Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Cool the idolatry and're being faithless and scaring the kids!

Megachurch pastor Andy Stanley has told members of his Atlanta church, who, apparently are particularly fired up about this presidential election, to cool it because they're frightening their children. 

And he has a point because it appears that many Christians invest so much meaning in elections that they forget what's most important: God is in control and when you believe in Christ, You have the certainty that God is with you always and that You belong to God for all eternity. With their mouths, such Christians, Democrat and Republican, confess Jesus as Lord, but with their actions they convey the notion that we're all by ourselves and that we need to elect a new god every four years. NOT!

Watch what Stanley had to say in this short clip from his sermon this past Sunday...

This kind of commentary on the behaviors of people who claim to believe in Christ is essential! It isn't political. He's not taking a stand on political issues or candidates. He's even encouraging people to be engaged in politics and civic matters.

But he's exhorting Christians not to engage in what Bruce Cockburn once called "idolatry of ideology."

For too many Christians, Jesus and the Gospel have become fused with their politics, their party, their ideology, their candidate.

They've turned Jesus into a prop to support their own preferences.

Frankly, I think that people who do this will have a lot to answer for when it comes to facing God. "What part of 'you shall have no other gods' do you not understand?" I imagine God asking.

Or, he might ask, "How ambiguous do you find Philippians 4:6, in the Bible, the book you claim to believe is my Word: 'Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.'"

But even now, as Stanley rightly says, such Christians, who view an election campaign as Armageddon, display a complete lack of faith in the God we know in Christ.

Their vision of how things should be is one of their gods.

Stanley's right, Christians of both the left and the right need to cool it!

If your preferred candidate fails to win, it won't be the end of the Kingdom of God. You have nothing to fear. So, quit scaring others. Instead, share Jesus with them by word and deed. Especially the kids.


Eric Jonas Swensson said...

I think what Stanley says in this brief clip and what you wrote in this brief post leaves out something important. And perhaps the children should be scared. Our culture (civilization) is loosing its moorings. We have never seen changes like what are upon us. I am reading Philip Rieff's "My Live Among Deathworks". His thesis is our academics and secular culture are in a project to kill the Judeo-Christian worldview that is premised upon Holy Scripture as a revelation of God. All these things that Stanley talks about so dismissively are but instances.

Mark Daniels said...

Agree that many in the academic world and in the rest of culture are trying to kill off Christianity. Christ warned us of this.

But the antidote, it seems to me, is not to rely on the political process--the kingdom of the left--to bail us out, but to preach the Word in truth and purity all the more.

Eric Jonas Swensson said...

Politics and church are both downstream of culture.

Eric Jonas Swensson said...

Most people are not in church to hear the sermon and this may increase dramatically for us. What is Stanley getting at? We should quit talking about these dangerous things in culture? And that we should just trust God and try to be good Christians and ignore what is going on in our culture? That can't be.

Mark Daniels said...

If you're saying that the Church as an earthly organization is part of the kingdom of the left, I agree. That means that it makes institutional arrangements made necessary by the reality of human sin.

But the Church, as defined by Scripture, is the community of Christ and the Gospel. Its commission is make disciples, not activists devoted to a political ideology of human devising. Article 9 of the Augsburg Confession defines the church as that community in which the Gospel is rightly proclaimed and the sacraments rightly administered.

The blind alley of political activism, of the right and the left, in the Church diverts us from our mission and our identity. The surest way to cultural renewal in the United States is not to fight to elect political opportunists who tell us what we want to hear and only leave us more marginalized from the culture. It's to proclaim the Gospel boldly, lovingly, and humbly. It's to make disciples, who, filled with the Holy Spirit and living lives of prayer, will receive God's wisdom on how to live. And it is to pray.

This process is slower. It's harder to find measurable victories. But it is faithful.

My concern is that the conservative church is making the same mistake we saw in the liberal church--like the ELCA: engaging in politics rather than the Gospel; proclaiming political philosophies instead of worshiping Jesus; confusing human political preferences for the Gospel; failing to trust in Jesus; becoming irrelevant by seeking to be relevant.

I'm tired of it and sickened by it. We don't know how much time we have before Jesus returns. Shouldn't we be more concerned by reaching more people with Christ than we are with getting votes for "our side," when "our side" may be more a reflection of our preferences than of God's preferences?

Mark Daniels said...

Cultural critiques are appropriate. That's part of proclaiming the whole Word of God--law and Gospel.

But to weigh in for political philosophies or candidates as the cure for what ails us is to forget about Jesus. It idolizes human philosophies, candidates, parties, countries. That leads people away from the real cure, Jesus reigning over our lives.

Carol Moore said...

Everywhere we look the day the underpinning of our civilization is being chipped away. Of all of the 40 some great civilizations of the world only 3 were conquered by outside force; the rest all decayed within. The average life of a civilization is about 250 years. Arnold Toynbee is the source of my view from an article I read in college way back in ancient times. I will resist this decadence at every opportunity. The threat is real. Whether or not a pastor wants to recognize the threat is up to the minister a lot of ppl believe that; but to say I worship Ted Cruz or Dr. Ben Carson is choke dip! Sid Moore

Mark Daniels said...

Sid, I have no objection to Christians supporting the candidates of their choice. But I know people who view elections in apocalyptic terms. I even know Christians who think it inconceivable how a believer in Jesus could vote for anyone but Bernie Sanders, that civilization will crumble if Sanders isn't elected.

I don't believe that of any candidate or ideology. I believe that Jesus Christ is Who we need, not by political coercion or laws. It comes through faithful proclamation of Christ.

Andy Stanley is a conservative. He is likely sympathetic to candidates like Ben Carson or Ted Cruz. But he's asking Christians to let their political activism to spring from faith in the God we meet in Christ, without fear and with confidence in Christ, with the recognition that whoever gets elected, Jesus is still Lord and, in whatever we do, our primary task remains: to make disciples, to be prepared, as Peter writes, "to give an account of the hope you have, but do so with gentleness and reverence."