Why Is It That Many Christian Leaders Are Calling ‘Retreat’ When the Spirit Is Saying ‘Forward’?

Michael Brown
Michael Brown

While reflecting on a powerful quote from the lips of Catherine Booth, I was struck by the fact that the latest strategies of the American church, strategies to avoid conflict with the world, are not only wrongheaded. They are actually diametrically opposed to the strategies we should be following.

Let me explain what I mean.

Catherine Booth was the co-founder of the Salvation Army, along with her husband, William Booth, and for decades the Salvationists were known for their fearless, uncompromising preaching of the gospel, their sacrificial living and their compassionate care for the hurting and the poor.

Catherine was the more fiery preacher of the two, and in her sermon “Aggressive Christianity,” she exclaimed, “Opposition! It is a bad sign for the Christianity of this day that it provokes so little opposition. If there were no other evidence of it being wrong, I should know from that. When the church and the world can jog along together comfortably, you may be sure there is something wrong. The world has not altered. Its spirit is exactly the same as it ever was, and if Christians were equally faithful and devoted to the Lord and separated from the world, living so that their lives were a reproof to all ungodliness, the world would hate them as much as it ever did. It is the church that has altered, not the world.”

I had quoted these words almost 25 years ago in my book How Saved Are We?—not to mention many times since—but last week, when I posted them on my Facebook page, something hit me between the eyes.

On the one hand, Catherine’s words are more relevant now than when she uttered them in England in the 1800s, since in so many ways the church of America and the world do “jog along together comfortably” today.

As I wrote in 1989 in The End of the American Gospel Enterprise, “Like Sardis, we have become the ‘perfect model of inoffensive Christianity’ (G. B. Caird), ‘having a reputation of being alive, yet being dead’ (Rev. 3:1). Like Sardis, we have so come to terms with our pagan environment that we provoke almost no opposition and make virtually no impact. And like Sardis, situated high on a mountain rock, we have felt safe and secure in this world.”

And that was written back in 1989. Just think of how much more compromised and inoffensive we have become since then!

But as I reflected on Catherine Booth’s piercing words, I said to myself, “Yet in many other ways, the church of America and the world are absolutely not jogging along together comfortably. We find ourselves in conflict, and there is often hostility, anger, legal persecution and, occasionally, even violence directed against us.”

Yes, the truth be told, on some important fronts, we are experiencing real opposition from the world, and some of it is vicious and angry.

Where exactly are we experiencing fierce opposition? And what are these important fronts?

I can answer those questions in two words: abortion and homosexuality.

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SOURCE: Charisma News
Michael Brown