July 14, 2013
By R.B. Parrish
Let me tell you the story of three churches.
In China, the church exists under persecution. ChinaAid’s report for 2012 tallied an increase in the “number of arrest(s), sentencing to labor camps, short term detentions, rape and torture in police custody, destruction and confiscation of property, beatings, fines, the loss of jobs or business licenses, and police intimidation.”
Similar accounts may be found in almost any depiction of the modern Chinese church. For example, see here or here. And yet the church is not discouraged. It runs seminaries (in which students are taught subjects not covered in Western classes — such as, what to say to the police when they are taking you in the back of a van to the execution ground). It is poor; but it dispatches missionaries even to neighboring countries. These missionaries understand the hostility they will encounter in places with different religious systems; they openly expect to be killed. But they go anyway.
When asked, but don’t you want democracy for China? They respond, that yes, an open and free China would be a good thing; but God rules the nations and arranges their histories in a way most beneficial for them to receive the gospel (so that struggling for any kind of political reform takes second place to spreading the Word). (Brother Yun, “The Heavenly Man”, pp. 286 - 290)
In this they resemble the early Church, which did not spend itself trying to reform the Roman Empire, but which reformed that Empire anyway when it accomplished its greater task.
And they are succeeding. Estimates put the number of believing Christians in China at 100 million — less than ten percent of the population; but possibly more in total than there are in the USA.
Now let’s look at the history of the black Church in America.
The slaves arrived here mostly pagan. They received Christianity in one generation; that made such an impact that the shock-waves created then are still reverberating, if with decreasing intensity, in American black culture today.
It is noteworthy that the only American subculture that can almost be defined by its association with the gospel is the black culture. No other immigrant people put such a trademark on “gospel” music. (Gospel music is almost axiomatically black music.) If the slaves cannot be said to have been materially rich, it cannot be denied that they were rich in their abundant reception of Grace.
But skip ahead a few years, and we find a black church which embraced a political party in order to achieve its social and material objectives. And in exchange for these gains, it submitted to compromise on almost every tenet of traditional Christianity.
In the last election more than 90% of black America voted for a party which endorses abortion (even late-term abortion), same-sex marriage, gay rights, and the entire litany of left-wing social programs. And this unwavering fealty to one party (and therefore to its secular agenda) has been unbroken for the last fifty years. Was the benefit worth the cost?
Instead of reforming society, instead of being the salt which preserves the rest of the culture from decay, too often this church has reconfigured its beliefs to conform to the politics of those from whom it sought favor.
Moreover, when asked why the number of Black missionaries is miniscule compared to other groups, the tepid responses are proffered that:
“Black Christian leaders often feel their hands are full addressing problems at home without considering international work.”
A lot of our African American churches are in the ‘hood.’ It’s a daily fight every day. [People ask me], ‘Why do I need to go to Africa, Asia or Europe? We need to get people saved in this community.’”
“When you look at the civil rights movement, everyone had to focus inward and everybody was needed to deal with this big issue at home. They had to suspend other ventures.” How hollow these excuses would reverberate in China.
Once the church stepped down from its role as being a contradiction to the things of this world, and submitted to political direction, it lost its authority and life. While the congregations may be clamoring for spirituality on Sunday, back home the family has disintegrated and moral values have plummeted far below those of a century ago — when, without question, the physical and financial condition of black America was far worse than it is today.
It would be difficult if not impossible to find another church in history which stood idly by while a secular agenda took the lives of fifty million people; sex roles were reversed; the mention of God was removed from public life; and children were prohibited from prayer.
John Wesley challenged the Anglican church of his day, the third we will examine, over this kind of mistaken direction:
“How hath she departed from her Lord! How hath she denied him, and listened to the voice of strangers!”
“On Sundays, however . . . it cannot be denied that we have the form of godliness. . . But if we have the form of godliness on one day in a week, is there not on other days what is quite contrary thereto?”
“Can it then be dissembled, that there is too often a defect in those to whom the care of youth is entrusted?”
“My brethren, my heart bleeds for you. . . O that you knew, at least in this your day, the things that make for your peace!”