A Time to Prune

Do you feel like everything is collapsing?

Do you feel like chaos is expanding, while good sense is shrinking?

Do you feel like the institutions and people you counted on to be faithful to truth and freedom are falling for the progressive gospel, one-by-one, issue-by-issue?

Lately I’ve found myself shocked and heartbroken at the number of Christian churches that seem to be falling away from scriptural truths. One-by-one, they have peeled off, throwing aside long-held tenants of our faith for world views that have been in circulation for all of five minutes. It’s been shocking to watch pastor after pastor, preacher after preacher, priest after priest declare their alliegence to secular definitions for God’s creation rather than to the Creator.

The American church is decaying at a rapid rate.

There are many outward reasons for this. Christianity has been so unopposed for so long in this country, that a large portion of the church’s leadership is simply vocational. Just like some people become morticians because everyone needs a mortician at some point, others become pastors (priests, bishops, insert your favorite term for a congregational shepherd here) because so many Americans need one. It can be a job more than a calling for too many people these days.

In the 1970s and ’80s, we saw the rise of the televangelist. Some were sincere. Many were simply taking advantage of this new platform to promote their chosen vocation. Others started out as faithful and truly desiring to serve, but found themselves overwhelmed with the specter of fame and riches. The days of the television evangelist have faded away under the glare of the digital era, but the phenomenon is not dead; it has simply shifted to the age of the mega-church.

The fall of evangelical mega-church pastors has become all too common lately. Men are not meant to be worshipped. To be so adored and to have so much access to influence and money — and to remain humble — takes an extraordinary amount of spiritual maturity and willpower. The seduction of fame, even within the microcosm of a church community, can lead one to take liberties with the Gospel. A pastor can be celebrated by his congregation for delivering the Word, but he can be celebrated by the entire world for affirming LGBTQ ideologies and draping himself in the “Love is Love” world view.

The embrace of a wicked world, exemplified in these fallen pastors and others like them (I’m looking at you, Father Phleger), has led to the downward slide of what was, until very recently, the seat of Christianity in the Western world. It has been utterly heartbreaking to watch the moral and social decline of the Christian church. That heartbreak is punctuated by the very obvious decline of America in general.

Our cities are crumbling underneath the weight of crime, homelessness and drug addiction. Our tax system is crushing the crown jewel of the American Dream, the middle-class. Our borders are overrun, while our infrastructure is overburdened. Men are overtaking women’s spaces and accomplishments (and threatening their safety), on the back of a bizarre religion that turns creation on its head and throws aside science, biology, and every shred of good sense. The highest, most influential leaders and politicians in our country can’t even define what a woman is. Our children can’t learn basic math or reading skills, but they spend an inordinate amount of time discussing their gender and genitals at school, while their parents are pushed aside and ostracized.

Marxism has infected nearly every aspect of American governance. Our great nation is collapsing. It feels like it, anyway.

Is what’s happening to the American church, and to America herself, really THE END? I have been wondering about this lately, as I worry about the speed at which we seem to be hurtling towards complete anarchy. I’m looking around and seeing so many “norms” fall away, so may traditions disrespected, so many pillars of civilized society collapsing. It feels like watching a nuclear detonation in slow motion. The shock waves are disintegrating our structures right in front of us.

Perhaps it is. I don’t have a crystal ball, and I’m certainly not God. I don’t know how this chapter ends, but I was recently reading my Bible and came across this passage from John.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” John 15:1-6

Maybe we are looking at the end of things, but maybe we are just in the middle. Maybe what we are seeing is not disintegration, but pruning. The task ahead in the battle for humanity will require men and women of discernment and strong moral character. It will require leaders who will not fold under the pressures of battle, but who will reach out beyond the base of their own trees and bear much fruit.

Right now, our American tree is rotting. The tree of the American church is infected with a fast-moving fungus. An arborist must cut back the infected branches to save the tree. Maybe God has not yet decided to give us over to our own infectious sin…not yet. Maybe he has decided to do some pruning, so the Truth can have a chance to thrive again.

Perhaps we should stop looking at all those branches falling down around us as destruction, and start looking at it as improvement. God will set fire to those dry sticks gathered at our roots, and the branches of life will begin to bloom again.

I don’t know. As I said before, I don’t own a crystal ball.

But I do own a Bible, and it tells me every day that God is still in control, even if it feels like the entire forest is crashing down around us.

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