Guest Commentary Post
For some time I have had this personally intensifying and urgent awareness that things are not “normal”. They are not normal within the secular realm or within the Christian Church. The American Dictionary Of The English Language published by Noah Webster in 1828 defines “Normal” as: (1) according to a square or rule; forming a right angle; (2) according to a rule or principle; and, (3) relating to rudiments or elements. When I compare the current state of affairs around us today with that definition there is no doubt in my mind that things are not normal.
What I see or hear expressed is that so many individuals are simply closing their eyes and just hoping that things are either normal or getting back to normal. Events, circumstances, mores and regulations are changing so rapidly around us that it is almost impossible to process what is happening. So, we don’t. We hide behind the fact that we do normal things every day. We love and take care of our families; we go to work; we go to the grocery store; we go to church; we pray; we mow the lawn and engage in a myriad of other things that seem normal. The newscaster tells us that the housing market is getting back to normal; the stock market went up again today and that our favorite sports team either won or lost.
For those of us living in the US we slough off the fact that the economy is in the pits and is not getting better; 45% of the US population is on government issued food stamps; the unemployment rate and number of people no longer seeking jobs is out of control; our Federal government is borrowing billions of dollars every day just to stay afloat and the US Dollar is quickly devaluing. Additionally, there is one scandal/crisis after another coming out of the current administration in Washington or other parts of the world that affects US citizens. For those readers who are outside the US, plug into your thought process the similarities of what is happening where you reside. How do we absorb all of this and continue on in the process of daily living? Where and what are the rules, principles, rudiments and elements that keep us on a straight rule?
For Christians our refuge becomes the Word of God and the Church. For most of us, that generally includes our local congregation and the preaching/teaching coming from the pulpit. But, what is the state of the Church Universal and why is that relevant to everything included in daily living? I Timothy 2:1 tells us:
“First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (NASB).
According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life there are more than two billion Christians worldwide. In 2010: US adherents – 247 million; UK – 45 million; Brazil – 176 million; and approximately 73% of Russians identify themselves as “Christian.” However, given all of these numbers something does not add up. Two billion Christian believers, praying as Paul directed, should have a profound effect on governments and our daily lives. How then are we so far from normal?
First of all I don’t think the Pew Forum had in mind the kind of Christian that Paul was exhorting in I Timothy. The Pew Forum explains: “The definition of Christian used in the study is very broad. The intent is sociological rather than theological: In order to have statistics that are comparable across countries, the study attempts to count groups and individuals who self-identify as Christians. This includes people who hold beliefs that may be viewed as unorthodox or heretical by other Christians. It also includes Christians who seldom pray or go to church.”
It seems Paul might have had considerable difficulty in reconciling that definition with what the Bible might consider a “normal Christian” and, therefore, the count of two billion Christians has most likely just taken a rather large drop. So, what is left of this number?
Although this newsletter is international in scope my best knowledge and experience concerns what I perceive is happening with those who identify themselves as Christians in the US. While I accept that circumstances exist for some number of Christians who cannot attend church services, most Christians that the Apostle Paul might have recognized will find themselves in church on a regular basis. According to an ABC News report on March 1, 2014 entitled Who Goes to Church, only 38% of Americans say they go to church on a weekly basis. The report further states, “The biggest gap is between the oldest and youngest age groups. Sixty percent of people age 65 and older report attending religious services at least once a week; among 18 to 30-year-olds, just 28 percent go that often.” The report also included the fact that 83% of Americans identify themselves as “Christians.” I am now compelled to ask what has happened to the concept of what constitutes a Christian?
What should be normal for us as Christians in the Church Universal and what would God consider normal? Let’s lock onto some common beliefs that every Christian should profess.
(1) God is Creator and we are created. That was a standard of belief of the Church from its very foundation. The Nicene Creed written in the 4th century has as its first statement: “We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.” In some portions of today’s Church it seems that belief is optional or just not discussed, but what relationship can there be with Christ if He is not acknowledged as Creator?
(2) Jesus came to redeem us from our sins. In user-friendly churches today sin is not discussed. It might offend attendees. Others just refute the notion of sin. So it seems that a good sized portion of the Church is attempting to block God from one of His major roles – Savior and Redeemer. Matthew 1:21 says
“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.”
If we claim we have no sin or simply ignore the reality of sin God has no basis upon which to save us, or even the possibility to redeem our lives. Given that fact we have a good chunk of church-attendees who claim to be Christians, but are not saved.
(3) Jesus was resurrected. This belief is under constant fire from some who claim to be Christians; the same thing goes for the virgin birth. God’s promise of life eternal is not valid without the resurrection.
Taking just these three foundational pillars of Christianity into account that are ignored or not believed by those who claim to be Christians, can the Church Universal possibly be operating normally? It seems a great many of those two billion people who claim to be Christians have no idea of what a “normal” Christian represents or in what way a normal Christian is intended to interact with God.
In Matthew 6: 9-13 we are taught to pray “like” this (similar to this):
“Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.”
It appears that normal for the Church would be for God’s will to be implemented here on earth. Why? The Kingdom, the power and the glory belong to God forever. God is calling His Church back to the standard that He has set as normal and there are Christian believers in every nation fighting every day for the cause of Christ.
Do we want to see a sense of normal restored to our everyday lives? Do we want crime, corruption, government waste and the insanity of bureaucracy removed from our nations and the distinction of good and evil restored to our society?
Six years ago I led a study for a Sunday School class on a wide variety of topics all related under the general heading of Christians in Culture. Looking back at the notes for those classes one of the premises we worked with was that the further away a nation moves from God, God will be progressively absent from the principles of that government and God will increasingly be absent from that society.
We are not going to see normalcy restored to the secular world until we see the Church united behind what is Biblically normal. Apparently, we need a billion plus people to wake up. God will make all things new at His returning. However, until that time the Church Universal has God’s mandate to return to what is Biblically “normal.” Pray for the shaking of church leaders and the revival of Christians everywhere as part of our prayers for all men and for those in authority.
And, may God’s grace rest upon us. †
Nancey Mc Murtry is a member of the St. Johns Abbey leadership team. A graduate of the University of Tennessee, Nancey served for many years as VP in charge of Compliance for an international financial services company. Her husband, Dr. Grady Mc Murtry, founded and leads Creation Worldview Ministries (see www.creationworldview.org). This essay was first published by Creation Worldview Ministries, which owns the copyright. It is used by permission.