God’s people ought to be a purposeful people. Men like David, Ezra, Nehemiah, Paul, and many others were very deliberate in the service they rendered to God and their fellow man (cf. 2 Sam. 7; Ezra 7:10; Neh. 1:4-11; Rom. 15:20-21). Scripture tells us that the men of Issachar, “understood the times, and knew what to do” (1 Chr. 12:32). If Christ’s church in 2003 is going to be a people of purpose, we also must anticipate potential challenges to faith in the months and years to come. While I do not claim to be a prophet, nor the son of a prophet, it seems to me that every conscientious believer and congregation of believers ought to be preparing for these challenges in the 21st Century:
The Challenge of World Religions — There was a day and time in our country when the majority of people believed the Bible was the exclusive word of God. In the past four decades, however, society has shifted its thinking. For example, in the Dallas Morning News Religion section today you can find advertisements and meeting locations for nearly every major world religion including Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Ba’hai and Judaism to name just a few. If Christ’s church is going to preach the “unsearchable riches of Christ,” we need to understand our times. Debating the necessity of baptism is fruitless when you are talking to someone who does not believe in the God of Christianity. We must first find common ground! What are we doing to prepare for the continuing influence of world religions in our society? Will we, like Paul, be able to find common ground and preach the glory of Jesus Christ in such an atmosphere (cf. Acts 17:22-34)?
The Challenge of Homosexuality — Our world is increasingly hostile toward those who hold the view that homosexuality is sinful (Rom. 1:18-32). Unless there is a major reversal in thinking, it is only a matter of time before this issue begins to directly impact churches of Christ. What will we teach about homosexuality? What will (indeed, what DO) we tell our children when they see this issue treated as a societal norm on nearly every television program they watch? How will the church at Edgewood respond when this issue is brought to our doorstep (and sooner or later, it will be!)? May God always help us to, “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15).
The Challenge of World Missions — In the last 15 years the political world has been radically reconfigured with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fragmentation of many nations abroad. I often wonder if we are missing some of the greatest opportunities for evangelism that God has provided in 2000 years! We hear reports from nearly every inhabited continent that people are starving for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. His marching orders have not changed (Matt. 28:18-20). Where are the courageous men and women who will “launch out in faith” and take the word of God to the far corners of the globe? We ought to be encouraging individuals right here in Edgewood to, “dream big” where God’s will is concerned!!!
The Challenge of Future Leadership — It seems that many congregations have lost a sense of the need to train young men and women to be leaders in Christ’s church. How will we have elders in 20 years if we are not training younger men today? How will we have Bible class teachers if we are not encouraging that in each other now? Where will God’s servants come from if they cannot see service modeled in us, right now? Mark these words: we make it difficult for future generations to be what they ought to be when we fail to make Christ the focus and center of our lives right now (Phil. 1:21). A crucified life is God’s working model for leadership. What kind of life are you living? —JB