If you begin at the root and rise of it, Satan has schemed to war against God’s people from the beginning. Sometimes he slithers up to an unsuspecting damsel. Sometimes he drops the dead weight of a heavy blade onto an innocent neck. Ever since the light of the gospel broke out in the New World, Satan has made war against the Saints in North America. His objective is to stifle the truth of Jesus Christ—the God-man, the anti-Curse, the Savior, the Creator, the Lord.
In days and lands gone past, Christians suffered much persecution. Roman Emperors and Queens named Mary carried out cruel torments against those who professed the name of Christ. The goal was not oppression, but destruction. The goal was to ruin.
And so the phrase “Church Militant” is useful in describing the church’s constant spiritual warfare against the gates of the enemy. In the United States today there has yet to be a Bloody Mary. When someone joined the Christian church from the early seventeenth century to the late twentieth century, they gained social capital. In the twenty-first-century when someone joins the church, they lose social capital. Today, Christianity is a byword, and Christians are mocked. It is a matter of reproach to confess faith in God. Christians today must resolve to sustain mocks and insults from the approved tweets of the “thought leaders.” The revolutionaries are not interested in Modus Vivendi. The loony bin faction is zealous for unreality. They aren’t alone. Too many PCA, SBC, and Acts29 pastors are more interested in a seat at the cool table than the Lord’s Table.
For these reasons and more, there is a bevy of slumped-shouldered Christians who have forgotten about Christianity’s bright future. Christianity is patterned after Christ. He was crucified but then resurrected (1 Cor. 15:20). Likewise, Christians are crucified (Luke 9:23) but then resurrected (1 Cor. 15:23). The Apostle Paul speaks of the resurrection as “victory” (1 Cor. 15:54f). The victory that this resurrection signifies is definitive.
Here’s the point, spelled out in italicized letters: Since we’ve already won the victory, it’s time we started acting like it.
How do we start acting like it?
One of the results of the victory is that Christians are empowered to put to death the deeds of the flesh and bring to life the deeds of the Spirit (Gal. 5:16-24). One word for this is holiness. Another word for it is faithfulness. Still another word is maturity.
So, if the church is to begin acting like winners rather than losers, it should begin by living in the power of Christ’s blood-bought victory over sin and death. We need a game plan for faithfulness. Not another game plan of nonspecific Christian teaching typed up and bound in a Zondervan book, but a specific game plan that applies to our context right now, that marks the broad arrow we are shooting right now.
Here are four ways the church needs to gird up their loins into maturity. It is an action plan for the sort of faithfulness that isn’t swayed by voter fraud and doesn’t willingly feed our kids to the godless institutions of the day. Each action point builds on the other, as will be explained at the end.
- Faithfulness requires that you not stay immature indefinitely
A great need exists for Christians to begin to live out the ramifications of their faith in both a systematic and practical way. We must put off childish things. We must think and act like men. Christianity is a serious and demanding religion, and this includes the intellectual ramifications of the faith.
It is acceptable for a teenager to think like a teenager, because they are a teenager. It is unacceptable for a 30-year-old to still think like an 11th grader. It’s worse than unacceptable. This is a travesty. Not only that, it is sin (Eph. 4:14). Every mature Christians was once an immature Christian. The process from one to the other is gradual. The Poet Ogden Nash once said, “You are only young once, but you can stay immature indefinitely.” And so, fine Christians, gird up the loins of your faith, or else you too will suffer from the chronic condition found in the church today called delayed onset maturity.
2. Faithfulness requires that you not slightly miss the truth
One of the biggest reasons Christians stay perpetually immature is because they slightly miss the truth. They almost say the right thing, almost believe the right thing, almost feel the right thing, almost do the right thing. But they fail to do it explicitly.
G.K. Chesterton once said that “falsehood is never so false as when it is very nearly true.” In other words, there is a massive difference between saying the truth and missing the truth slightly. Consider Eve’s response to the tempting serpent, “He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” Eve misses the truth only slightly when she adds, “Neither shall you touch it.”
