The preacher posited the argument that one reason that the Church in America was not being influential was because the Church in America looks too much like the world around her.
That’s a fair point and one that I’m not going to argue in this blog. The implication from his argument is that the Church is supposed to be influential toward the culture in which it exists. Again, I agree with the implication; it’s soundly Biblical.
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
(Matthew 5:13-16 ESV)
I feel confident in stating that all Christians would agree that the Church is supposed to act as a positive influence upon the peoples/society/culture at large. I will call this “Argument A.”
Later, in the same sermon, the preacher stated that he believes that “things will get worse and worse and worse” until an eschatological event called “the rapture” takes place that will effectively remove the Church from the face of the earth.
Let’s call this belief—minus the bit about the “rapture”—“Argument B.”
“Argument B” is “the peoples/societies/culture will get worse and worse and worse until Jesus comes back (whether this is some secret return to rapture His elect or a very public return in which all will see Him is not relevant to this article).
Does anyone notice a disconnect between the two arguments?
“Argument A” — “The Church is supposed to be a gospel influence upon the peoples/societies/cultures.”
“Argument B” — “Peoples/societies/cultures will continue to get worse and worse and worse until Jesus returns.”
Putting these two arguments together raises all manner of questions:
Is the church’s influence supposed to cause the increase of sinful activity as all peoples/societies/cultures hurl toward the inevitable “great tribulation?” No Christian would actually stipulate that.
Is the church’s influence doomed to fail given the inevitability of this downward spiral of increasing worldwide sinfulness? If the church’s influence is doomed to fail, why the admonition to the Church to be influential? More importantly, why are we supposed to be “salt” and “light” at all to a culture that will inevitably—and increasingly—reject the saltiness and the light until it finally gets so bad that the Church is “raptured out” of the world entirely?
If the world must inevitably get worse and worse and worse in order to bring about the rapture—which is why God supposedly “raptures the Church out,” to protect her from the oncoming storm of the “great tribulation”—wouldn’t it actually make more sense to actually withhold the salt, thereby removing the preserving ingredient from the society/culture? Come to think of it, in predominately-premillennial Southern Baptist churches, isn’t this really happening anyway?
I’m not saying that those who hold to a premillennial eschatology are all lax in the area of evangelism/discipleship. There are many—including a few who write for this blog—that serve faithfully as evangelists and who practice personal discipleship daily. In my view, however, there is a disconnect between the belief (eschatology) and practice. Premillennials who evangelize and disciple daily are doing so believing that people/societies/cultures will continue to get worse and worse and worse until they’re raptured away. They will hold to the fact that evangelism produces converts and discipleship produces change, but they reject the inevitable outcome of “Great Commission” obedience. Widespread conversion and widespread change invariably produce a positive change—over time—and not a negative change that premillennial eschatology holds to.
In conclusion, I would like to challenge my premillennial brothers/sisters to rethink their pessimism. Those who believe that the Church is to be a positive, gospel influence upon the peoples/societies/cultures ought to also believe that such an influence can, should and will yield fruit that produce a result that actually opposite of “worse and worse and worse.”
Paul promised Timothy that “in the last days” people would show forth rotten fruit from wicked hearts. He said people would be “lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self- control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” (2 Tim 3:2-5)
The premillennial will read that text and feel their pessimism is justified. I would encourage them to read on to verse 9…
“But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all…”
How can the eventual exposure and defeat of Christ’s enemies bring about anything but rank optimism?
Be salt and light, Christian.
Be pessimistic…about your pessimism.
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