Throughout American history, the evangelical church has held some amount of influence on our culture. We’ve seen it in the great revivals of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, in the “Jesus Movement” of the 1970’s, and even in the “Moral Majority” of the 1980’s. Granted, with every decade there’s a numbing and dumbing of the Judeo-Christian senses, but there was still a recognition of our founding fathers’ hope of a Christian nation. So what happened? Like the younger son in Luke 15, we’ve become a prodigal—the prodigal church.
The Far Country
“And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living” (Luke 15:13). In the latter 19th and early 20th century, church influence was measured by the decline of things such as crime, public drunkenness, and the divorce rate, along with an increase in church attendance, evangelism, and morality. The statistical data on how we’ve squandered our rich spiritual inheritance is well documented and published.
The ever-increasing immorality that saturates our culture isn’t really surprising when you look at the rise in promiscuity, pornography, and homosexuality, matched by the sharp decline in church attendance. The evangelical church of today, however, seems oblivious to the true nature of how far we’ve wandered into a far country.
The Wrong Mission
Instead of calling attention to social issues in a biblical context, the church camouflages its spiritual impotence with social solutions. In the past, feeding the hungry and caring for the poor were the product of an engaged church that showed the love of Christ while taking a stand on the biblical definition of sin. Today, we’re so concerned with staying relevant that we’ve allowed outreach to take the place of being conformed to the image of Christ.
We don’t shrink back from intellectually engaging unbelievers in religious conversation, but shouldn’t discussion eventually motivate the lost to repentance and the saved to practical obedience? The prodigal church seems to consider blending in as critical to the success of ministry.
Please understand, I’m not longing for yesterday. My thoughts are motivated by the reality of imminent judgment and eternity. Even if I’m perceived as out of touch or being from another era, I beg the prodigal church to learn from the son in Luke 15. He came to his senses, repented of his sins, and humbly offered himself in service to the Father.
And what of the Father? He was longing for his wandering child, looking for his return, and welcomed him with a loving embrace. Church, it’s time to come to our senses and get out of the hog pen! If we want to have a meaningful influence on our culture again, then we must humbly return to our loving heavenly Father. He’s longing and looking.