The people of the world are overwhelmed by what they see every day. Even those who oppose the church don't have an answer.
But the more we reflect Christ in a very tangible way—not only in good times but in challenges as well—the more we can turn into good what the devil has intended for harm. We must keep our focus on God's intended plan, pursuing His greater purpose instead of focusing on what we're going through.
Four days before the horrendous and tragic shootings at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina, we were part of helping to facilitate The Response South Carolina, a call to prayer for our nation, held at the North Charleston Coliseum. As we crossed our racial, denominational and generational lines to meet in a humble and corporate posture in prayer, worship and fasting, God heard prayers that went out for the nation—as well as those of generations of praying believers who laid a foundation before us. In retrospect, many of us recognize it was God's providence that we gathered with thousands on June 13th, joined by multiple thousands more around the globe via television and live stream. Relationships were being forged and healed.
In the aftermath of the shocking and horrifying shootings, we all witnessed the outpouring of unity that touched the nation. Churches of many denominations and Christians of all races came together to show solidarity and support with the families and congregation of Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston in the wake of its tragedy. The way in which the church of Charleston and South Carolina crossed racial, denominational, generational and social boundaries to rally with Emanuel A.M.E. Church sent a message of forgiveness, and hope that healed Charleston, impacted the nation, and reverberated around the world.
I believe the church should not only be a plumb line of righteousness and justice, but also the plumb line of peace, healing and hope in the midst of the difficult and challenging days we live in.
No matter what comes our way, every adversity is an opportunity for God to show Himself great. He will always cause us to outlast our adversities and adversaries if Christ is the Lord of our hearts. No matter what we go through, He will take us through our circumstances to bring glory to His name.
An End to Complacency
If the church in America is going to avert national disaster, we must answer two questions: Will we remain complacent in our comfortable circumstances, or will we please God and lovingly minister to our nation in hopes of turning it back to the Lord? Second, will we speak God's Truth, even when it's not popular?
Leonard Ravenhill in his book Why Revival Tarries said:
"This generation of preachers is responsible for this generation of sinners. At the very doors of our churches are the masses unwon because they are unreached, unreached because they are unloved. ... Sin today is both glamorized and popularized, thrown into the ear by radio, thrown into the eye by television, and splashed on popular magazine covers. Churchgoers, sermon-sick and teaching-tired, leave the meeting as they entered it—visionless and passionless! Oh God, give this perishing generation 10,000 John the Baptists!"
When God ordered Jonah to Nineveh, He was testing Jonah for complacency. Jonah had become comfortable among his people. He had no reason to travel outside of Israel. The church today must be careful not to end up in that same situation. It is easy to grow comfortable and complacent when we remain in a familiar setting. However, when complacency strikes the church, our reach is lessened and our influence is weakened. If we are to change the course of our nation, we must stand up and minister to America. We can no longer sit idly by and talk among ourselves, shaking our heads. We must make it known that our nation has strayed from God's path.
Jonah warned the city of Nineveh, and because he obeyed God's command and delivered the Lord's word, the city of Nineveh survived and turned to the Lord. Just like our nation has built its own thresholds and doorposts to mimic the Lord's, the church has been guilty of doing the same. Before the church can minister to our nation, we must first be in line with God's Word. Our ministry will crumble if we aren't acutely aware of God's Word and tuned in to the Spirit of Truth, Holiness and Grace. We must be lovers of truth, and deliver that truth with lives of holiness and in grace.
As Christians, we have been called for spiritual battle, and the Lord has prepared us accordingly. Instead of fearing the people and circumstances in our nation, we must remember Philippians 4:13, which says, "I can do all things because of Christ who strengthens me." Under God's guidance, the church can turn this great nation back to the Lord. Christians must come together in humility and holiness if we are to speak the grace-seasoned truth of God to the nation and save it from self-destruction.
It's easy to become disheartened and discouraged, but we must stop trying to hide from the realities of what God is telling us to do so we can bring healing and hope. Yes, it looks like things could implode. Yes, there are global challenges. Yes, we're in a critical juncture. But in the midst of it all, God is raising up a people who have not bowed their knees to Baal. We need courageous voices like Elijah, who obeyed God even though Jezebel threatened him. We need strong voices like Esther, who had to choose between staying in safety and comfort or speaking up for what was righteous and true. We need Jonahs, Noahs and Daniels!
I believe we're about to see a great outpouring of God's Spirit on an awakened church! It will not be on the institutional church, but on the ones who have a love for the Spirit of Truth, who appreciate the Spirit of Grace and who respect the Spirit of God's Holiness. God will give us the abounding grace and great power to reflect Christ to a world that desperately needs to know Him. Will we be the voice that God has called, even though it looks impossible in the natural? Will we rise up and speak the truth, seasoned in holiness and grace, even when it's not popular?
The late Leonard Ravenhill said: "One praying man stands as a majority with God! Today God is bypassing men, not because they are too ignorant, but because they are too self-sufficient."
In our own self-sufficiency and self-righteousness, we are powerless. But when we stand with God and give Him lordship of our lives, all things are possible. It is then we will see Him bring change in our marriages, our homes, our cities and even our nation!
Like Jonah, we face a seemingly impossible task. But with an obedient and humble heart, the church can forever change our nation's path.
Doug Stringer is the founder and president of Somebody Cares America/International. You can find him on line at dougstringer.com.