Recently, I was reminded how small things can remind you of larger things, and larger things can bring to mind smaller things.
Such was the case in our recent presidential election, where Americans turned out (or failed to turn out) to choose the individual (and consequently those he chooses) that determines the future of our country. The results are remarkably similar to an event I participated in a short time ago. I will give you the smaller occurrence and let you decide how, and if, it applies to our recent national election.
The city, state and visiting evangelist shall remain nameless. The problem, in my opinion, did not lie with the city, state or evangelist. The problem, as tragic as it may seem, was with the church. Just as the recent election had not so much to do with the individuals as with the country at large, so did the decisions, or lack thereof, regarding the citywide meeting in one of America’s major metropolitan areas. Just as the elections, it was open to all regardless of race, creed, color or national origin.
More than 5,000 churches in the area were contacted. Each received a full report of the proposed events and an invitation to participate in reaching their city. There was no attempt to build the evangelist’s particular ministry, nor would he reap any financial harvest from the series of meetings. He had committed, at his own expense, to six weeks of bringing in music guests, providing the administrative support and had, at his own expense, rented the arena.
The campaign had all the elements of a military operation. Satellite photos of each neighborhood were obtained and each was subsequently highlighted, blocked off and assigned to a team. Every home received a door hanger or a phone call and/or a personal visit from a street evangelist. They were invited to the crusade and provided free tickets and free parking. They were asked one simple question, and in that case, as with the recent election, it had to do with the future and with the individual.
There were radio, television and newspaper ads and even bus placards. In other words, the message regarding the event was transmitted to as many people as possible with the goal of generating the maximum turnout. Again, the issue had to do with their future – in that particular case, eternity. In the case of our recent election, it had to do with the future of the individual and their children and their children’s children. In other words – the future.
All things considered, the meeting should have been a great triumph for the city. With more than 5,000 churches able to participate, media coverage, billboards and committed people, both young and old, it would have been highly improbably for the average individual to say, “I didn’t know what was happening.” In the case of this particular event, spiritually speaking, this could perhaps have been the beginning of another “Great Awakening.” There was a possibility of this having been the catalyst for a revival to spread throughout that city and maybe even America, transforming our country and renewing our commitment to God and each other, making us once again “one nation under God.”
Unfortunately, that was not to be the case. Although more than 5,000 churches were contacted, less than 100 agreed to participate and fewer than a dozen actually did. Ninety-eight percent of the street “evangelists” were from outside the city. The crusade cost the evangelist perhaps $100,000 or more (very little of which was offset by contributions from the local churches). In fact, some local pastors got on the radio to condemn the crusade. Some held competing meetings at their churches, but most tragic, in my opinion, was the fact that the names given to the churches for follow-up after the meeting were considered “unacceptable.” Some pastors actually came back and complained that the “type of people represented here would upset their congregations.” Several came back and asked to “exchange these black names for white names” – true stories. (I honestly think some of those pastors would have rather seen people go to hell as opposed to becoming members of their churches.)
This reminds me of this past election. If one were to substitute “politicians” for “pastors,” “voting booth” for “crusade” and change the question from “Where will you spend eternity?” to “What will happen to America tomorrow?” you would have a microcosm of the recent election. Millions of churchgoing people who claim to believe in God and the Bible turned out and actually voted for principles that are diametrically opposed to the scriptures they claim to believe.
Millions of others made the decision based on race and/or religion as opposed to right and morality. (Keep in mind, Western morality is based not on religion but upon Judeo-Christian biblical values). And yes, if you insert “Mormon,” you will find some of those pastors who complained about the “type of people represented upsetting their congregations.”
Don’t forget, as there were thousands attend, there were also millions of people who didn’t bother to vote because, “Well, they had their reasons.” So the America that started down the path to greatness because of government “of the people, for the people and by the people” somehow got lost in the shuffle and has become “government of the people, by the politicians and for the politicians.”
It reminds me of something I read not long ago.
“… He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches … I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot: I would that you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth. Because you said, “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and you know not that you are wretched, miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked …” (Revelations 3:13-19)
But then again, just as we were not talking about you and your city in the outreach crusade, we are not talking about you and your country, are we?