I remember a commercial from many years ago that featured a football coach in the locker room at half time, and he was chewing out his team in a royal way. They had missed that tackle, they had screwed this up, they had failed to do something else, and so on. Finally, after a good bit of this, one of the players looked up and said something like, “But, coach, we’re ahead by 21 points.”
One of the temptations that reformers face is that of seeing all the negatives. And it is appropriate to say that the rising tide of secularism is directly related to the impotence of the church. There are many things in the church that need to be reformed — our worship is inane, our preaching anemic, our eschatology is defeatist, our complicity with the state is worrisome, and this list could be quite a bit longer. That’s all true. That’s all true, as far as it goes, but it is not the only truth.
A few weeks ago, we had our county fair here. And after going through the hall where a number of our local ministries had their booths set up, Luke and Rachel commented to the rest of the family about something they had noticed there. From the Hope Center, to CareNet, to Logos School, they noted that if all these ministries just disappeared one day our small town would be a completely different place. It would be colder, and more cruel, and much more contemptuous of the lowly.
“For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.” (1 Pet. 2:15, ESV).
We Christians do need to do more than we are currently doing, because God calls us to it. But we do not need to do more because secularist critics like to taunt the church with our shortcomings. They, as it turns out, do not know what they are talking about. They are like a bed-ridden hypochondriac who has developed quite a critical eye concerning the free nursing care that his volunteer neighbors are providing.
Paul tells the new Christians at Thessalonica that they already love all the brothers throughout Macedonia (1 Thess. 4:1,9). Well done, he says. But then he says that he wants them to do the same thing more and more (1 Thess. 4:10). And so for us — from mercy work to political activism — we need to do so more and more. God summons us to it.
But for those who think we are not currently doing anything worthwhile to speak of, the only way that could be refuted is if it were all made to disappear. And that is what the secularist agenda currently is driving at — to replace their forms of statist and coercive compassion for ours, the kind that is freely given, to replace our Savior with their savior. As I have already noted, I do not believe this attempt will be successful.
But if it were, there would be a point to made from it. The forces of unbelief were successful in driving the Huguenots from France. The thing can be done. The problem is that France never recovered.
“This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men” (Titus 3:8).