The Next Four Years and the American Church

by | Jan 22, 2021 | The current crisis | 2 comments

On Wednesday, Joseph R. Biden, Jr. became the forty-sixth president of the United States despite a massive effort in recent days to prevent that from happening. The inauguration came off without a hitch, thanks in no small part to a considerable display of force in the presence of about 25,000 National Guard troops plus assorted law enforcement agencies at the ready. Their presence, while necessary, was really too bad. Two weeks earlier, the United States descended toward anarchy as a mob of protesters, some displaying Christian symbols, assailed the Capitol building and tried, unsuccessfully, to force things to be otherwise. Hopefully, calm will return now to Washington and the country can heal.

The next four years will bring significant changes both inside Washington and outside. Already, Biden has signed multiple executive orders repealing or reversing some of Trump’s pet projects. Work on the wall has stopped. DACA is back. And there is a softening of Trump’s LGBTQ agenda. This is just the beginning. My point today is not to address these and other anticipated political or cultural changes, though certainly changes in these areas will be significant, have far-reaching implications, and will cause many genuine believers anguish of soul. God fully knows what lies in store for the United States under a Biden presidency and God is sovereign over the process, whatever the actual details of the election. The goal of this essay is to suggest what the next four years should bring for the American evangelical church, if such can be said to exist at all.

Those who profess allegiance to the Bible and a belief in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ on the Cross have a renewed opportunity to allow the Church to be the Church again in our lost and dying world. We are to be a “city set on a hill,” a lamp on a lampstand, a lighthouse in the darkness pointing the way to Jesus Christ, individually and collectively. The darker the hour, the brighter our light ought to be. We have an opportunity to show forth and express our confidence in the God of heaven to lead us through and into the promised land despite the party in power. For what its worth, many Christians around the world bear up under more dire political governments and carry out their faith despite atheistic governments whose repressions far surpass anything the United States is likely to see in our immediate future.

We have duties to this new government despite our displeasure with those who make it up. We have a clear obligation to pray for and submit to those in power. Only when they order us directly to disobey God’s clear directive are we obligated to refuse to yield (Acts 5:29). By all means, Christians can use every legitimate opportunity to seek for change at the electoral level. However, we are currently now at least two years away from any real change. But our trust must always be in Almighty God for the outcome. He raises up one government while he brings down another (Dan. 2:21). Until God changes things more to our liking, we need to be respectful of and submissive to those whom God has placed over us. Our rhetoric must be biblical and Christlike.

Prayer for those who rule is obligatory on the part of Christians (1 Tim. 2). The end goal of our prayer is pleasing God and the possibility of living a quiet and peaceful life. So, if God orders prayer and is pleased by prayer on behalf of our civil officials, why are we not more intentional about doing it? If the Church learns anything from these next four years, perhaps we can learn to always pray and not to faint or lose heart (Luk 18:1). As we pray, we should be mindful that the king’s heart is in the Lord’s hand, to direct it like He directs the flow of rivers (Prov. 21:1). A government can do nothing that God doesn’t allow. The entire book of Daniel speaks to God’s sovereignty over human governments and over its leaders. Daniel serves as a role model for the believer to follow when interacting with his government and his king.

Where is the next Jeremiah Lanphier who will, without fanfare, initiate the next prayer revival such that prayer meetings will break out across our land pleading for the work of God among us? While we are praying and submitting, shouldn’t we also be about broadcasting the name of Jesus Christ across this land? Frankly, we are ambassadors living in a strange country, sent here to represent the king of another country. Our job is to represent Him to those of that foreign country. We are strangers and pilgrims, just passing through, enroute to a better place. Why are we caught up in the temporal circumstances of life? Of course, things are bad. And they will get worse before they get better. But as citizens of another country, we know that one day we will be united with our King in glory and the cares of this life will be a distant memory. The angst and political turmoil will be over as we will dwell in a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens (2 Cor. 5:1).

It is time for the Church to be the church—”the pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15). “O Church Arise and put your armour on. Hear the call of Christ our Captain” (Keith and Kristyn Getty). We ought to be a people who live before this lost and dying world in full assurance that He is in control. What a great marching song! There has never been a better time for the Church to be the Church—a light in the darkness. How will we respond to the need of the hour?

Hard days and rough waters may be before us. But these are only temporary. Jesus will preserve his own and bring us through to final victory. We should pray for our leaders, submit to them in every way we can, and stand up for God and his people while we wait for His promised return. Even so, come Lord Jesus.

Jeff Straub

Jeff Straub

Church Historian

Jeff is an experienced professor of Christian history and theology. He regularly travels internationally to train Christian leaders. When stateside, he publishes in the field of American religion. Research interests include Baptists and slavery, racism, Pentecostalism, and global Christianity. Jeff has taught around the world including Canada where he resided with his family for his first nineteen years of ministry; Romania, Russia and the Ukraine in Europe; India and a limited access country in Asia; and Zambia and Kenya in Africa.

2 Comments

  1. Dan Pelletier

    Great article. I am familiar with the Prayer Meeting Revival. That is indeed the greatest need of our day – a great awakening. We’ll do our part from this end of the country. Who will join us?

    Reply
    • Jeff

      Thanks, Doug!

      Reply

Leave a Reply to Jeff Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *