Dear members and friends of our ELS:
What’s the diagnosis? Medical tests are done, and we want to know the results. With regard to physical health we, with help from the medical profession, appear to be experts at diagnosing problems and prescribing a reasonable course for cure.
Beginning the new year, how do we diagnose the health of the church as it strives to fulfill its mission of the Great Commission? Listing obstacles doesn’t require much effort. Ask any group of Christians in a Bible class, and the adversities are predictable. Externally, the church in our American culture confronts challenges that seem so unique and ominous when compared to those of previous generations. Immorality is openly celebrated. We find open disregard for natural law. Even “New Atheism” has gained fervor and adherents. An obvious lack of respect—no, disdain—awaits all those who take the Bible seriously.
Are these challenges really new? One Christian writer diagnoses them by writing, “Nearly all of the problems and challenges have been put in one form or another for decades and even centuries, but now they are becoming more and more hostile.” In “Attacks on the Christian Faith: Who, What, Why?” (Issues in Christian Education, Summer 2013, Concordia University, Seward, NE), Dr. Okamoto suggests there is a pervasive societal fear that “religious belief is seen to justify oppression, violence, and even terrorism.” Another factor: “Christians have lost their assumed place in society. … Now there is more openness to other ideas and more readiness to listen to criticism.”
Regardless of how we size up the obstacles, isn’t the reality a simple one? There are ones led by the Spirit who see Christ as the heart and center of life now and the guarantee of the great life to come and there are many who do not yet have the Spirit and so cannot be expected to treasure what Scripture teaches. The apostle Paul diagnosed the age-old divergence: We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him (1 Corinthians 2:12, 14).
So the diagnosis of a sick society, loaded with sin-sick individuals needing forgiveness and hope, ought to provoke our empathy. For you and I also have the same diagnosis. Before God touched us with water and the Spirit, we too were among the unregenerate. But now, as people who have received God’s healing cure, opportunities abound around us for sharing the Good News of a perfect Redeemer. We have wonderful news to share! The Spirit will do His work as we seek to engage the lost with a Savior who spared no cost. May God grant us many promising opportunities in 2014!
Rev. John A. Moldstad, ELS President