At times, I find myself interacting with church leaders who agree that our nation is on a dangerous trajectory, but who won’t talk about it because such a message might disturb the sheep. Often, and sometimes inadvertently, these leaders create a church culture that leans toward pleasantries and platitudes rather than engagement over real issues.
Why is this important? If a doctor examines a patient and is not forthright about the diagnosis, he can be sued for malpractice, and if someone sees a car accident but refuses to come forward as an eyewitness, she can be found guilty of negligence. Likewise, church leaders have a responsibility to the people and to God.
In Jeremiah’s day, the religious leaders neglected their responsibility by declaring that everything was good, to which God replied, “They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ but there is no peace” (Jer. 6:14). What about us? Do we declare peace when, from God’s perspective, there are deeply consequential issues that are not being addressed?
Before April 20, 1999, when 15 lives were taken during the Columbine High School mass shooting, it was easier to view such traumatic events as a sharp departure from American culture. But since Columbine, there have been hundreds of “mass shootings” (defined as killing rampages resulting in four or more deaths). These culminated in the worst killing spree in U.S. history on October 1, 2017, when 58 concertgoers were murdered and 500 more were injured in Las Vegas.
Many of these mass shootings have been the result of mental instability. Assessing our nation’s mental health, one in six Americans are on some kind of psychiatric medication—the vast majority taking anti-depressants. Whether tracking mass shootings or mental stability, clearly something has changed in our national psyche over the last few decades.
From within and without, our nation appears to be troubled in a number of areas: Terrorism, racial conflict, eroding biblical values, a national debt that has exceeded 21 trillion dollars, an increasingly hostile political atmosphere, etc. As I reflect on how God has dealt with nations throughout history, I can’t help but wonder if God is not allowing our nation to be troubled with “every kind of distress” in order to alert us to our need to once again turn to Him, seek Him, and look for answers from Him (2 Chron. 15:1–7).
To continue to speak “peace, peace” when “there is no peace” is not helping anyone. In fact, it is keeping Christians in a spiritual slumber. Indeed, many indicators, including the Bible, point to the likelihood of further national shakings lay ahead (Job 12:23–25; Jer. 18:7–10).
How then can we move beyond pleasantries and platitudes to provide effective Christian leadership that address what is taking place before our very eyes? Here are five suggestions:
- Observe the news through the lens of God’s Word. Our cultural values are often at odds with what the Bible teaches. We must strive to discern what God is communicating to us through current events. Taking this practical step promises to be a wake-up call. To do this, there are many helpful aids, including Dr. Albert Mohler’s daily podcast, The Briefing, at AlbertMohler.com and Forerunners of America books and Bible studies found at ForerunnersOfAmerica.org/Store.
- Provide leadership that will help Christians turn from worldliness to godliness. Five of the seven churches in Revelation 2–3 were challenged to repent. How many American churches might God be calling to repent right now? Probably the primary reason Christians are ensnared in a pleasantries and platitudes culture is due to an “I’m okay, you’re okay” mentality. We all need to be encouraged, but not at the expense of personal and national repentance.
- Identify platitudes. Reflecting on various cultural disturbances and national shakings, I am torn over the phrase, “Well, God is in control.” It seems so lacking and disconnected from reality to say this after 58 people are murdered during a senseless shooting spree. Yes, the Bible does teach that God is in control. However, if we are using this truth simply as a platitude to say something spiritual so we can go back to socializing, movies, video games, ESPN, golf, and shopping, then we are greatly deceived. Clearly, God is calling us to hear His Word and to make a difference by doing what He says (Matt. 7:24–27; James 1:22).
- Be an example of loving God and loving people (Matt. 22:36–40; 1 Peter 1:22). The reason Jeremiah lamented over his nation was not only because it was shaken by the powers of heaven, but because he loved the Lord and his people. Out of this love, his heart broke. As Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:14, the love of Christ compels us! It was love that moved Jeremiah and Paul past pleasantries and platitudes—what the people often wanted to hear—into the kind of leadership that made a difference, even in the face of much opposition.
- Live a life full of faith—not fear. Many Christians speak in pleasantries and platitudes to cover up the fear that reality surfaces. However, there is nothing to fear—God is with us. In fact, the days ahead may be the church’s finest hour, when we live full of faith through national shakings, and hopefully participate in the greatest spiritual harvest our nation has seen in generations!