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We all read the news and see the trends. It appears that our day is the most corrupt in history (though some historians could argue that point pretty effectively). There is no argument among evangelicals, however, that society seems to be increasingly engulfed in lying government officials, rampant crime, cesspool immorality, "up is down" values, and almost total absence of our once clearly-defined moral standards. However, in the midst of such pessimistic news, there are clear signals that God is up to something. Many in our society are showing openness to the gospel message. Let me illustrate.
In the last couple of months, I've noticed several news items that seem to portray extremes of American culture.
As in "Arkansas." This small, Bible-belt town was recently rocked off center with the shooting of 15 people at a middle school and the needless, senseless killing of six (four students and a pregnant teacher). America has been left speechless. For the third time in five months, small-town schools in the south have seen murders of students at the hands of other students…teenagers (and an 11 year old) in predominantly white, middle-class suburbs (Shockingly, May brought more of the same at Thurston High School in Springfield, Oregon where a 15 year old killed his parents and two classmates). Experts and news analysts have been scurrying to explain such anti-social behavior. Reasons given include: the inability of youth to appropriately handle disappointment and anger; video game induced confusion between real violence and fantasy violence; and ready availability of firearms, etc. Of course, the actual root cause may go much deeper.
As in "Foster." This high profile, high-demand Hollywood actress has announced her intention to give birth to a child minus, not only a husband, but also a "real" father. Her conception will take place (or has taken place) via artificial insemination - with the donated sperm of an unnamed genius. Aside from the obvious moral problems caused many by such action, some have speculated editorially that Foster's unorthodox method of fathering a child reflects a growing trend toward the feeling that men and husbands are irrelevant and unnecessary in today's culture. For years, radical feminists have felt that men were necessary only to sire offspring, and even that need appears to have been tempered somewhat by technology's latest developments. The "baby without marriage" trend is certainly not new; but heretofore, at least mothers have tended to team up with some "significant other" to conceive the child in the more traditional way (however, if pressed, I'm not sure which method is more "moral"). Have absentee dads brought some of this on themselves? Is this one more step toward the destruction of the nuclear family, as we know it? How are Christians to view this?
As in the video! In the midst of the malicious attacks of athletes, outrageous court judgments, gang violence, cult gains, politically correct immorality, and selfish materialism, it's encouraging to realize that in April of this year, this video was sent free of charge to every home in Alabama as an evangelistic tool. That's using technology to our benefit! In the largest Postal Service undertaking in state history, 1.7 million videos were sent just prior to Easter to every residential address in the state; and the Postal Service was excited about the challenge. (That itself is enough to make you believe in miracles!) In 28 tractor-trailer rigs, these videos arrived from California, were labeled and shipped to almost 750 post offices across the state for delivery to families from Mobile to Huntsville, from Lincoln to York! Generous individuals funded the $5.5 million project out of a deep conviction that Alabama needs Jesus; not just the videotape, but the Savior. I couldn't agree more.
There's a lesson to be learned here. We can do so much more together than we can do separately. Each pastor and staff member reading these words believes that the greatest organization on the face of the earth is his/her local church, and that's the way it should be. I wouldn't swap my church for anyone else's. However, there are some things our individual churches just cannot accomplish by ourselves. Reaching our state for Christ is one of them.
Educating our people regarding the cults is another. Watchman Fellowship is an example of the good that churches, pastors, and Christians can do when they work together for a common cause. My church and I have been blessed by Watchman's ministry. We see it as an extension of who and what we are. I'm pleased that we can work together to educate and equip our folks for Christ. I encourage you to get on their team; they're sure on yours!