When reading about the last days in the Bible, it is obvious that those times will be perilous. The sobering reality is that those times are the product of spiritual degeneration. Unfortunately the church will not be immune from the surrounding depravity, but God has warned the church ahead of time (2 Tim 3:1-9).
It is the Lord’s desire that the church remain strong and vibrant. Historically, when the culture has denied God and walked away from Christ (as we are witnessing today) the church has ironically become stronger. God has done some of His best work through a church struggling with its surrounding spiritual climate.
I believe the reason is because all pretenses for hypocrisy are removed. When the culture claims to be Christian, many pretenders flood the pews. But with the collapse of a Christian culture, they have no reason to seek approval by claiming to be something they are not.
The good news is that when the church grows in this environment, it begins to grow the way God intended … by conversion. People join the church because they truly have been saved, and as a result, are fully committed to following Christ – no matter the cost.
A great example of this can be seen in China. After the communists took power, they threw out all Western missionaries. However, their absence did not prevent God from working. They planted the seeds and God showed up to reap a harvest – and what a harvest! Today the underground Chinese church is probably the strongest single church in the world, claiming over 100 million strong – and this is an environment hostile to the gospel.
Their strength, however, is not only seen in their staggering numbers as much as in the spiritual vitality of its members. If one wants to see a living embodiment of a church that resembles the books of Acts, one to need look no farther than the Chinese church.
What is the lesson for us in all that? Several, I suspect, but an important one stands out. Our spiritual vitality, and therefore ability to succeed as a church, is not dependent upon cultural acceptance and our ability to adapt to it (with all its many crude forms: dress, music, property, etc.), but upon a willingness to be authentic before God. As has been said by others, “Never underestimate what God can do through one person fully committed to Christ.” In a hostile culture one has to do some serious soul searching before committing to Christ. Once that commitment is made, it’s made to Christ no matter the culture.
The reality is that God can change the world through a single person whose sole desire is to glorify Him by accomplishing His will. Cultural accretions only hinder the gospel. Personal commitment to the gospel transforms culture every time. Although our culture is rapidly falling away from the things of God, our personal commitment to Christ will have the result of transforming our culture for Christ.