Let’s start here. You’re leading in one of the most complex moments in generations. It’s not easy. Right now, nothing is easy.
And with the Presidential election results being so hotly contested, things are only likely to become more complicated, not simpler.
It’s hard to even know what to say or do.
I find that when I find myself in a situation where there are so many things I don’t know, it’s good to anchor myself in a few things I do know.
As a Canadian who majored in US history and politics, who has spent a lot of time in the US over the years and whose audience is largely American, I have more than a passing interest in what happens south of the border because I have so much affection for our US friends and neighbors.
I also have many American friends. In fact, some of my very closest friends are American. I simply love the drive, positive attitude and relentless determination to make things better that so many Americans exude and the heart of so many US church leaders.
So I’m coming at this as a fan…and, I hope, a friend.
With that in mind, here are three things the culture needs right now that the church can give.
1. A Blaming Culture Needs A Confessing Church
All of this leads to the final suggestion: How much of the negativity we’re swimming in can you own… personally?
I know when I see a problem, I would rather assign blame than assume responsibility. And I also know there’s zero progress when that happens.
Confession bridges the gap between blame and responsibility.
If the church got better at confessing and not blaming, we’d have a better church.
What can you confess today? What part of this do you own? Who have you hurt? Who do you hate? Have you mistreated anyone? Even if it’s the neighbour on your side of the street, start there.
You’re worried about your kids watching politicians and mimicking them. I promise you that your kids are watching you more closely than they’re watching any politician. So, take your personal sins seriously.
Confess them. Repent. Change.
You’ll never address what you don’t confess.
When I confess my sins (as a husband, father, leader and friend), everyone around me begins to heal.
Imagine if that happened 10,000 times over today in families, churches and communities.
Not sure how to do that, or resist the urge to post something designed to undermine someone who thinks differently than you do?
Here’s the best thing I know how to do: Process privately. Help publicly.
Processing privately can be as simple as praying about it and waiting 24 hours before you do a thing. Often, that’s enough. Sometimes, you’ll need to talk to a friend. Other times, you may need to go see a counsellor. I highly recommend that.
The gravitational pull is toward hate, not health. (Here are 5 reasons anger is the new epidemic.) Healthy doesn’t happen on its own. You and I need help.
When the church starts to confess more and accuse less, we’ll make more progress.
2. A Divided Nation Needs A United Church
As a Christian, you already know that one of Jesus’ most important prayers was for unity, and that the early church was marked (in its best moments) by a completely counter-cultural unity.
A divided nation needs a united church.
First, if your church plays the political game, you’ve already alienated half the people you’re trying to reach.
Second, you’re alienating entire generations looking for an alternative. David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyon’s book UnChristian both explained and predicted a world in which younger generations would reject Christianity based on, among other things, our closed-mindedness and division.
Written over a decade ago, that book was eerily prophetic. As Gen Z leaders emerge into leadership, some feel the need to lead with an apology for how badly the church has behaved.
We’re living in that reality now. The oldest Millennials are turning 40 and fewer than ever are showing interest in turning to the church.
Unity would be an exceptional show of strength to a divided nation.
Election Day on social media, at least for the leaders I follow, showed (for the most part) remarkable unity and restraint. Carry that into the future, and the church may pick up momentum.
Cave to the deepening divisions and partisanship that are bound to come, and the church will lose more ground more quickly than ever.
Become a unifying force around an alternative mission (the Kingdom of God) and the culture may come running.
3. An Exhausted Culture Needs An Alternative To Itself, Not An Echo Of Itself
There’s little doubt you’re probably exhausted by the division, tribalization and anger that characterizes culture today.
It’s pretty clear that the culture is tired of itself too, but it doesn’t quite know how to escape.
That’s where the church can help.
That’s the perfect opportunity for the church to simply be the church.
An exhausted culture needs an alternative to itself, not an echo of itself.
Authentic, grace-filled, hope-bearing, truthful people are what our friends and neighbors need.
A generation tired of hate, yet caught in its grip, will only be released from it if there’s a clear alternative.
Hope counters hate better than hate counters hate. And hope is what the church, at its best, offers.
Not hope in a candidate. Not hope in a political party. Hope in Christ, someone in the world who also transcends the world.
If you echo the culture, you get more of the culture.
How do you know whether you’ve given in to merely echoing the culture? If God has all the same opinions you do, you’re probably not worshipping God.
Imagine, if in the next few months in your church:
Hope got fueled.
You could disagree but not be disagreeable.
You focused on what united people, not on what divided people.
In a divided culture, Christians should be the help and the hope, not the hate.