Chuck Swindoll, a well-known pastor and widely recognized leader among current Christian preachers, uses a great illustration to convey the point that the Church has slid away from God. Whether it originated with him I do not know, but it goes something like this:
An elderly couple were riding along, the husband driving and the wife sitting on the far end of the bench seat near the opposing door. After a long silence, the wife remarked how when they were young they had taken many trips together, always cuddled up close to one another. She wondered aloud what happened, and why they no longer cuddled while riding.
The husband answered, “I’m still sitting where I’ve always been.”
Such is the case with Christ and His Church. He is still in control. He is still all-powerful. He is still just as much in love with us today as He was when He died for our sins.
But we have slid away.
The first step for the body of believers to take in regaining a measurable level of relevance and influence in our society is to move back as close to God as we can. He promises that if we do so, He will not reject us.
“But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh unto God, and he will draw nigh unto you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” James 4:6-8
Before we can exert any level of influence over society – before we can expect to become relevant once again – we must first draw nigh unto God. It is only through His power that anything can be accomplished, and when we exclude Him from our daily lives we deny that power. Our faith remains empty even as we proclaim it to the world, and the world will never embrace our faith so long as it remains empty.
A believer who desires to be a powerful instrument for God must first fully embrace God’s power in his or her own private life. If enough of us do so, the Church can regain its relevance and influence.
So, the next question becomes: How do we more fully embrace God’s power in our private lives?
Again, the answer is simple. We must include Him in all that we do. Work. Play. Relationships. Finance. You name it – He should be involved. And if there is any area in our lives – any at all – in which we’re not comfortable including Him, we must seriously consider giving it up or at least changing the way we operate within it in order to willingly invite Him in.
That’s not an easy task. Ungodly habits and preferences tend to sneak in to our lives gradually and unnoticed, often becoming entrenched without us even realizing it. Generally, we allow these things to become part of our lives by coming up with excuses or rationalizations to quell the initial reluctance brought on by our God-given conscience. Sometimes we figure that the questionable actions or thoughts will only be for the short term, but once the dam is breached there is no stopping the flood.
We must be willing to let Him into every aspect of our lives if we are to fully experience His power. In fact, we should be willing not only to let Him in, but to let Him direct every aspect of our lives.
How do we accomplish that? Well, the first step is to stay in touch with Him. Stay on our knees, stay in The Word, stay in tune with what His Spirit says to us along the way. The second step is to actually follow up on what He says through these venues. Follow the commands in His Word. Follow the instruction He sends through prayer and the guidance of His Spirit.
The best test of whether we are measuring up in this area is to examine each area of our lives and ask ourselves one question: Are we being and doing the best we can here? If there is room for improvement, we need to engage with His power to improve.
In addressing a division in the early church over the propriety of eating meat that had been offered to idols, the Apostle Paul gave us a command of God that has far-reaching applications.
“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” 1Corinthians 10:31
Whatsoever ye do. Not whatsoever ye do in church, or for the church, or in direct service to God. Whatsoever ye do. That means everything. Again – work, play, relationships, finance, you name it.
Consider for a moment how each aspect of your life might be different if you followed this command. Everything you do, do it to the glory of God. Would your family life be different? Your work? Your finances? Your relationships with coworkers, friends, extended family, fellow church members? Strangers?
Unfortunately, the truth for most of us – including this writer – is that much of what we do on a daily basis would look vastly different if we did everything to the glory of God.
And therein lies the ultimate key to unlocking the potential of the modern church to regain its relevance and influence in society.
In Part 4, we’ll look at how this change could reestablish the relevance of the Church.