Over the weekend I went to Camp Caswell for the Summit college leaders retreat. It was a great time to spend with the other leaders I’ll be working with this year, as well as hitting the beach, and talking about our vision.
In addition to those activities, we spent some time in prayer, asking God for revival on the college campuses, and it was during this time that I couldn’t help but feel a little skeptical. I have been to numerous retreats and leadership meetings in which we prayed for spiritual renewal in our region, asking God to do big things for the sake of His name, and that we could be a part of it. And yet, despite all this fervent praying, I haven’t seen much change. Rather than witnessing sweeping revival, it seems more like the Christian culture has barely kept its head above water.
So that got me to thinking–is the church really making a difference? Is all of this praying and laboring really accomplishing anything? Would the world even notice if the church was gone?
In reflecting on this question, I have come to an encouraging realization. Although we don’t always see the kind of radical renewal that we often pray for, the church is still very much at work. Countless social justice organizations are backed by the Christians and funded by churches. So many initiatives to address AIDS in africa and to feed the hungry and to fly in when a natural disaster strikes are all carried out by Christians and their churches.
What’s more, there are a lot of churches throughout the country, and the world, that are growing exponentially. In fact, the largest church in the world is in South Korea, and the number of Christians in China are growing every day. Although the explosion of Christian conversions has not happened right in front of my face, it is nevertheless happening.
But I think that one of the main reasons I feel like the church isn’t doing all that much is because our culture has largely come to take our efforts for granted. I don’t think our nation realizes to what a great extent Christians aid the government in caring for the poor and disenfranchised. If the church suddenly disappeared, there would likely be enormous economic consequences for our country because such a huge financial burden would be placed on the government.
So just because we’ve taken the church’s work for granted, doesn’t mean it’s not at work. Just because I have yet to see sweeping revival does not mean it won’t happen, and that we’re only about keeping our heads above water. On the contrary, the church is very much at work, so I should not lose faith in the church or God’s ability to work through it, simply because I have failed to see the mighty ways in which it is being used.
That leaves us with only one challenge, I suppose. If I, a Christian, am overlooking the church’s presence in this world, then I have no doubt the world is too. How, then, are we to make new marks on this world, and stand out in new ways? How do we continue to be salt in a world that has adjusted to the taste of salt? That is the question…