By Dave Gipson
Pastor, Legacy Church of Naples
(www.legacynaples.com)So the election is over, and many conservative Christians are dazed and confused. They got behind their candidate and, in addition to economic concerns, they had issues they felt were moral absolutes compelling them to vote for Mitt Romney.
Election night came and went, and the values they held dear seemed to be fading fast. And that slow fade is not just a perception. It is a reality.
One of the things even the conservative pundits made clear in their post-mortems the next day was that America has changed, and nowhere is that being more keenly felt than in the church. Church attendance nationwide is on a dramatic downward slide. The once stalwart Southern Baptist Convention has seen baptisms declining for the past several years now, even including children who have grown up in the church. And thanks to the epidemic lapses of integrity among pastors with little-to-no accountability, my profession now ranks on the respect-scale right up there with telemarketers and those sign-holders wearing Statue of Liberty costumes in front of "Cash for Gold" shops.
Our country has indeed changed, but I believe it is more the fault of good Christians who have done little good than of those outside the church. There is a well-known Biblical axiom that both my Republican and Democrat Christian friends need to embrace quickly if they ever want change. It is simply, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me".
Christians have said with our mouths that God is our only hope, yet we have looked to the political "idols" of this world to save us from cultural despair and destruction. We give lip service to "God being our provision–Jehovah Jireh," yet look to the government to save financially. Some see government programs as their salvation, others see less government as the real hope. Yet the God of the Bible stands outside of our political fantasies, reminding us that He alone is our hope...to which we firmly say, "amen", and click the remote back to Fox News or MSNBC.
The church has complained about the direction of society, but thought all we needed to do was "vote it out of office." While we should all be informed voters, we forget that the Bible says society is not the problem — we are. Remember, "Judgment begins in the house of God..." (1 Peter 4:17).
All talk, few actions
The world doubts us because they rarely see any difference in our lives than their own. They point to Christians who don't live up to the rules we are so quick to apply to others. The old cliché rings true: "People don't care what you believe until they believe that you care."
Quite simply, the world doesn't see us doing anything much that looks like Jesus.
How little do most Christians do in the way of meeting the needs of their community? How limited is any church emphasis on reaching outside their own fellowship? Many of our "helping ministries" are little more than afterthoughts — token expressions of love attached to the holidays. Christians see their churches as a place to "get their own needs met" and not as the triage station for the hurting that God intended. We talk a good game about "loving our neighbors," but most of us couldn't tell you our neighbors names if our lives depended on it!
In my own church, we are starting support groups for people going through crises in their lives. Some of our men are going door to door, trying to identify seniors for whom household chores have become impossible. They are going to try and help them, at no charge, when they are physically unable to do basic things like mow the lawn, etc. To be sure, it's not much, and it has been a challenge to get people involved.
As Christians, we can continue to "curse the darkness" or we can instead decide to "be the light." As dark as our world is becoming, even just a small light would shine like a beacon. It would slice through the cynicism of those outside the church. We might actually begin to "change the world," not through politics but through the greatest power source the world has ever known — love.
In the words of a minor theologian, "This little light of mine...I'm gonna let it shine."