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There are several different words that have been used recently to describe the religious landscape of our rapidly changing culture. Some are more helpful than others.
The term “post-Church” is a bit confusing because there are still many churches in America and we are actively starting new churches. It takes some explanation to clarify that the term post-Church is a shortened version of “post-Constantinian Church” — a historical reference that tends to confuse as many people as it helps.
“Post-Christian” is another term that is widely used. It rightly indicates that the American church has greatly diminished in numbers and influence from the peaks of the middle of the last century. While it is an accurate description of our culture, it is not a meaningful way of describing the Church in our culture.
Among the options, the best descriptive title of the Church in present day America is probably the “Remnant Church.” Not only does the word remnant aptly describe the diminished Church in our nation, it is a biblical description that provides critical guidance to church leaders and members.
The most frequent use of the word remnant in the Bible is in reference to the people of Judah who were spared from the Exile or who were preserved in it to return to Israel. Not surprisingly, Jeremiah uses the term more extensively than any other book of the Bible. We can learn some valuable lessons about being the Remnant Church in America from the Word of the Lord that Jeremiah proclaimed to the remnant of Judah. One of the most important lessons is “Don’t go to Egypt” (Jeremiah 42:19).
God spoke this command to the remnant remaining in Israel to redirect them after they had made plans to go and live in the land of Egypt. As a remnant, the people had lost their status, strength, and security. They faced serious hardships because they were small in number, vulnerable to their enemies, and living under the rule of a hostile government. They were faced with the harsh realities of being a remnant and they didn’t like what they were experiencing.
Though God had told this remnant that He had a purpose for them in Israel and He had assured them that He would preserve them in their land, they were looking for a better solution to the hardships of being small, insignificant, and vulnerable as a remnant. They looked to Egypt for their new source of status, strength, and security. Concerned for the well-being of His people and wanting them to look to Him alone for what they needed, the Lord responded clearly and forcefully through His prophet: “Don’t go to Egypt.”
As the Remnant Church in America, we need to take the command “Don’t go to Egypt” to heart and understand how it applies to us in our context.
Like the remnant of Judah, we have lost much of what we once enjoyed in our culture in terms of status, strength, and security. The Church is no longer respected as an institution, clergy are often viewed with suspicion, and believers are treated with disdain when speaking the Word as Christ’s witnesses. The political clout that had promoted and preserved biblical values has given way to defeats in all three branches of our government. That same government has taken an active role in fighting for the perceived rights of the advocates of immorality and against the liberties of the people of faith who will not embrace them.
Some Church leaders are calling on Christians to fight against this rapidly rising tide of hostility toward orthodox Christianity and to remain steadfast in the Faith whatever the costs may be. But many others are calling their people to go to Egypt.
The Egypt that entices the Remnant Church in America is not a foreign country, but our own country that has become foreign to us. The status, strength, and security that the Church has lost is now found in the activist organizations that endorse and promote various sins under the banner of equality and in the politicians who have found new life in supporting their causes.
Going to Egypt for us is leaving the Word of the Lord in one way or another in order to find ways to tolerate, accept, or embrace the popular values of our culture in order to regain the status, strength, and security that we no longer have. “Don’t go to Egypt” is a clear warning to flee from that temptation and a call to embrace our remnant status and purpose.
The road before us is not pleasant and it is certain to be filled with the hardships of being small in number, insignificant in the public square, and vulnerable to our adversaries. In other words, being the Remnant Church is a call to the Cross. We can either take up our crosses and bear them in Christ for the sake of the world or we can abandon that call, set our sights toward Egypt, and attempt to reclaim greatness in the world. Our Savior’s urgent plea for His Remnant Church — for our sake as well as for the sake of those who are perishing around us — is “Don’t go to Egypt.”
[Next in the series: Embrace God’s Purpose for the Remnant]
Questions to consider:
How has the overall church’s decrease in numbers and influence in America had an effect on my congregation? Our members? Me?
What is the “Egypt” that is tempting us to rely on something other than the Lord and His Word for the prosperity (or survival) of our congregation?
What do we as a congregation need to do to overcome the temptation to “go to Egypt”? What do I need to do to overcome this temptation?
Jonathan Lange has a heart for our state and community. Locally, he has raised his family and served as pastor of Our Saviour Lutheran Church in Evanston and St. Paul’s in Kemmerer for two decades. Statewide, he leads the Wyoming Pastors Network in advocating for the traditional church in the public square.