But these things are only symptoms, and God’s people should be wiser than to target symptoms. Let the conservative Right fight “the Left.” Rush Limbaugh, Shawn Hannity, Daniel Horowitz, Ben Shapiro, George Will, Thomas Sowell, Michael Savage, Dennis Prager, Ann Counter, Matt Drudge, Steve Bannon, Mark Levin, Walter Williams, Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson, Dan Bongino, Jeanine Pirro, Breitbart, RealClearPolitics, the American Spectator, Blaze, Fox News, the National Review, the Daily Beast, Human Events, Newsmax, Townhall, et al. America has a lively conservative voice that does not exist in most other places, and we are thankful for it.
But God has told us what this is age is all about and what His people are to be doing. It is the church age. It is Christ’s Great Commission age. God is calling out a people for His name from among the Gentiles (Acts 15:14). They will bring glory to Him through all ages (Ephesians 3:21). The calling out is by means of global gospel preaching, as Christ commanded (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:46-48; Acts 1:8).
We also know from God’s Word that the hour is late. On every hand we “see the day approaching.”
THE HISTORY OF CONSERVATIVE CHRISTIAN SOCIAL/POLITICAL ACTION
Bible-believing churches have been focused on symptoms and have fought spiritual battles with carnal weapons since the 19th century.
Charles Finney (1792-1875) had a major role in turning the churches from Christ’s Great Commission to social reform. “In the nineteenth century, the evangelical movement became increasingly identified with political causes--from abolition of slavery and child labor legislation to women’s rights and the prohibition of alcohol. In a desperate effort at regaining this institutional power and the glory of ‘Christian America’ (a vision that is always powerful in the imagination, but, after the disintegration of Puritan New England, elusive), the turn-of-the century Protestant establishment launched moral campaigns to ‘Americanize’ immigrants, enforce moral instruction and ‘character education.’ Evangelists pitched their American gospel in terms of its practical usefulness to the individual and the nation” (Michael Horton, “The Disturbing Legacy of Charles Finney,” monergism.com).
This program continued to gain steam in the days of Billy Sunday in the early 20th century. His message focused on Christianizing America. He advertised his campaigns as “civic clean-ups.” He preached against dancing, card playing, gambling, theater-going, commercial dishonesty, drinking, not just for the sanctification of individual believers and churches, but for the conversion of America. Sunday’s preaching and campaigning was a major force in the passage of the 18th Amendment in 1919, prohibiting the manufacture, transportation, and sell of intoxicating liquor. He invited his hearers to become better Americans and to make America a better country. He said, “Do you want God’s blessing on you, your home, your church, your nation, on New York? If you do, raise your hands. ... How many of you men and women will jump to your feet and come down and say, Bill, here’s my hand for God, for home, for my native land, to live and conquer for Christ? ... Come on down and take my hand against booze, for Jesus Christ, for your flag” (“Era of the Evangelist,” Christianity.com, Apr. 28, 2010; William McLoughlin, Modern Revivalism, p. 434).
The program of social reform toward the Christianization of America has continued among fundamentalists. It received great impulse with the founding of the American Council of Christian Churches in 1941 by Carl McIntire. Participants included T.T. Shields in Canada, the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches led by Robert Ketcham, Bible Presbyterian Churches, the Independent Fundamental Churches of America (IFCA), the Associated Gospel Churches, and the World Baptist Fellowship. The ACCC was supported by Bob Jones, Sr., Francis Schaeffer, Jerry Falwell, Tim LaHaye, and a great many other fundamentalist leaders, both non-denominational and Baptist.
Not content to fight against theological liberalism and heresies in churches and schools, to preach the gospel and teach the Bible and disciple believers, McIntire increasingly became fixated on political action pertaining to pro-Americanism and anti-communism. McIntire determined that his calling was to lead a nation-building campaign to “save America.”
