As America Goes, So Goes The Church
“We need the manifested presence of God in the church house. …
As America goes,
so goes the Church. “
Ronnie Floyd as reported in the Baptist Press (HERE)
The theme for the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual gathering this year is “Awaken America”. It’s been a consistent theme for Ronnie Floyd. So powerfully distraught is he over the current condition of America that he has released a 16 page missive in which he pleads with anyone and everyone in the SBC to pray for God to “Awaken America”.
Floyd’s Pleading With Southern Baptists can be found HERE.
While certainly America is in woeful condition, the fact that our nation is in the evident throes of a Romans 1, divine judgment should not be a surprise to any, least of all to the president of the nation’s largest evangelical denomination.
So Floyd’s quote above is considerably bothersome, but it’s indicative of the driving force for his continual calls for “awakening” in America.
“We need the manifested presence of God in the church house…”
Umm, what, exactly, is this supposed to mean?
Do I discern the subtle tone of “calling down the Spirit” evocative of the charismatic movement? What does “manifestation” mean? A literal repeat of the Holy Spirit, “like fire”, at Pentecost? Does Floyd want to see a revival of apostolic gifts in the “house”?(Certainly, of late, he’s been hanging out with NAR “new apostles”.) Is that what his “awakening” means? Some Holy Ghost frenzied experience?
“Show me a person obsessed with the Holy Spirit, and I’ll show you a person not filled with the Holy Spirit.” John MacArthur
Do I wonder exactly what his understanding of the “church” is? The church, as we learned from Bible Study 101, is not the “house”; it is the body of Christ. When we assemble, we are no more or less the church than when individually separated. Sure, the “church house” evokes certain notions of prayer, worship, study of the Word (does the SBC still do this, even?), but those things in the walk of an authentic Christian occur (or should) regardless of our assembling together, which remains yet a thing we should indeed “not forsake”.
No, I believe the “manifested presence of God” isn’t some emotional experience that needs to be summoned from heaven by the assembled body. As a believer, His presence is with me always, and is graciously manifested by the fruits of the Spirit He has generated in my life by obedience to His Word. When I go to the “church house”, I don’t expect to find there the “manifested presence of God”. I already have that.
Floyd’s comment, to me, smacks of something different, a yearning for something more. Indeed, it smacks of something certainly unbiblical, akin to what his “new apostle” buddies over at the NAR invoke in their Trinity- dishonoring festivals of fleshly entertainment they call “worship”.
“As America goes, so goes the church.”
Hmm. Well, okay, Ronnie. I think you’ve nailed it with this one.
In this seven word claim, Floyd has testified to a fundamental, lamentable truth that should drive him, every SBC leader, every SBC pastor, every SBC member to our knees in repentance.
This statement confirms that the long enacted goal of the SBC to be relative to culture, to engage culture, to make church appealing to culture … those goals have been fully, finally, and woefully accomplished.
If the church goes where America goes, it means one simple thing. The church has become the culture. The church is so entrenched in the godless culture around us that our light is dimmed by its presence, its proclamation, and its invitation from the pulpits of our “church houses”.
Is Floyd now actually acknowledging the fruits of a denomination so desirous to be “in the world, not of it”, that it has actually supplanted the culture of church with the culture of the world? Clearly the SBC has yielded on Scripture and eliminated that “not of it” clause by its zealous entreaties to a decidedly godless America.
When the president of your denomination says “As America goes, so goes the church” what he’s telling you is that the SBC has become the culture. We are no longer the church. We are no longer just “in the world”, but as an institution, as a denomination, we are thoroughly awash in it.
What to do? Well, for Floyd and the leadership of the SBC, this calls for drastic action. It calls for supernatural action. It means we must pray with unfettered focus for God to “awaken America”, which is SBC-ese for “awaken the church”.
But Floyd’s equation is to plead with God to awaken America in order that the church may be awakened. “God, please change America so that Your Church is Changed.”???? Hmm, that’s just not a New Testament formula I can glean from an even less-than-prudent reading of Scripture. Methinks Floyd has confused America and the church and, as Voddie Baucham declares, “America is not the new Jerusalem“.
But is this what we ought do? I mean, “pray without ceasing” is an apostolic (from a bonafide apostle, by the way; not one of Floyd’s NAR pals) exhortation to every believer. And pray we should, pray we must. For our nation, for our homes, for our churches … we all know the list.
But is an “awakening” the right prayer petition Southern Baptist ought be making? Perhaps not. Perhaps, given the admitted influence of culture in the church, the actual takeover of the church by culture, what Floyd ought to lead us to is a prayer for forgiveness.
Subsequent to denomination-wide, legitimate, purposeful, and authentic repentance, we should be seeking God’s forgiveness.
We need forgiveness for doing all those hip, trendy, culture-appealing things as a convention that has created the worldly culture that now dominates our churches.
We need forgiveness for our dalliances with worldliness that have prompted pulpits to proclaim another “gospel” of “cultural Christianity”.
We need forgiveness for exhibiting clear and evident disregard for Scripture in our pulpits that results in unfed sheep, unclear Biblical directives for a life of faith, and an egregious misunderstanding among those sheep about who our God actually is.
We need forgiveness for failing to teach fundamental doctrines of our faith, to new believers and old, those core Biblical truths that are the functional foundation for the New Testament church and the life of faith in its believers. “Edification” has been replaced by “entertainment”. But entertainment, even with Christian sounding lingo, does not grow mature, culture defying disciples.
We need forgiveness for tolerating false teaching and other “gospels” in our congregations, in our convention, in our bookstores. A church body “in the world, not of it” cannot be expected to remain faithful when its members are incessantly bombarded by their own denomination with blatantly erroneous books, media, and materials. “Many false teachers will appear”. Indeed, and we greedily profit from them when we ought rebuke them.
We need forgiveness for accepting as the norm the heretical notion of “listening for that still, small voice” rather than eschewing such new age nonsense among those seeking to be faithful and instead drive them to the very source of God’s booming, constant voice – His Word.
We need forgiveness for seeking growth for the sake of growth. The path is narrow by God’s design, not ours. The paradox is that the narrow road upon which we’re called to trod constricts the wider we attempt to make it. We need to allow God to set the borders of our path, and not seek to wrongly crowd it with unregenerate, though well-meaning church members.
By frivolously declaring one a believer on the grounds of a prayer uttered, a trip down an aisle, a card filled out, or a washing in our baptistries – all for the sake of adding another digit to a membership roll – is dangerous for the individual, forbidden to any man (Salvation belongs to the Lord) and illustrative of our disregard for Biblically-commanded discipleship.
We need forgiveness for presuming upon ourselves a task which our Lord reserved exlusively for Himself. “I will build my church”. Our job is to proclaim the Gospel, the authentic, Biblical gospel. We preach that; we witness to that; we live that. God will do the rest.
“As America goes, so goes the church”?
That may be the current condition of the SBC and the prevalent view of its leadership, but sitting here in my pew? Nah. That ain’t the problem we need to be praying about.
We need to be praying for a return to the Word in our pulpits.
God doesn’t speak outside His Word; neither does He awaken with disregard to it.
We need forgiveness. But first we need repentance. Make that your prayer. Please.
[Guest Post by Bud Ahlheim]