Are you tired of being lied to? How do you stop it? How do you expose the lies that Hollywood, the media, and the peer-reviewed studies spin as true? You begin by defining words in the most careful manner available. Then you make careful distinctions. God has given us abilities of abstraction for a good and honorable purpose. To think maturely is to make careful distinctions. For example, when discussing the state of theological liberalism in America today, we would need to make the distinction that while it has failed as a religious idea—indeed, the pews of such churches are emptier and emptier—it has been influential in politics.
Douglas Wilson has written, “The only person who needs to be more precise than a liar is the person who catches the liar.”
3. Faithfulness requires that our lives match our words
When James said that “faith without works is dead” he meant that the nature of someone’s faith is displayed in the way they live. Jesus defined hypocrisy as someone who outwardly appears righteous, but inwardly they are full of lawlessness (Mt. 23:28).
Hypocrisy doesn’t prove the falsity of the object of belief. It proves the falsity of the belief itself. When climate change alarmists cry out “Emergency! Emergency!” but then live as if there is no climate emergency, that proves they don’t believe it’s an emergency. My response then is to say, “If you don’t really believe it’s an emergency, then why should I?” Likewise, when a professing Christian doesn’t live in a way worthy of the gospel, that doesn’t mean the gospel is false. It means their faith in the gospel is a false-faith. When the world sees Christian hypocrisy, they say the same thing, “If you don’t really believe in the wrath to come, then why should I believe in the Bible?”
4. Faithfulness requires that we restore authority to the local church
American Christians today have lost respect for the local church. Far too many families go to church and get a big bag of spiritual nothing. The preaching is empty, incompetent, and incoherent. The singing is feminine and high pitched. The leaders aren’t qualified to lead.
Christians now know that if they want anything of substance they have to look elsewhere. But it is not God’s design that some pastor across the country with a podcast and blog has more influence over church members than the elders (Heb. 13:17).
Conferences, celebrity preachers, and Internet shepherds have a place. That place is supplemental. Yet for many Christians today who are desperate for something biblical, something meaningful, something substantive, the Internet preacher is the only option. This ought not to be.
The local church needs to provide gospel milk and gospel meat. The preaching needs to be full, clear, and biblically competent. The singing needs to be masculine and formative. The elders need to meet the qualifications.
Restoring authority in the local church starts with the leaders. If an All-Star center is playing point guard, he won’t look like an All-Star. The solution isn’t to kick him off the team. The solution is to move him to center. Likewise, if the pastor of your church can’t preach, the solution is not to run the man off. But neither is the solution to tolerate it. Perhaps he is better suited for another position on the team.
This is important. God’s design in the church is that the greatest responsibility falls to the smallest possible unit. That means that local churches are far more important than celebrity preachers. A healthy American church starts with healthy local churches. It is not the case that a healthy American church makes for healthy local churches. Rather, it is the case that healthy local churches make for a healthy American church. No amount of capable Internet preachers can alleviate what is missing if the local church is broken.
The point is not that celebrity preachers need to go away. The point is that in the life of a Christian, they ought to be supplemental. A large number of Internet preachers is not a sign of health. It is a symptom that something is broken. The church that is closest to the smallest locality is always more edifying than a preacher operating at a larger frame. What if church members began to find something of substance in their local church? What if they obeyed and submitted to their elders and their elders led them with joy (Heb. 13:17)?
Here we have four action points. They are interconnected. To grow into maturity, you must not slightly miss the truth. Albert Mohler once said, “We will not believe more than we know, and we will not live higher than our beliefs.” Knowing truth and living it can never be separated. To hit the truth requires you to live in obedience to Christ. To live in obedience, we need healthy local churches. Since we’ve already won the victory, it’s time we started acting like it.
 I borrow the term “social capital” from Glenn Loury, whose books and articles I commend to you.
Jason Cherry is a teacher and lecturer of literature, American history, and economics at Providence Classical School in Huntsville, Alabama. He graduated from Reformed Theological Seminary with an MA in Religion and is the author of the book The Culture of Conversionism and the History of the Altar Call, now available on Amazon.