Democracy or Disciples?

I remember going on some good road trips with my family. Many times we would spend a short night in hotel before resuming our journey early the next morning. Before we hit the sack late at night, Dad would phone down to the front desk and ask for a “courtesy” wake-up call. Normally it would come at some unholy hour in the morning and although Dad would hop out of bed right away we would continue to slumber and try to stay comfy under the warm sheets and blankets until he basically had to drag us out of bed into the shower.

What is the point of a wake-up call if you do not wake up? Many Americans woke up today either discouraged or excited because of the outcome of the 2012 presidential election. Half of the country went to bed enraptured and the other half went to bed infuriated. And, possibly, the same demographic may be seen in many local churches this weekend. Christians in America need a wake-up call and the problem is not centered in a re-elected government official but with a concerning mindset among the Church in America.

The problem with the American Church is just that—we perceive ourselves as the American Church instead of the Church of Jesus Christ. We believe that we have a charmed history of “divine destiny” that no other people-group throughout history has enjoyed. We look back to Columbus getting lost and “discovering” America, even though to his dying day he stood by his claim that he had found India. We point back to how the Mayflower made it through the storms at sea and eventually landed on the American shore with a boatload of “Pilgrims” desiring religious freedom. We point to the miraculous victories that America scored in gaining independence from Great Britain during the Revolutionary War. We look throughout the Civil War, both World Wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, the Gulf Wars—the wars we are engaged in today—and we boldly declare that we are still a chosen and preserved nation by God.

In other words, we are living much in the past—not in the present—and while we are thinking about the future, we are not focusing on the future that God is excited about.

Has God has richly blessed America during the past 236 years? Definitely. And yet, the existence of the U.S.A. is but a drop in the bucket of how He has worked in many nations throughout world history. Don’t get me wrong—I am an American and have a great love for my country. My dad retired as a Colonel in the Air Force after a sacrificial and honorable life of service for America. My great-uncle gave his life at Iwo Jima to preserve our freedom. I love and hold dear the freedoms that our nation provides us—many freedoms that the world throughout history has never seen take root in a nation’s history. I would give my life if necessary for the defense of this country’s freedoms—but, I would much rather give my life for the sake of the Gospel’s commission of making disciples.

The Church in America does not need another wake-up call—it has been getting them for quite some time. Perhaps, the 2012 election will serve as an alarm bell to the Church in America—or perhaps it will just blend into a somewhat distant cacophony as it mingles with the distant wake-up calls that have been ringing for many years.

There are a number of wrong responses we can have as God’s Church when the political arena does not turn in our favor:

  • We can cower in fear and put out fleeces of feigned trust like Gideon did when he was faced with an unpleasant but God-ordained task. However, such outward actions do not follow through when it matters most in the reality of living out true faith and being a light to the nations of God’s grace. These fleeces may come in forms of thinking the right things, saying in the right things, even posting the right things on Facebook like, “God is in control!” and yet living a democracy-focused existence rather than a discipleship-focused purpose.
  • We can boldly defame those who are “rising to power” before our eyes instead of living out 1 Timothy 2:1-4. We can pray imprecatory prayers for those “tyrants” instead of praying, “Lord, open the king’s eyes!” as did William Tyndale, even in his dying breath. We can even read the front-page headlines into our eschatology and claim to have faith in God’s sovereignty and yet bite our nails that the anti-Christ is right around the corner—or has already arisen.
  • We can fatalistically say that, “What happens will happen,” and just knock-on-wood that it won’t get too bad for the Church’s security and freedom of religion in the next 4 years. And we can get conferences together to enlist hope in the “America we once knew” and pray for God to restore a “former America” to our contemporary landscape. I would suggest that to do so is still living in the past and not living for the future.

However, we as God’s Church in America have to make the choice of what is more important: fostering and fighting for democracy or cultivating and growing disciples? I am not proposing that we turn a deaf ear to the political changes around us or “let evil triumph as good men do nothing.” However, we need a renewed emphasis and passion on making disciples, since that is our Lord’s passion. Either we can continue to slumber underneath the plush, warm, and comfortable bed sheets of the “American Dream,” enjoy hitting the snooze button every time the alarm goes off, and spend the next four years pumping ourselves up to vote again in 2016. Or, we can throw off the suppressing covers of a dream world, be fully awake and cognizant of our responsibility to “make disciples of all people groups,” and live as God’s Church in America rather than as the “American Church.”

What does this look like? This means that we will be actively engaged in the Word and in prayer in our daily lives. It means that we will be endeavoring to make disciples of our own family members before attempting to make disciples of our neighbors. It means that we will be engaged in corporate and intentional discipleship in our local churches and that we will not get hung up on tradition as much as we will on making disciples. It means we will still love and serve our God-blessed country but realize that America is not made up of land, cities, buildings, and wealth—it is made up of people who desperately need to become worshipers of Jesus.

A wake-up call serves no purpose other than condemnation and embarrassment if it is not answered or heeded. In the same way, when God’s Church is focused on democracy over disciples then we have put ourselves into the category of  a 1st century local Church on the river of Lycus, who themselves were proud to be Laodiceans rather than disciple-makers. God was gracious to give a wake-up call directly to His congregation in Laodicea by the mouth of Jesus. Will He give a similar wake-up call to us–or has He done so over and over again? Could He be knocking at the doors of His children’s hearts in America to get their focus back onto His passion of creating worshipers of His Father?

God is excited about creating worshipers of His glory who are physically seen as disciples of His Son. Sharing this good news and making disciples of every “tribe, and tongue, and people and nation” is His Church’s great mission and purpose. Regardless of what continent or political arena His Church finds itself in—the mission is the same and it is a glorious opportunity! The Son is building His Church (Matt. 16:18) and no political climate, or apathetic Church, or ramparts of Hell will be able to withstand the overwhelming tidal wave of His truth and grace.

Is this the God, Savior, and King that you worship? If so, then value the making of disciples much higher than the making (or maintaining) of a democracy.

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