The cause seemed to be right. McIntire’s generation witnessed disturbing changes in American society and government. Beginning with President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, there was an ever-increasing move toward socialism. The power of the federal government had been increasing dramatically since the end of the Civil War in 1865, but Roosevelt took it much farther. He claimed that men should be guaranteed “four freedoms” by the government: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. Thus he specifically put the government in the role of God in men’s lives. In The Rise of the Tyrant: Controlled Economy vs. Private Enterprise (1945), McIntire rightfully warned that a centralized government that attempts to deliver men from want and fear is idolatrous and will have “tragic and far-reaching results.” He rightfully warned that “America is in greater danger of losing her freedom today than at any time since the Declaration of Independence.” Social forces such as feminism, abortion rights, and the “free love” unisex movement of the 1960s were turning American society upside down and removing the remnants of biblical influence. The Supreme Court removed prayer and Bible reading from the public schools. Communists were infiltrating universities and government. Crime was exploding. America was embroiled in a self-inflicted military quagmire in Vietnam. The Cold War threatened to break out into World War III. International Communism was on the march. The League of Nations, followed by the United Nations, appeared as forerunners of a one-world government.
McIntire published reports warning of the inroads of socialism, etc. He created broad-based political alliances. He led public demonstrations. He sought for access to the White House and Congress. He raised money from millionaires regardless of their spiritual condition and doctrinal soundness. An example is J. Howard Pew, retired Sun Oil executive who was a member of the Federal Council of Churches, which McIntire had identified as enemy number one. McIntire’s constant refrain was that if God’s people don’t rise up and become active in his alliance, “we are doomed,” but, “If the Christian people of America will wake up and assert themselves, we can save our land” (The Rise of the Tyrant).
McIntire called for an alliance with Roman Catholicism. He said, “The chasm separating the Roman Catholic church from the Protestant church is a small one compared to that indefinitely large chasm which separates the modernists from the fundamentalists” (Christian Beacon, May 26, 1938). But that is nonsense. A false gospel is a false gospel; one type of false gospel is as dangerous as another; and God’s people are forbidden to yoke together with false gospelers of any persuasion (Gal. 1:8; 2 Co. 6:14-18). McIntire worked closely with John T. Flynn, a Roman Catholic opponent of the New Deal and author of The Road Ahead (1949), which was publicized and sold by the ACCC. In fact, McIntire had secretly edited this book (Markku Ruotsila, Fighting Fundamentalist). McIntire also worked closely with and promoted the Roman Catholics William F. Buckley, Jr., Phyllis and Eleanor Schlafly, the founders of the Cardinal Mindszenty Foundation, as well as with Jewish Rabbi Benjamin Schultz.
Other influential Save America communist fighters who worked closely with McIntire were Edgar Bundy (Church League of America), Billy James Hargis (a Church of Christ preacher turned communist fighter, founder of the Christian Crusade), Frederick Schwarz (founder of the Christian Anti-Communism Crusade), and Robert Welch (Unitarian founder of the John Birch Society).
There is no biblical authority for the ACCC or any ministry like this. There is no biblical authority for its parachurch organization, for its ecumenical alliances, for its focus on political action, for the identification of America with the kingdom of God. McIntire disobeyed clear Scripture in the pursuit of these pragmatic objectives (e.g., Ro. 16:17-18; 2 Co. 6:14-18; 2 Ti. 3:5; Jude 3; 2 John 7-11). “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Co. 6:14-18).
Carl McIntire’s ecumenical “save America” movement was superseded by Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority in the 1970s and 1980s with an even broader coalition. Falwell, associated with the Baptist Bible Fellowship International (BBFI), began his political action campaign with a series of “I Love America” rallies in 1976.
But far from being saved by conservative political action, America has descended deeper into spiritual and moral darkness with each passing decade since the founding of the ACCC. They have lost the vast majority of their battles. They lost the battle against Roosevelt’s New Deal and Johnson’s Great Society War on Poverty, the battle against pulling America out of the United Nations and against evolution taught in public schools. They lost the battle against prayer and Bible reading being removed from public schools, followed by the battle for it being restored. They lost the battle against the federalization of the public school system and the formation of the Department of Education, the battle against sex education in the public schools, the battle against the radicalization of the universities, the battle against the removal of the Ten Commandments from courtrooms, the battle against the politicization of the courts, the battle against the repeal of prohibition, the battle to overturn Roe v. Wade, etc.
