September 11, 2001…
I was in a hotel in Corydon, Indiana, having left my then home near Erie, Pennsylvania on vacation to visit family and preach in Kentucky. I remember seeing the second plane hit and feeling the confusion. I remember the gas-price-gougers taking financial advantage of a national tragedy and hiking gas up to $6+ a gallon in some parts of Indiana and Ohio, prompting me to lengthen my stay in Indiana before returning home to PA. I remember the Congress singing “God bless America” and all of the rhetoric about how we “will not forget” in the days, weeks, and months after 9/11. What do you remember?
I now have 3 children who were all born post-9/11. I’m not sure what, if much of anything, they have learned in their public and Christian schools about those Muslim terrorist attacks on US soil. I have 2 older step-sons who were born prior to 9/11, and I know they learned because I know who home-schooled them. We live in a nation that has forgotten, overall. Our own government has a socialist bent that is more dangerous than terrorism from the outside. “God bless America” is not the chant because very few in high (or not-so-high) places are willing to acknowledge the God of the Bible as GOD amidst a pluralistic pantheon of lesser (false) gods, nevertheless THE ONLY ONE who can bless America or anyone else for that matter.
The Church overall has forgotten, as we have sat on our lazy, comfort-loving, culture-embracing asses in the name of Christian kindness and supposedly reaching the masses. And what have we reached the masses with? The last year-and-a-half has shown much of that. How? Many pastors are so cowardly that they refuse to preach the Bible. Instead of studying to preach the text of Holy Writ, they spend their days podcasting about “wokism” or proclaiming “the good news” of the government’s “shot of hope” (ie, a false gospel) that will take away the dreaded disease of the day, a disease that seemingly has the primary symptom of fear and one can only be “saved” from by placing one’s wholehearted trust in the all-knowing and all-powerful government as their lord and savior. And so, folks have stayed home from the local church for the last year+ for various reasons – fear, convenience, even a legitimate irritation with the cowardice of their particular local church as many so-called pastors and church leaders have failed and refused to preach God’s Word, refused to meet together (even more so as we “see the Day approaching”), refused to administer the Sacraments, bought and sold a pathetic narrative of fear, and shown that they love this world more than the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, people, and Kingdom of God.
And so we find ourselves in a time and a place in which most of us in the US have never been. We don’t really recognize our nation, our friends, even our families for some. For those of us who have called ourselves Christians, we must understand that this is not because the Church has been doing a hot job of calling the lost, the nation, and culture to repentance, and like we in evangelical circles have liked to say, “It’s so bad, they just won’t listen.” No, fellow believers, I fear much of the reason we find ourselves in the polarization and predicament we do is because for too long many pastors have failed to preach the Word, churches have lost their first love (which is Jesus; and this has even been the case in many ice cold, doctrinally sound “academic” local churches), and we as Christians have loved the world more than we love the Lord.
And so, repent. Pastors – if you are a coward and have not preached the Word of God (which is your primary calling as a pastor), repent or please shut-up and quit leading people into damnation. Other church leaders (elders, councils, boards, deacons, whatever you are called in your tradition), repent, turn away from your sin of guiding the local church by business principles, your preferences, the “way things have always been here,” how you think it should be done, how the government says church should be, how your particular tradition or denomination says things should be done, ridiculous marketing schemes under the guise of “church growth principles,” or whatever else you have done to keep the church from functioning in a more Biblical and healthy way. Make sure you have pastors in place to preach the Word, let them do so, lead according to God’s Word, and get out of the way. If you can’t do that, please resign your leadership role and shut-up. Christians, turn away from your love of the world and back to your first love, Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross on our behalf! Churches – if the above things happen, our local churches as a whole will be revived…. And we will be revived in a way that causes us to make a real difference in this nation and world, whether the political nonsense continues or not. But, if the above those things don’t happen, please close the doors of your local church or at least stop pretending to be a church and hurting the witness of those who are the Church. Call yourselves a community organization or a club or anything but a church if you are not going to be about the business of the God of the Bible. And if you find yourself in a congregation of people who won’t preach the Bible or function as a healthy church according to God’s Word, please find a different one or (probably better yet) start one in your home.
9/11 is a good day to remember. So many folks died needlessly that day. It was terrible. May the Lord have mercy on their families and friends today. And may we, as the people of the Triune God, use this opportunity of remembrance of tragedy and great pain to call ourselves and our brothers and sisters in Christ to repentance today. The tragedy of poor leadership, confusion, chaos and the like (also a tragedy and pain) that we find ourselves in as a nation today is not going to change unless God’s people turn away from the comfortable financial and cultural idols we have so long worshiped and turn squarely back to Him. And then, even if the broader culture does not change, at least we will have joy and peace in Christ that passes all understanding. Here and for all eternity. I have a hunch that things would change in the US for the better if the Church would get our act together. Judgment always begins at God’s house. Always.
Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!