“Has everyone gone absolutely crazy?” my friend asked.
I understood where he was coming from. In the past couple of years, we’ve seen prominent pastors discredited, polarization within the church, and an increased focus on politics. I’ve watched with alarm at many developments. It’s hard not to get a little disillusioned.
But disillusionment isn’t the answer. The answer’s to refocus on three things: our ultimate hope, faithful dead guys, and unknown servants.
Our Ultimate Hope
I often think of John 2:24: “But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people.” Jesus has “realistic attitude toward humans” and a “knowledge of the sinful human heart” (Andreas J. Köstenberger). We should too.
We’re sinners. Even among the most advanced saint, there remains what John Calvin called a “smoldering cinder of evil.” Scripture is honest about the failings of even heroes of the faith, as well as the early leaders of the church.
We don’t need to panic. It’s always been this way. It’s a marvel that God uses any of us. The solution is to look to our ultimate hope: not to human capability, but to God’s sovereignty working through flawed individuals like you and me.
Faithful Dead Guys
Hebrews talks about a “great a cloud of witnesses” who’ve gone on before (Hebrews 12:1). As we consider their lives, we should be inspired to run the race faithfully just as they did. Their faithfulness encourages us to stay faithful.
Every Christian can benefit from getting to know heroes of faith from history, learning from both their weaknesses and from their faithfulness.
One of the benefits of church history is that nothing’s really new. Details may change, but the church survived pandemics, massive cultural and technological shifts, and the realignment of world powers before. We’ve faced polarization before, and many of God’s people have stayed faithful.
Find someone from the past who encourages you to stay faithful, and learn as much as you can from them.
And then look for the unknown servants.
You know who I’m talking about. They’ll never be famous. They don’t have large social media followings. They show up faithfully and serve. They’re not perfect, and they’re honest about it. Dig into their dirt and you won’t find a hint of scandal. They are who they appear to be.
Every church I’ve pastored has some of these people. They are overlooked the heroes. Some of them are pastors who stay faithful with little fanfare or outward success. Others are mothers, personal support workers, teachers, or retirees who just keep loving and just keep serving.
They encourage me.
Whenever I get discouraged about the state of the church, I realize that I’m probably looking in the wrong place. Sure, we have reasons to be concerned. But we also have reasons to hope, especially as we remember our frailty and God’s sovereignty, the faithfulness of those who’ve gone before us, and the everyday faithfulness of the unsung heroes who are all around us.
Has everyone gone absolutely crazy? No. That fills me with hope, and causes me to want to run my race with my eyes on Jesus. May God empower us to do so.