Monday, August 18, 2014

Islam Isn't the Problem....

 Islam isn't the problem, dead churches are.

  In my circles, there has been a great amount of fervor  and hand-wringing about the coming Islamic threat in recent years.  We have watched the demographic  shift in Europe over the last couple of decades, and we have watched the increasing boldness of  radical Islam in those places as their  population has swelled with immigration and conversions.  We know by their own statements that the Islamic world is full of  ambitious men who see themselves as the chosen instruments by which the the re-institution of the caliphs and Islamic dictatorships of  centuries past will be accomplished.  These men see in these demographic shifts and political vacuums the means to  fulfill what they view as Islam's great mandate; the subjugation of all other faiths and peoples.  People  in my circles look around them and they see the same thing happening in America, and they are  probably right.  Through immigration and proselytization, the  Muslim population in America  is exploding.  People in my circles in hushed tones talk about potential solutions, including deportation and  anti-Muslim legislation, lest we  become like Europe.  Throw into the mix rabble-rousing politicians who refuse to let a good crisis go to waste, and who  promise to stand for 'American values' (whatever those are nowadays) .  These politicians  feed off an  'us vs them' mentality, and will gladly contribute to the xenophobia if it gives them a chance to wrap themselves in a flag and claim to be the good guys.
   There certainly seems to be cause for alarm. In Europe, the Muslim population increased from 30 million in 1990 to  44 million in  2010.  Some of this is from immigration, and higher birth rates, but not all. Over 100,000 of the Muslims in Britain are adult converts. France reportedly has an adult convert population of   almost 100,000 , most of them men under 40 in their prime child -rearing years.  The United Nation  claims that  Islam in Europe has grown 142% since 1989. This population of immigrants and converts are  reshaping whole neighborhoods as has been  called a 'demographic time bomb'
  Let's say it's all true.  Let's go ahead and indulge all of our  worst blue-eyed nightmares.  Let's say that there exists, at some level , a concerted, almost conspiratorial effort  to flood the western world with Muslims.  Let's say the caliph-wanna-bes see our civilization  as rife with moral decay, and  ripe for the picking.  Let's say that their  intent is to establish a significant enough presence in the West to eventually, either thorough vote or conquest, propel themselves into power and  subjugate everybody else.  Let's say they all sit around in their caves at night  and stroke their beards with glee at the prospect of a Muslim President in America, and the institution of Shirai law over the rest of us.
  Is the solution borders and walls and  barbed wire fences and lines drawn in the sand and anti-Muslim laws?  Is the solution  suspicion of everybody wearing a headdress and an stiffening of our natural  dislike of everybody different from us?  I submit to you that the solution is something much more intangible, yet incomparably more powerful; the solution is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  You see, the  rise of  Islam in Europe has been attended by the decline of something else; real evangelical Biblical Christianity.  For centuries  Europe lead the way in having a vibrant, living church presence in which the gospel of Jesus Christ, and it's life-changing power was  tirelessly proclaimed  publicly. Though   huge swathes of Europe lived under the domination of  popish superstition, there was always  in existence an aggressive, confrontational Christianity, particularly in England which  gave us such spiritual giants as  Tyndale , John Wesley,  George Whitefield and C.H. Spurgeon. Islam existed side by side with these men, but could never get a foothold because the red-hot preaching and fervent spiritual lives of these men and those that followed them held it at bay.  Truth was so openly  and shamelessly  promoted that error could scarcely get a word in edgewise.
  As the centuries wore on though, for a whole host of reasons, the church in Europe lost its fire.    There are no lack of villains to blame. For whatever reason, there was a cultural shift in European Christianity. People were no longer Christians because they had put their faith in the  saving work of Jesus Christ. they were Christians because their parents or grandparents had been Christians.  But these are  just symptoms of a much larger cause.  The lifeblood of  Biblical Christianity has always been  evangelism, and once that ceased to  be the focus of the  churches in Europe, their numbers dwindled, and the great cathedrals built by fervent men of years gone by became places to hold weddings and funerals.  Nobody was taking the gospel  to the lost, and  as the population got older, and birth rates  plummeted, the numbers  began to decline. By the time  two World Wars rocked Europe to  its core, the  voices that  could provide hope in the face of unspeakable tragedy were fewer and fewer. Young Europeans grew up in a post-Bible society, and lived their whole lives in a dry liturgy that could no more impart life than a  wooden plank can  sprout leaves.  Their children rejected the liturgy and believed in rationalism, and their children's children rejected the emptiness of rationalism and believed in nothing.  Their great grandchildren, dissatisfied with the  vacuum,  are embracing Islam. In Britain, there are, according to the Pew foundation, 4 times as many Muslims attending  mosque on Friday than there are  Anglicans attending church on Sunday.  Though biblical,  living Christianity exists in Europe, it is literally  being shouted out and legislated into obscurity by opponents ranging from atheists to  Muslims.  There simply isn't the manpower to reach the lost, and Islam has the manpower.

  Here in America, the churches are dying, but our apostasy takes a different from; we are  obsessed with entertainment and pleasure.  In America, the mentality is  that for a church to be relevant and effective, church services should be some sort of amalgam between a  rock  concert and a love -fest.  The militant, purposeful Christianity of generations past  has been replaced by  beach balls and cream puffs. The church doesn't take the gospel out in public. The church doesn't go door to  door telling people about Jesus.  The church in America wants to be your friend and not offend. The church in America wants to show you how cool and hip they can be. The American church is trying to catch up with the world as fast as they can in  an attempt to win the world. That has never been the biblical model.  Those few churches that still hold to the truths of the word of God too often  get caught up in the idea that  simply inviting lost people to a church service is sufficient  evangelism. This watered-down, pleasure-obsessed, invitational-not-confrontational  Christianity will most likely be followed up by a generation of  belief in  nothing, a vacuum which Islam will gladly fill.  The idea that Islam  will punish people for standing up for Jesus is  a bit  disingenuous; by the time it gets that far, nobody is standing up for Jesus anyway. 
  The solution is for the churches of Jesus Christ to  become vibrant and relevant again.  This isn't accomplished by hayrides and coffee shops; this is accomplished by the bold proclamation of the gospel to every creature.  This work is under girded and empowered by fasting, prayer, and belief in the Bible.  If that happens, the Muslim world can have babies till they are blue in the face, and  jump the borders until their legs get tired. When they get here, we'll preach to them, and even if they reject the  gospel, our light will hold their darkness at bay. This  is more conducive to the mission given the church than the 'can't we all just get along' philosophy of the political left or the 'bomb the brown people' philosophy of the political right. These immigrants are not the enemy, they are souls, and the last time I checked souls were our business.

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