As I wrote on Wednesday, over the next few weeks I’d like to suggest several ways you can begin thinking and planning for 2020 by challenging you to make some commitments for the year.
My first “challenge” was to commit to expository preaching. Today’s challenge is this: prepare your people for increasing opposition.
If you could rewind history a few decades, you would find that Christians – using the broadest definition – were generally respected within society. That does not mean that Americans embraced the Gospel, but people were more “religious” in a traditionally religious kind of way. But we live in a different day.
In the last couple of decades, the percentage of people who go to any kind of church has declined. Even within professing Evangelicalism a growing number of people are inclined to view themselves as regular attenders if they go twice a month. Look at this report, which merely measures affiliation with a religious group. A soft, flabby “Christianity” may still be tolerated, but people who believe the Bible? Not so much.
We dare not forget this: while we who are pastors spend much if not most of our time with people who believe what we do, our people do not. Of course, you know this. But they are living it. And they need to know how to survive.
That’s one reason I believe expository preaching (Challenge #1) is so vital. Regular doses of helpful life lessons will just not cut it in helping our people learn to live as those who are increasingly viewed as outsiders and extremists. Our people need to be built up in their faith, not simply given practical advice. They need to know God. They need to go deep in their understanding of the Gospel. They need to know the Bible and know it well.
We don’t need preachers who harp on how bad society is. We had that in the not-so-distant past, and it didn’t help anyone. Instead our people need shepherd-preachers who will fill their minds and hearts with truth. Then they will be strong enough to face the opposition they will encounter and the lies their children will be taught, and do so with grace and knowledge. We want them to, as Paul says so often, “stand firm.”
Here’s a suggestion: Pick up some good commentaries on 1 & 2 Peter and lead your church through a series on how to follow Christ in a hostile world. You will do them everlasting good.