In the late 90s, Jan and I were assigned to a posting in Europe to help care for churches and their leaders. Our assignment involved several nations. We love the people of the European continent. We have many fond memories and remaining friendships from that time.
One day during a conference, I had a conversation with a national leader, and he raised the subject of abortion since it was a front-burner social issue in our nation at the time in a heated election cycle. His words came as a shock to me. He said, “Abortion is not an issue in our nation.” After our conversation, I was stunned at the casual nature in which this leader of a church movement dismissed an issue so close to the heart of God.
Today, when I look at the nation represented by the leader’s comment, they have succumbed to other evils, many conducted in the open for all to see while depicting a postcard touristy image represented by their beautiful landscape and quaint cultural practices. This particular group of churches have not grown in significant numbers or increased its influence in the affairs of their nation. Its relevance in the eyes of its host nation is as dismissive as the leader’s comment regarding abortion.
The Church in any nation is not immune from a similar journey into irrelevance. When Church leaders assume a dismissive posture on significant social issues we can too easily slip into a place where we relinquish our responsibility to disciple a nation in accordance with the instruction of the Great Commission. In the nation I mentioned in Europe, the failure was not at the ballot box. Something took place long before a vote was cast. It took place in the hearts of those who listened to sermons Sunday after Sunday, year after year, and never learned how to live a life of visible faith in a diverse culture while speaking the truth in love.
A noted Hebrew scholar unpacked the phrase “the fear of the Lord” in a unique way. He said the fear of the Lord is not a paralyzing fear. The word means loyalty to the Lord. When we live in the fear of the Lord we are not paralyzed, we are mobilized by the Spirit to move from a way of thinking that is disloyal to the Lord and those things that matter to Him. Our loyalty is what empowers the message of the Gospel to have a unique clarity and the ability to disciple a nation toward a Godly end.
“Out of the stump of David’s familywill grow a shoot—yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root. And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:1-2).