Surviving the Tsunami of Cultural Change… The Church in Transition
Society is always in a state of change, but every once in a while, a change of tsunami proportions comes and lays waste to the cultural structures and landscape, and everything familiar is washed away.
In case you have been living under a rock, we may have hit that time in the United States. America is in the midst of a major cultural transition. And the American church has borne the brunt of the waves more any other institution.
Our political systems, the cultural norms, the definition of marriage and sexuality, standards of ethics and morality, the effects of globalization on the financial markets, the role of the internet in the education, formation, and public discourse—there is virtually NO arena in culture that is not experiencing some form of redefining upheaval right now.
Can we just stop for a minute and acknowledge the world as we have known it (or at least imagined it to be) has changed? And there is no going back. That pit in your stomach you get when reading the news or your Facebook feed? Let me name it for you: Grief. Disorientation. Fear.
These three ever-present emotions of transition: grief, disorientation, and fear give birth to all kinds of crazy behavior when unacknowledged and unchecked: scrambles for control, anger and lashing out, despair, resignation and withdrawal.
This morning as I spent time praying for the United States for the National Day of Prayer, I found myself thinking of the story of the children of Israel in transition. Joshua, the newly appointed leader had miraculously just led them through the River Jordan during floodwater stage on a completely dry river bed. Now they stood on the edge of new territory. Fruitful and promising territory, but hostile territory, nonetheless. Immediately before them lay Jericho, a city fortified and seemingly invincible. Joshua was trying to figure out what to do next.
Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”
“Neither,” he replied, “but as Commander of the Army of the Lord I have now come.”
Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”
The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.
Is that not the burning question these days in America: Is God on MY side or on THEIR side? Nearly every conversation about politics, religion, sexuality, race, and immigration is about taking sides and drawing lines. And we Christians have fallen right in line to the establishing and protecting our beachheads.
Turning on each other and protecting our kingdoms isn’t uncommon in upheaval. As we are knocked off balance by waves of change, we will scramble to hold on to anything that gives us security or lash out at others as our fears rise.
There’s an invitation in this season, however, because transition always reveals the fragile places we’ve rooted for security.
Somewhere along the way, American Christians joined the ranks of fellow Americans and began to build our lives on sinking sand. Decades of financial prosperity, an extended season of peace and dominance internationally, and the idea that we were a Christian nation have lulled us into rooting our lives in the good gifts instead of the Giver of Gifts. Now the storm is here. And the fragility of our foundations has been exposed.
We are being sifted, my friends.
Just remember that no storm— no terrorist attack, no presidential candidate, no market crisis, no Supreme Court candidate, no bathroom policy, not even the stripping of our nation’s moral compass can knock you off your feet unless you’ve built your life there for security.
Joshua, in his moment of panic, immediately wanted to know if God was for him or for his adversaries. He received some startling news: NEITHER.
The man who appeared to Joshua was not coming to join Joshua’s side, He was inviting Joshua to align with Him and His battle plans. The Captain of the Lord of Hosts doesn’t need to take sides; He is the Commander over All.
Herein lies our invitation in nearly every transition. Where will we align our hearts and our hopes? Perhaps we can take this moment to lay down our unhealthy allegiances and acknowledge the false gods that have slowly become our security.
A new landscape emerges after a tsunami. There’s some clean-up, a time of planning, and a season to build. We need to beware of trying to rebuild too quickly because at this stage in transition, fear, disorientation and grief can cloud decisions. Receive this is a season for reflection and repentance more than anything else.
Today on this National Day of Prayer for America, let’s lean in together and recommit ourselves not to any ‘camp’ or agenda but to THE Commander in Chief— the Captain of the Lord of Hosts.
A prayer for America…
Commander of the Lord’s Army,
We fall before you today in humility and worship.
We strip our feet in acknowledgement of the holy ground of this moment in history and the respect you deserve.
We confess that we have built our lives on sinking sand… on the worship of self, on the collection of stuff, on the approval of others, on our own comfort, and on the pride of being a world leader.
We confess we have lived a cheap faith— one that costs us little and takes advantage of your grace.
We confess the ways we have participated in the division of our nation– by what we have done and left undone.
We confess we have given into fear and anxiety.
Have mercy on us.
Have mercy on our children.
Have mercy on our nation.
Show us which battles to take up and which to leave behind.
Give us your words, your tone, your Voice.
Guide us as we rebuild that our foundations are in You.
Give us extra grace towards others in the church and outside the church as we all ride the waves of change.
We are worship you today as the slave to NEITHER camp and the Commander of All.