the nature and manner of our correspondence. Usually, I prefer a more approachable, friendlier, and open tone but that wasn’t the case this time. I hope you get the gist of the post.
Here we go
In my previous engagement with you, I used the term APPEAL. Influence is the term you have used, and it works. Yes, just like salt savors and preserves dishes (Matthew 5:13) or yeast causes the dough to rise (Matthew 13:33), Christians have the resources and mandate to influence our culture. Yes, we do!
This, however, cannot and shouldn’t be confused with IMPOSING our moral values on the culture. Our influence, like salt and yeast, works within and is invisible—this is how we influence culture. How the Christian faith influences public policy is not by wielding power but by an influence that is silent and invisible. Every other faith and worldview shout from the rooftop about its plans, how it wants to dominate the earth. The Christian faith, however, whispers within the corridors of power and most importantly influences men’s hearts. Every time we shout about our influence, we blow our cover. Remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:1-3?
I agree with you that our influence goes beyond the four walls of the church into our communities and nations. I know that within the Charismatic Movement we have the seven mountain strategy spearheaded by people like Lance Wallnu. Other tribes within the evangelical world call it doing good works in the world. Lance Wallnu and company, however, advocate for total domination of these systems and subjugating them to the Lord. This is often their most quoted verse, “The world has now become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15 NLT) (Of course, any scripture taken out of context can be used to rationalize any movement. This particular verse most certainly is one.) This is not the Christian faith. This is dominionism or triumphalism which the Crusaders did between the 11th and the 17th century.
One of the stumbling blocks to reaching Muslims with the gospel of grace is this piece of history. The Crusaders were basically Christian terrorists who killed, maimed, and looted in the name of the Church. Notice the same pattern with Islamic terrorism? It’s all done in the name of religion. It’s no wonder the new atheists—the late Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett believe the world would be a better place without religion.
When we teach the church that we have to dominate non-Christian places, yes it might happen for a season like it was with the moral majority in America, but slowly by slowly, we lose our influence. And when that happens, we become angry and bitter and settle for a Trump or anyone else who promises us that if we vote for them, they will give us back our power and influence.
What we are witnessing in America and around the world is a reaction to the loss of influence by the Christian moral majority. This same phenomenon is happening in Hindu, Islamic, and even atheistic nations. Every time Christianity aligns itself with political power, it loses its influence. When evangelicals in the US and elsewhere clamor for White House visits and access to political power, they wound the Christian faith and we lose our edge. But every time it’s in the minority like in the book of Acts, it has great power to influence.
The Christian faith has the most influence when it’s at its weakest—when it’s being persecuted—that’s when it’s potent and powerful. Where in the world is the church growing in unprecedented stride? In China, North Korea, Middle Eastern countries, etc., where there is state-sponsored religion, and in some African countries where poverty and hardship is the norm. On the flip side, where is the church complaining about the loss of influence? In affluent countries such as the United States, Europe, Australia, and even in some African countries such as Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, and Nigeria where Christianity is the norm.
It seems to me that affluence, comfort, and access to political power impart the church’s influence negatively. A biblical conclusion, therefore, can be made that persecution and hardship are fodder for the church. The church grows in quality and quantity when it is under tremendous strain—when the whole world has turned against it, that’s when we shine, shine, shine.
That’s what grace looks like.