How can we help pastors and churches who have been drawn toward the destructive influence of Trumpism, Christian nationalism, conspiracy theories and the diminished value of truth?
How can we return the focus to the Great Commission?
Here are six suggestions that I offer to begin the conversation:
- We need to begin to name names – in prayer.
We are fighting not “flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).
The diversion of attention from the church and its biblical mission to fighting a cultural war is tragic.
No law can constrain the lawless heart, no judge can rule against evil, no Supreme Court can reshape the culture. Evil wins when Christians abandon the front lines of our mission for lesser things.
- We need to contend with grace and firmness for the truth.
It is profoundly troubling that some Christians, clergy included, can profess to stand firmly on the biblical revelation on Sunday and then settle for conspiracy theories about everything else. We need to begin to prod folks for proof.
- We need to help friends find their way back to “mainstream” media.
Everyone makes mistakes, including news platforms. Some correspondents succumb to bias, but since the nation’s founding, a free press has successfully guarded our freedom and overall provided unbiased reporting.
Encourage your friends to read wide samplings of numerous “mainstream” news outlets. This media bias chart provides a helpful tool for assessing the angle, perspective and leaning of various news organizations. Challenge your friends to compare and contrast. Challenge them to think.
- Talk about conspiracy theories.
As a therapist, I know firsthand that conspiracies are depressing. When you get past the notion you now know something others might not know, you become depressed because, behind conspiracy theories, are dark powers (the “deep state”) who are controlling everything.
You should get depressed if you believe that. In the face of that, you are powerless.
However, hope is always about knowing you have the power and opportunity to make changes and that conspiracies are not reality. When people are weaned off of a steady diet of conspiracy theories, people become less depressed and more hopeful.
- Encourage the pastors within your circle about their responsibility to sift through the “crap” of the culture to get to the truth and connect it with Scripture.
We always begin with Scripture, but we want to connect with what is true and workable in the world our people live in. Cultural trendy self-help books are often little help.
- Support your pastors by praying for them to have courage.
It is so easy in these days for pastors to temper the biblical witness because they know some in the congregation will take what is said as an assault on their convictions and their politics.
My pastor, who is an excellent expositor of the Bible, does occasionally express how hard it is to speak truth when so many want to take such biblical truth as a rebuke of their political ideas.
To his credit and my admiration, he takes a deep breath and is faithful to what the Bible asserts. We all need to offer that kind of support to those who preach in these days. It is never easy.
Recently, I shared a story with a pastor about a church I served for 7½ years before resigning.
One night, my wife, Anna, and I were in bed together reading two different books, I told this pastor. She was reading “This Present Darkness,” and I was reading “People of the Lie.”
Anna looked over at me and said, “This is our church!” I looked back at her and, reflecting on what I was reading, echoed her sentiment, “This is our Church!”
Sometimes, we are called to the hard places in our service. When that happens, we need to remember the prophets whose faithfulness left them deep in wells, in lions’ dens, imprisoned or killed.
In these moments, we should pray we will all have courage to seek the truth and proclaim it faithfully, even when it might be hard for our congregations to hear.
I believe God needs to shake the church to the point of breaking to restore our sense of humility and our need for repentance and pliable hearts.
This is the urgency of this present hour.