STOP FOCUSING ON SYMPTOMS AND ADDRESS ROOT ISSUES
The only real solution for America’s ills is to address the root problem. Cancer is not healed by addressing symptoms.
The root of America’s ills is the condition of the nation’s churches: unregeneracy, unqualified leaders, cowardly leaders, worldliness, carnality, lukewarmness, the priority of tradition over God’s Word, pragmatism, heresy, and apostasy, worldly homes, worldly youth. That wretched condition has become the status quo in vast numbers of “fundamentalist,” “Baptist,” “Bible-believing,” etc., churches. America doesn’t fear God because her churches do not preach and live the fear of God.
The root problem is addressed by doing exactly what God has told His people to do in this present time, which is to build biblical churches as the pillar and ground of the truth and to focus on the church’s great business, which is thorough-going discipling and aggressive world evangelism. This the mandate that the risen Christ emphasized by repetition (Mt. 28:18-20; Mr. 16:15-16; Lu. 24:44-48; Ac. 1:8) and which we see the first Christians obeying in Acts and the Epistles.
Where did the apostles and early churches get heavily in politics? They kept their attention on doing what Christ told them to do, and they turned the world upside down.
STOP FIGHTING SPIRITUAL BATTLES WITH CARNAL WEAPONS
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:12-13).
God’s Word plainly tells us that our warfare is not against flesh and blood. Conservative political action and conspiratorial hand-wringing won’t defeat “spiritual wickedness in high places.”
But we do have weapons against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world.
Consider some of the mighty weapons that God has given His people. These are the things we need to focus on like a laser.
THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH. The New Testament church is the “house of God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). The greatest need of any nation is New Testament churches. No other institution can replace it. Only the New Testament church can proclaim the gospel, baptize the saved, disciple and discipline the saints, build godly homes, shine as a light of righteousness and truth in the darkness. We are talking about churches after the fashion of Acts 2:41-42; 1 Corinthians 5:7-8; Ephesians 4:11-16; Philippians 2:14-16; 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10; and 1 Peter 2:5. What black communities need above all else is New Testament churches. The lack of such churches is their fundamental problem. The same is true for every community. Let’s not get sidetracked to lesser things. Conservative political action can’t build a New Testament church. The vast majority of prominent conservative political activists don’t have a clue about the New Testament church.
THE BIBLICAL FAMILY. The biblical family is the family as it was founded by God at the dawn of man’s history. (We don’t use the term “nuclear family,” as this is a sociological, evolutionary construct.) The biblical family is one man and one woman living in holy matrimony (Genesis 2:20-25; Matthews 19:3-6). Biblical marriage sanctifies the sexual relationship (Hebrews 13:4). Children produced within holy matrimony are given by God for the purpose of producing a godly seed. “And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth” (Malachi 2:15). The New Testament church and the biblical family are designed to work in harmony. The church builds up the family, and the family builds up the church. God’s instruction for godly homes is given to churches that the churches might use that instruction to build such homes (Ephesians 5:22 - 6:4; Colossians 3:18-21; Titus 2:3-5). All of the instruction of the New Testament epistles is useful in building godly homes. There is nothing that America needs more than New Testament churches and godly homes. This must be our chief priority.
REGENERATION. When people are truly saved, they are changed, but it happens one-by-one, but by groups. A spiritually powerful church begins with a regenerated membership. It is described as a spiritual house made of living stones (1 Peter 2:5). A vast number of churches have been incredibly careless about this matter, adopting cheap salesmanship evangelistic methodologies, accept empty “professions” and “sinner’s prayers” in the place of supernatural conversion, accepting people into membership without clear evidence of a born again experience, being careless in dealing with children about salvation. In about 1980 I wrote “Does Salvation Make a Difference?” to warn about this. I saw it in the Southern Baptist church in which I grew up, and I have seen it permeate fundamental Baptists and others. A church that really wants to make a difference in America will get back to the Bible in the matter of a regenerate church membership.
