CHURCH LEADERS: A Prayer of Protest for the Church — Thy Kingdom Come

 

The current refugee crisis (the 65 million around the world, and the current discourse in the U.S.) has brought to the surface one of the hardest things about following Jesus—at least for me. As Christians, we believe that Jesus has already defeated evil, sin, and death. As Christians, we also know that evil, sin, and death still persist in the world. We often don’t acknowledge evil, but the scriptures are rife with passages about it—our battle is not against flesh and blood but against every evil thing we could imagine (Eph 6). As Christians we know that while Christ is victorious over evil, His victory over these things has not yet been fully realized or implemented at the present time. This is the classic question asked to pastors all over the world: ‘why do bad things happen to good people?.’ You can easily argue that refugees are good people fleeing the worst evil humanity has to offer. 
 
Our answer as pastors usually goes something like this. We know and believe that one day Christ will rule the new heaven and the new earth. He will wipe away every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death, mourning, crying, or pain. But we also know that this just rule has not yet started, that there is still suffering, pain, and injustice. In heaven, there will not be a refugee crisis. In heaven, the sanctity of all life will be protected. In heaven, those who are suffering will have their burdens put to ease. But that is not the case today. 
 
When Jesus taught us to pray, He took this hard reality head on. He taught us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  It is a prayer acknowledging that things on earth are broken. It assumes the Christ follower will be up against some pretty evil things, and in light of this evil, be forced to pray that God would intervene.  With this acknowledgement, Jesus teaches us to implore God to bring about His kingdom—to literally bring heaven into our midst, in our day. Jesus taught us to pray, “God, things here are not right, they are not of you, please let there no longer be a discrepancy between what you want your Kingdom to look like and what the current realities are.” 
 
This is of course a prayer. But it is a prayer of protest. Protest is simply to cry out against something that is wrong and to advance what is right. God invites us to call out the things that are not right in the world—to let our light expose darkness—and to declare in prayer and in our public acknowledgement: God, lives are not being protected, born and unborn. God, people are fleeing their homes and not being protected. God, there are 65 million people that don’t have basic safety.  God, make this right, bring your Kingdom right now. 
 
Regardless of political views, it is safe to say that any follower of Jesus who does not see the problem of 65 million displaced people as evil in some way—and something the Church should address—is seriously lacking in understanding of what God has done for them and of God’s purpose in the world.

However, we know that the people of God in the Old Testament had to constantly be reminded that this was in fact something they should care about.  In the Old Testament, God called His prophets to speak directly to this suffering, pain, and injustice with boldness. The prophet Jeremiah was called by God to literally stand at the gate of the temple and declare that the Israelites change their ways and stop oppressing the foreigner, fatherless, or widow(Jeremiah 7:5-7). Zechariah issued the same call during the reign of foreign King Darius (Zechariah 7:10), and Ezekiel powerfully called out action that oppressed and mistreated the poor, denying justice(Ezekiel 22:29).
 
In the current climate, it is the role and responsibility of the Church to pray prayers of protest—pointing out and crying out about anything that is not of God’s Kingdom, and calling on Him to make it right.

CHURCH LEADERS: A Call to Prayer for Refugees and Immigrants

For the better part of my life in ministry, churches, including that ones I have served in, have taken the very reasonable view that they should not dive into politics. Politics are divisive. Political rhetoric eschews with “alternative facts,” and our role as church leaders is to extend welcome to anyone seeking the grace of Christ—we do not want to alienate based on party. Pragmatically, this makes sense.

But what is the role of the Church when politics and clear Biblical teaching collide? How do we respond when the explicit commands of Scripture—to respect the sanctity of life, to welcome the stranger, and refugee, and care for the poor, but up against discourse in the public square? 

For many church leaders, including myself for many years, we choose to direct attention elsewhere, avoiding the thicket of these issues, citing with resolute pragmatism that we do not want to be a stumbling block. This has weakened our voice and done a disservice to our congregations.

When politics and the Bible collide, it is an opportunity for discipleship. 

I do not think that it is the role of the church to endorse politicians or political parties. But the Church must teach the Scriptures and provide practical ways for its community to reach the lost and hurting in the world. In this way, many of us have failed. I have failed.

Take the recent crisis with refugees and immigrants. Right now there are more people forcibly displaced from their homes than at any other time in recorded human history. The Bible speaks clearly to the issues of human suffering, welcoming the stranger, and the role of the Church to provide relief. But a recent survey by Lifeway Research shows that only 21% of American Christians have been challenged by their pastors to explore the Scriptures and to reach out and serve refugees and other immigrants in our midst. 

Let’s take the most uncontroversial thing that a church can ever do—pray. A survey conducted at the end of 2016 by World Vision, found that only 19% of committed Christians prayed for Syrian refugees in the previous 12 months. Only 1 in 5 people from the most well-educated, most well-resourced group of Christians to ever live, took a moment and prayed for the world’s most needy and violent areas last year. 

This is a crisis of discipleship.  

This is thorny, it’s complicated and like almost everything in life, there are many shades of grey. But what is clear, is that the Bible is clear. 

Church leaders—your job is hard and the number of things you have to navigate is astounding. So, we are going to make our call simple.  Will you sign this letter saying that you will commit to praying for refugees and immigrants during your services over the next few weeks? If you want to teach further on this—GREAT—and we have resources below for it. 

We cannot stay silent and abdicate our responsibilities as leaders of the Church to deepen discipleship in our congregations by addressing issues that the Bible clearly and unequivocally addresses—even if those issues have political dynamics.

Sign on now!

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