Lying in bed, last Sunday morning, I signed on to Facebook and watched the opening portion of a video blog post from Frank Schaeffer. He’s the son of Francis Schaeffer, the Calvinist theologian who wrote prolifically about the influence of secular humanism in America and influenced the founders of the Religious Right in America. Frank parted from his parents’ beliefs and ideas years ago and is an outspoken opponent of the same conservative movement his father influenced.
In the post, he referred to his father and some of the people he influenced. That led me to look for videos of Francis. I found an interview conducted by Pat Robertson on the 700 Club in 1982 with Dr. Schaeffer. I remember watching it in real time in ’82 and being fascinated.
I watched several minutes of the interview again. What caught me Sunday morning was what caught me in ’82 on a different level. He said he wanted to get Christians out of their pews to engage the culture.
He wrote and spoke in his lifetime about how America’s Christian culture has been circumvented by a humanistic worldview that relativized morality and spirituality and left this country without a devotion to God and any divine influence in politics, art, entertainment, education, etc. He wanted the American church to arise and confront what he understood to be the organized opposition to Christian influences in this country.
Engage the culture. What’s interesting to me is he spoke and wrote of the need to confront the known opponents (Planned Parenthood, ACLU, Hollywood, colleges & universities, etc.) by first confronting and engaging the church. He found fertile ground in conservative, Reformed congregations, denominations and televangelistic ministries. Conservatives, particularly evangelicals, awoke by virtue of Dr. Schaeffer’s books and lectures and those of others from their post-Scopes Trial hibernation to vote and lobby for conservative Christian based standards throughout the culture. Jerry Falwell, Francis Schaeffer and the aforementioned Pat Robertson were their spiritual influences, and Ronald Reagan was their political champion.
Engage the church. As ordained clergy for over 20 years, I endeavored to engage the church into ministry outside the confines of a sanctuary. There were some episodes of success, but the insistence on my part and my wife’s part (who was also an ordained clergyperson) for the church to reach out was difficult because our biblical standards and worldview were not always shared by many in the church. Again, there were the occasional successes, but most congregations were much more interested in having pastoral leadership that defended their beloved churches from radical changes to their racial homogeneity and class orientation.
I’m still oriented to engage the culture by first engaging the church (its my family), but what happened Sunday in worship captures where I am and what I value in my relationship with Christ and his church. My experience leapfrogs over any engagement I might have with culture or church that has any reformist or political connection. Sunday, we encountered God.
In a small congregation in Anniston, AL, April and I have attended worship on Sundays for three months. Its our new worship family. We’ve grown comfortable with the pastors and the environment of love for God and love for neighbors.
Sunday’s worship environment was relaxed and peaceful from our place in the sanctuary. As worship in song began, an energy filled the room. By the time the congregation joined in singing John Mark & Sarah McMillan’s, King of My Heart, the energy became a wave of the presence of God (I know what that feels like) that buoyed hearts and spirits in the room. I interpreted what followed was that the wave of the Lord’s presence raised the tide of worship and hope. What it did in me was prompt me to intercede in prayer for everyone in the room. The air was pregnant with the compassion of God. Again, this was familiar to me, I recognized it.
The musicians, two guitarists and a vocalist, moved into spontaneous playing and vocals. The praise became more demonstrative and overt. Heather then moved into words of knowledge. She said, in this environment, miracles happen. She pronounced conditions and issues that were being healed and restored. With the rising tide of worship, there was growing faith. When the music portion of worship ended, our lead pastor, Royal, said we’ve witnessed, “heaven kissing earth.” Amen.
We witnessed our heavenly Father engaging the church like a passion-filled encounter with your spouse that leaves you breathless, believing all things in your relationship are now possible. What could be the results of such encounters for a congregation? God in Christ through Holy Spirit imparts grace upon grace and peace that passes all understanding. Our Papa God captures us in his grasp, and we curl up in his lap and know we’re safe. We grow more and more comfortable with whose we are and who we are, our Father’s cherished children. We’re assured again he forgives all our sins and heals all our diseases. We’re baptized in God’s embrace as he breathes on us his Spirit. We then discover our gifts from the hand of God which empowers our lives and our witness of what we’ve discovered from such regular encounters. God engages the church.
With a refreshed spirit and a rejuvenated relationship with our God who is love and is faithful, we can’t help but engage the culture. This occurs through communicating in word and deed the power of grace and divine mercy in Christ through testimonies of what God has done and is doing. Deeds of compassion to the hurting, lost and suffering begin to be on display out of the simple reality that we know we’re loved, and we know for certain the one before us, stranger or friend, is also loved in the same way by the same great, eternal God. We can’t help ourselves. We now engage the culture through love and truth.
Are there political ramifications or the necessity to gather like-minded people together to strategize how to engage the culture to bring about necessary change? In light of grace-filled, glory-filled encounters with a holy God who loves unquestionably everyone and who loves to display his Fatherly goodness when and where praise is offered freely by his children, the only strategy is to love like Jesus loves, and trust his empowerment given to his church in the power of His name, the power of His blood and the power of Holy Spirit inside and outside the church property.
This power doesn’t justify anything the privileged does under the mantle of the church. This power goes on display through the humble and the lover and the servant. It is a certainty a single believer or a gathered body of believers will engage the culture through love and truth when this same person or group has regularly surrendered in faith to their loving Father and grown to know him as he is.
In love with his children, our Father engages us when we seek him. When we find him and encounter his heart, we are urged by his Spirit to engage the culture, share his love and believe the results will change everything.