God Just Called Me to Preach the Gospel: How American Pastors Are Letting the Culture Rot
From the pulpit at the American Renewal Project in Atlanta, Georgia, Pastor Raphael Cruz, father of modern conservative icon and 2016 Presidential contender Senator Ted Cruz, put on a mocking sanctimonious tone and a finger in the air as he imitated his least favorite excuse pastors use as to they shouldn’t be involved in politics: “God just called me to preach the Gospel!” His response is right on point and the subject of this article: “Well, what is the Gospel?” He then goes on in his talk to demonstrate how the Gospel encompasses much more than just John 3:16. Indeed, common sense betrays the nonsense of a nation chock-full of pastors who “just preach the Gospel” when juxtaposed against the current, rotten state of the culture.
The misunderstanding amongst the pastors in our country about what the Gospel of the Kingdom of God means has resulted in toxic consequences for the American Church, which has certainly in modern times failed in the Christian mandate to be salt and light to the culture. A single-focus obsession with the doctrines of atonement and justification by faith in western churches going back in some strands to the Reformation, to the point where the whole “Gospel message” can be presented in “Romans Road” format, resulting and combined with a anti-Christian culture of apathy toward civic duty has led to the most impotent “Christian” opposition imaginable to evil in the world. It’s happening right here in our nation, where since 1973, sixty-million babies have been ruthlessly murdered inside (and in some cases outside) their mother’s womb and harvested for organs in sterile medical facilities, the majority of which are located within the same town/city limits as several “Gospel-centered” churches whose pastors haven’t even suggested organized opposition to said infanticide from their pulpits even once. They’re too busy preaching or living out the Gospel, you see, to get involved with “politics.” Sad. Infuriating. Thoroughly, obviously wrongheaded and certainly not the Gospel. Politics is simply another word for “rulership” and, as we’ll see now, the Gospel is as much about the rulership of God in the here and now as it is anything else.
Paradoxically, it’s the supposed theology purists in our midst that least understand what the truly Christian concept of the Gospel is. Bad theology leads to bad praxis. Here is the essence of bad praxis: A church withdrawing from the culture in an attempt to stay apolitical so it can reach more people “on both sides” with the Gospel. This mindset is disobedient to the essence of the Gospel, stark lukewarm compromise, and reveals the commonplace, widespread misconception the Gospel is all about getting as many people into heaven as possible. To Jesus’ original audience, when they heard the Messiah declare such a word as, “And this Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14), the idea Jesus was demanding a soul-saving message, which assists the recipient in avoiding hell would never have crossed their minds. Even light, cursory research into the first century Judeo-Christian concept of the Gospel of the Kingdom quickly reveals the term meant, literally, “the good news is God’s Kingdom has arrived.” Or, if you prefer, “God has become King of the world.” It’s much less about getting to heaven (more of a medieval period concern) as it is about heaven getting here. And while you can’t read Paul in the New Testament without coming away with how important the doctrines of atonement and justification are to the Christian message, you similarly can’t read the four Gospels without coming away with the centrality of their message: this, they would say, is the story of how God became king of the world.[i]
So, if the Gospel is as much about living a Spirit-empowered life in submission to God as King in the midst of a world in a mysterious period between the undoing of the curse of original sin in and the final consummation of all things yet to come, as it is about getting a salvation ticket to avoid hell, what does that look like? What does King Jesus expect of His subjects when it comes to the culture wars? Is voting, for example, a Gospel-related (God is King) responsibility? Obviously yes. Look at it this way: seventy-five percent of self-identified evangelicals in America do not vote in national elections (it’s worse for state and local), while our nation elected a President twice who said of the number one abortion slaughterhouse of the western world: “God bless Planned Parenthood, just know you have a President who is fighting with you every step of the way.”
America, the land previously known as the “Gospel lighthouse of the world,” is now committing state-sponsored infanticide at the highest level in the western world, is eighteen trillion dollars in debt, has just recently had it’s highest court strike down the biblical definition of marriage, and overall has transformed from a representative constitutional republic to a statist administrative secularist oligarchy. While this relatively recent, radical culture rot has occurred, there have been many, many, many well-educated, well-spoken pastors of well-funded churches, packed with thousands upon thousands of regular attendees “preaching the Gospel” all over the place. We must reject this understanding and application of the Gospel before it’s too late.
“God is King and He hates the evil of abortion so go out there and put a stop to it in His Name!” is as related to the Gospel as “Put your trust in Him and you will be saved.” The Gospel doesn’t start and stop at the point of your personal salvation. Theology that hurls the Gospel into the afterlife and shields a wicked culture from its application is not of God. It’s those of us who take such an approach that are responsible for letting secular humanism rise unchecked in America to the un-debatable position it now has as state-sponsored, de-facto worldview - and yes, religion – of our once Christian land. Subsequently, witlessly, and paradoxically their own apolitical stances are ultimately making their cherished version of the Gospel that much harder to proclaim. When biblical, orthodox Christianity is finally classified as “hate speech” in America as the last bit of religious liberty is banished from the public square, they will realize. Then it will be too late. It’s either ditch the neutered, limited version of the Gospel that refuses to combat evil and get involved or lose and discuss your apathy and refusal to live as if God is King with Jesus when you get to heaven at the judgment seat of Christ (2. Cor. 5:10).
Let us purpose in our hearts, minds, and hands to be able to speak as Paul did in his farewell address to the elders of the ancient Ephesian church:
Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the Kingdom will ever see me again. Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. – Acts 20:25-27
Now more than ever the Church must represent / At least we have to vote, instead of twenty-five percent / of self-professed Christians, it’s time to repent / America’s a blessing we should die to defend from V. 3 of Stand
[i] N.T. Wright, How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels, Harper One: 2011, 18.