February 9, 2009

A Time for Christians to Be Christlike
by Pastor George Van Alstine

We’ve got to admit that the Christian Church in the Western world has gotten soft. We’ve been on the side of the colonial powers who have dominated other nations since the great maritime expansion of the seventeenth century. We’ve been partners in the growth of wealth and power through the nineteenth century industrial revolution. We’ve been allied with the winning side in the two world wars of the twentieth century.

But something funny has happened on the way to the future. All of a sudden, Western culture, economic development and expansion of influence, all seem to have stalled. New powers in Asia seem to have made better use of the rapidly expanding electronic technology and have begun to develop some economic and political muscle as a result. We can’t take for granted any longer that the USA and European nations will be the major world powers in the next century.

On top of this, we have entered a serious worldwide economic crisis. No one knows how this will affect the long-term distribution of power and influence among the nations.

The implications of this for the church are potentially great. We can no longer count on being on the strong side of power. We may be just one among many religions in the most powerful nations. We have already seen a radical change in the Christian missionary movement, resulting in missionaries being seen as servants, rather than masters. More and more nations are closed to open evangelism, and churches in some lands can only exist underground. We may see the day when even in the West, the church loses its favored status, possibly to the extent of experiencing open persecution.

So the church can no longer afford to be soft. In fact, couch-potato Christianity was never healthy, so maybe the coming hard times should be seen as a blessing. We need to prepare ourselves by taking another look at what it means to be Jesus’ disciples. We need to take his teachings seriously, even when they go against the prevailing attitudes around us—even when we may suffer for trying to live by them. Those who approach these challenges in a humble, selfless, Christlike way will emerge as the heroes of the new era of the church.