CHURCH PLANTING IS NOT ENOUGH
By God's grace, I had the privilege of baptizing over 100 people during my pastoral service in San Diego, California. But over the years, I have come to desire more than merely planting churches and baptizing converts. Please understand me. I never want anything less than this, especially since church planting and gospel preaching is the chief way in which Christians actually succeed in winning the culture. Still, I have slowly grown to desire something more. When I moved from Texas to California (in 2009), my only aspiration was to plant a church and see people come to Jesus. In part, this was due to my specific theological convictions. At the time, I was not even aware that I held to such doctrines as “Dispensationalism,” “Two-Kingdom Theology,” and “Premillennialism.” But these doctrines were there, all the same, subconsciously influencing every decision I made.
Over the years, I have come to desire more than merely planting churches and baptizing converts. Please understand me. I never want anything less than this. I have simply grown to desire something more.
I assumed that Jesus (who would likely come back at any moment) had decreed that everything in this world would continually spiral out of control until he returned. I also assumed that the only thing of any eternal value was preaching the gospel and saving lost souls. Aspirations of founding schools, starting businesses, or running for political office all seemed like worldly and carnal endeavors. Sure, these things may have provided some benefit to Christians and society at large. Still, I assumed that the value would likely be short-lived. After all, I had been taught that even such atrocities as abortion would never actually end by legislation but only by heart transformation. And for anyone who may be skeptical of that statement's legitimacy, allow me to point out that the words "legislation" and "transformation" rhyme, so it must be true. I never stopped to wonder why there are approximately 1,000,000 abortions in America each year, but only about 16,000 homicides. Apparently, legislation does matter. As it turns out, people tend to gravitate toward whatever option of murder happens to be legal. Yes, we want to see hearts genuinely changed by the power of the gospel. But throughout human history, deterring wickedness (even in the hearts of unbelievers) through "the Second Use of God's Law” has also proven to be quite useful. (I must mention at this point that several men from my church back in San Diego have been incredibly faithful in their ministry against abortion. These men relentlessly preach both law and gospel outside of several abortion clinics in San Diego every single week. Their courage and faithfulness is inspiring to say the least.)
I never stopped to wonder why there are approximately 1,000,000 abortions in America each year, but only about 16,000 homicides. Apparently, legislation does matter.
So suppose all we are called to do is plant churches and preach the gospel. Why not commit to exclusively doing this in the most challenging places in the world where the gospel appears to be needed the most? Heck, why stop with California? If we were serious about following Jesus, we would all move to North Korea. On the other hand, if it's possible that Jesus might tarry for a few thousand more years, and if he intends to restore this world (instead of merely throwing it all away and completely starting over), then there may be some merit in the idea of a tactical retreat. Perhaps, Christians would be wise to momentarily fall back from behind enemy lines to build and regroup for a generation or two.
FIGHT OR FLIGHT?
We often speak of the choice between "fight" or "flight." But what if it were possible to do both? What if it were possible to fight "by" flight? Towards the end of last year, Ben Shapiro and The Daily Wire recently moved out of Los Angeles to relocate to Nashville, Tennessee (Ben Shapiro personally chose to relocate to Florida). What if Christians and other hard-working conservatives chose to follow their example? What if collectively, we had the power to bring an entire state like California to its knees? I am confident that Ben Shapiro did not choose to leave L.A. because he simply gave up the fight. He was born and raised in L.A. and has spoken on several occasions of his deep love for the city. I am confident that Ben and his team at The Daily Wire remain as committed as ever to winning the culture war. The only difference is that they believe that they might achieve better results from a more strategic position. They're not choosing to flee as a substitute for fighting. They simply realized, that there is a legitimate third option: The option of "Fight by Flight."
A LESSON FROM THE PRODIGAL SON
While we're on this point of fighting by fleeing, there appears to be a powerful lesson in the parable of the prodigal son, found in Luke 15:14-17: "And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. But when he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger!'" Did you catch that? "No one gave him anything." And what immediately happened next? The passage says that "he came to his senses." It appears as though one of the worst things that could have occurred for this rebellious young man would have been if a member of his father's house had found him and given him a handout. There are clearly instances when helping hurts. Notice, it is only when the prodigal experiences the consequences of his choices that he decides to make a real change. So although some Christians may be called to stay, many Christians should consider the validity of a deliberate choice to stop propping up the state of California. Perhaps we should stop supplying handouts to the prodigal son. Instead, we could allow this rebellious teenager to eat a little pig food for a while, earnestly praying that God might grant the gift of repentance and permit California to come to its senses.
It appears as though one of the worst things that could have occurred for the prodigal son would have been if a member of his father's house had found him and given him a handout.
People tend to move to California because they want more than what they assume the rest of the country has to offer. But ironically, these same people often end up staying in California because they grow accustomed to living with significantly less than what the rest of the country has to offer. Doug Wilson and others have frequently said that the political left appears to be committed to providing the type of freedom that can be thoroughly enjoyed in a 10x12 prison cell. Abortion, legalized drugs, same-sex marriage, and medical operations to change one's gender don't constitute true freedom. By contrast, the ability to purchase land, build a school, start a business, and leave a legacy to the next generation is what real liberty looks like. "But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one" (1 Thessalonians 4:10-12). Sadly, many Christians (not merely those who reside in California) have stopped aspiring to these things.
Abortion, legalized drugs, same-sex marriage, and medical operations to change one's gender don't constitute true freedom. By contrast, the ability to purchase land, build a school, start a business, and leave a legacy to the next generation is what real liberty looks like.
California has been much like the proverbial pot of slowly heated water. The frog inside is eventually boiled alive because it never seems to notice the subtle temperature changes. In many ways, I thank God for the events of 2020. In his merciful providence, God caused the temperature to spike in such a way that hundreds of thousands of Californians have finally decided to make the move.
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