The children of God in America are experiencing the beginnings of a “double chaos”; a chaos of society and a chaos of the church.  This “two-fold chaos” will test our faith and shake our foundations.  The following are notes from the 15th meeting of the Berean Marketplace Leaders Forum, where the dialogue topic was “The Chaos of Country and Church (Part 1) – Recognition”.

Follow this link to the notes from Part 2.  But first…

Scripture

They shall be ashamed and also disgraced, all of them; they shall go in confusion together, who are makers of idols. Isaiah 45:16

But the LORD is with me as a mighty, awesome One. Therefore my persecutors will stumble, and will not prevail. They will be greatly ashamed, for they will not prosper. Their everlasting confusion will never be forgotten. Jeremiah 20:11

For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. 1 Corinthians 14:33

For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. James 3:16

Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:27-29

Position

The children of God in America are experiencing the beginnings of a “double chaos”; a chaos of society and a chaos of the church.  This “two-fold chaos” will test our faith and shake our foundations.  Consider the chaos that has gripped American society – moral failure in every arena, splintering of the family, economic depression/destruction, etc.  I dare say there is not one who will not be affected. 

By God’s mercy, many will turn from their idols.  But to whom will they turn? 

Consider the chaos that has gripped the American Church:  moral failure, splintering of the family (and fellowships), economic depression/destruction, etc.  In a recent Barna Survey, it was discovered that 54% of non-Christian young people (ages 16 – 29) believe that a lot of Christians are hypocritical; only 26% believe a lot have good values and principles; and only 9% as people you can trust.

So, where does this leave us (leaders of the American Church)?

The good news is that “He is greater…”.  The bad news is that many will “…fall away”.  The way we respond to the stimulus of this doubly chaotic time will make a tremendous difference in those whom we are responsible.  The days of easy believism are coming to an end.  The battle will not be easy.  Deception is one of our enemy’s greatest weapons.  What does the Lord want to say to us?  Are there scales He would remove?

Our exploration of this topic comes in two parts: Recognition (Is the chaos real? Are we in decline? Are there other parallels?); and Response (e.g., Should we conquer, go back, or come out?). Our dialogue begins with a review of a book by Paul Starobin, “After America – Narratives for the Next Global Age”, written in 2009.

Book Review

As best I can tell, Mr. Starobin is a liberal humanist. He has little to say about the church. However, his book is fact based, well researched and his conclusions are strong. They are supported by interviews with prominent leaders from around the world, and by much that has happened in our country over the last two years.

In a nutshell, the author presents a strong case for the decline of America as “the” dominate military, financial, political and cultural power in the world. As the title indicates, he also presents five potential outcomes (that we will discuss next month). In between, there is the recognition that America will face – perhaps even now facing – a period of chaos (aka, confusion or crisis) that will surprise many with its impact on our quality and way of life. The way we face this uncertain time will determine whether or not it is a “dark” or “positive” period.

As you may have noticed, this book impacted me in a profound way. First, I was surprised by just how far down the road we are, as a society, on our way to an “After America”. We will discuss this more at the next meeting. Second, I was astonished (and eventually troubled) by the parallels between this country’s current state of chaos and that of the church.

Parallels

Perhaps I should not have been astonished. The church has always been an integral part of this country. From James Winthrop to the republicans of Ronald Reagan, America has believed itself to be a “City on a Hill”. We are blessed by God and a blessing of God to the world.

The most amazing thing to me was the number of parallels that exist. The first I noticed was the aforementioned chaos. Most of the others are related and naturally follow:

  1. Lack of recognition
  2. Need for voices in the chaos (aka, prophets)
  3. Myth of Exceptionalism (discussed later)
  4. The lure of nostalgia – an optimistic view of history
  5. Growing gulf between the haves and the have-nots
  6. Discord and divisiveness
  7. Fault finding and finger pointing
  8. Ignorance of the surrounding culture; leading to confusion, ineffectiveness and backlash
  9. The young are adapting sooner/quicker (but are they headed in the right direction)

There were a few others mentioned in the meeting – please send any that come to mind. I did capture one that particularly struck me: The parallel of society’s view of the marriage covenant and the church’s view of its covenants with God.

These parallels are more than interesting, or provocative. I believe our consideration of them will help us navigate the crisis in both church and country. Each one contains some lesson that will shine light on our response. It is worth asking, “What do they mean to me and my family? God, what do they mean to You?”

For example, just the number of parallels sheds light on the codependency that has developed between America and the American church. Let me explain.

Codependency

As Christians, we are proud of the positive effects the church has had on the formation of America. The author explained that many saw our nation as the center of the “New World”, even calling it the New Jerusalem. There was an understanding that America was birthed by God for a divine purpose. All empires have grand, even mythical, opinions of themselves. Ours became the myth of American Exceptionalism – the belief that, as God’s country, we would be an exception to all the empires of history – that America could not fail. This is a strong emotional dependency.

For the church’s part, the story is not so uplifting. Sadly, we have become a subculture of a worldly empire. We are no longer living as ambassadors or a Greater Realm – no longer the ekklesia, or called out ones. We are now very dependent on its welfare systems, divorce courts, abortion clinics and all that feeds our lowly, earthly dreams. As wonderful as the American Dream might have been, we have traded foolishly.

Response

This reminds me of two mountain climbers, roped together. If one falls, the other will either save him, be dragged down with him, or cut the rope and be free of him. How does the church respond to an America that has lost its footing? However you might say we have responded in the past, the time is coming where a decisive decision must be made?

And that will be our topic for next month. Please consider the following as you seek to prioritize this meeting into your schedules:

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:23-25

In the Meantime

There is a group on Facebook – Marketplace Leaders of West Georgia – where we can continue the dialogue. The following are our discussion questions:

  1. Is the chaos real? How do you see it?
  2. What are the parallels? What do they mean?
  3. Is the codependence good, bad or neutral?
  4. Where is this headed?
  5. How is the chaos affecting you now? How might it affect you in the future?