THE BIBLE. The mightiest spiritual weapon God has given to men is the divinely-inspired Scripture, which is “quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). A spiritually powerful church is a church immersed in the Bible. It is a church that aims for every member--from the youngest to the oldest--to be an effectual, serious Bible student, able to study it and interpret it for himself or herself, able to apply it to his or her daily life, able to use it to be led in God’s will, able to use it for spiritual and moral protection. It is a church that not only has a Bible institute, it IS a Bible institute. A church that really wants to make a difference in America will double down on immersing the people in the quick and powerful Word of God. And it must be the right Bible, for all Bibles are not created equal. It must be a Bible based on the right Hebrew and Greek text and a Bible translated by the formal literal method. In English, the most powerful Bible is the King James or Authorized Version. It has been changing lives, building homes and churches, and blessing nations for 400 years. Loosey-goosey versions like the New Living and the Message and the Good News are powerless, and even literal versions based on the critical or modern Greek text are corrupt and therefore lacking in life-changing power.
HOLY, PILGRIM, SEPARATED LIVING. A spiritually powerful church is a holy church, which is the opposite of a worldly church. “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15). “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Titus 2:11-12). “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9). Spiritual power is not in being conformed to the world around us, it is in living as holy pilgrims in a foreign world and thus shining the light of a holy God into a dark society. Spiritual power is in being different, which is the opposite of the contemporary philosophy. And we aren’t talking about external hypocrisy; we are talking true Spirit-wrought holiness that changes people from the inside out. Christ described true disciples as those who “hunger and thirst after righteousness” and are “pure in heart” (Matthew 5:6, 8). We should ask, then, “What do our church members hunger and thirst for?” What are they passionate about? What do they love to do? What about the fathers? the mothers? the youth? the elderly? A church that really wants to make a difference in America will focus on holy, pilgrim, separated living and will make major warfare on worldliness in all of its aspects.
ZEALOUS SPIRITUAL GROWTH. A spiritually-powerful, community influencing, nation-impacting church is a church that is zealous for spiritual growth, which is the opposite of a half-hearted, lukewarm church. “And beside this, GIVING ALL DILIGENCE, ADD to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and ABOUND, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins” (1 Peter 1:5-9). A church that really wants to make a difference in America will focus on zealous spiritual growth and make war on half-heartedness, lukewarmness, nominal, prayerless, powerless, never-progressing, complacent, “Sunday morning” Christianity.
THE GOSPEL. A spiritually powerful church is a gospel preaching church. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:16-17). A vast number of churches have grown very lax in evangelism. There is no campaign, plan, push. There is no burden and zeal. It is done by rote. There is little prayer for souls. A church that really wants to make a difference in America will get back to the gospel, really get itself on fire for evangelism.
PRAYER. A spiritually powerful church is a praying church. “And they continued stedfastly in .... PRAYERS” (Acts 2:42). “ I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). “Pray without ceasing. ... Brethren, pray for us” (1 Thessalonians 5:17, 25). A church that really wants to make a difference in America will get back to prayer, serious prayer, fervent prayer, persistent prayer, targeted prayer, prayer in God’s will, real prayer in the services, real prayer meetings, multiple prayer meetings, 24-hour prayer meetings, prayer meetings before services, individual prayer, family prayer, prayer partners, prayer chains, prayer with fasting. Prayer will be a major, major focus. It will be a way of life. The people will be taught how to pray effectively. They will be reminded constantly of the importance of prayer. Oh, the power of prayer! There’s power to change individuals, homes, churches, communities, and nations.
21 Steps to a Stronger Church for the 21st Century addresses these and many other elements of a New Testament church and spiritual warfare in a most practical manner. It is available from www.wayoflife.org.
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