The greatest testament to God’s goodness is Jesus’ payment of a debt He didn’t owe because we owed a debt we couldn’t pay. The next exhibit God offers as proof of His love for humanity is the vast number of wake-up calls He makes, no matter how many times we hit the snooze button. Just as the Lord demonstrated throughout Scripture how much He cared by awakening Israel to the errors of its ways, He continues to try to get our attention today through challenges and blessings. Those who never answer will one day have to endure the shock and regret of finding out just how many times the Lord called and knocked on their door.
It’s not just non-believers who need wake-up calls. God is kind enough to intervene in the affairs of Christians, churches and even entire nations to offer 2nd (and often 1,000th) chances for repentance. Regardless of the recipient, each has the choice to accept or reject the call. For those who don’t know Jesus, ignoring His repeated attempts to reach them exchanges eternity with a good God for the hopelessness of life without Him. For believers, failure to recognize the signs means continuing to walk in disobedience. In any and every case, God’s generous admonitions carry with them accountability for understanding and responding to what He’s trying to convey.
Christ-followers bear the additional responsibility of serving as interpreters for those most likely to miss the intended messages. Like Pharoah who needed Joseph to explain his dream, only Christians are empowered by the Holy Spirit to warn non-believers that events in their lives could be urgent wake-up calls. Yes, the invitation to faith is between that person and God, but He can use us to awaken those who would otherwise sleep through the alarm. Like the story of the flood victim trapped on the roof praying for help, we can be the rescuers that God sends. We don’t want to miss that opportunity, even though we’re not responsible for the outcome. The story of course ends with the man turning away the boat and helicopter that arrive, saying “No thanks, God is going to save me”. Then after his demise he angrily asks God why He didn’t answer those prayers, only to hear, “I sent a boat and a helicopter”.
Ideally, wake-up calls produce happier results such as Redemption (of individuals), Revitalization (of churches) and Revival (of nations), but they’re often ignored or dismissed unless someone brings to their attention the possibility that God is telling them something…
Personal Awakening – Redemption
It’s not only trials and difficulties like the Great Recession, 9-11, a pandemic, natural disasters, and illness that force people off the hamster wheel of life. Yes, disasters and diseases make us think more about mortality and less about immorality. But so should the beauty of creation, “chance” encounters, deliverance from catastrophe, and “God-winks” that most attribute to coincidence or karma.
Answering Personal Wake-up Calls
When someone recognizes those events for what they truly are, the response should be…
- Recognition (of our identity) – discovering that who we are is not our gender, race or sexuality but our status as children of a Father who cares about us enough to wake us up
- Repentance (of our sins) – witnessing God’s holiness should awaken us to our sinfulness and show He is willing to forgive “prodigals” who accept His invitation to come home
- Realization (of our purpose) – understanding that answering the Lord’s wake-up call means heading in a new direction and taking on a new mission no matter what the cost
Those transformations apply not only to “Nones” but also to “Christians” in name only (cultural, passive, pensive, private, or perpetually sinful) who God is gracious enough to warn to repent.
Why People Hit the Snooze Button
People ignore wake-up calls for any one of the 7 reasons listed in the last blog post – disappointment, rules, guilt, myopia, “logic”, hypocrisy, or control. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, even non-believers found themselves praying when death appeared imminent but praised mankind when it was over, not giving credit to Jesus for sending the rescue boat and helicopter. As many times as the “science” was incorrect, placing faith in people rather than God permits unhindered pursuit of personal preferences and pleasures.
How to Awaken Deep Sleepers
Christians should be the wake-up call “first responders” in our neighborhoods and workplaces but aren’t being equipped adequately by churches to step into Joseph’s role as interpreters. During the pandemic, when churches’ doors were closed, we should have been prepared to be the personification of “church”, showing and sharing how God can use all things (regardless of their origin, from Him or our sin) for our good and His glory. We could have served as “pastors” within our circles of influence, but most weren’t discipled, evangelistic, or courageous enough to choose self-sacrifice over self-preservation.
Church Awakening – Revitalization
America’s prevailing church growth model (Invite, Involve, Invest) set the alarm that’s ringing now – its declining attendance, influence, impact, public perception and trust in this Post-Christian culture.
Answering the Church’s Wake-up Call
Churches responding appropriately to those alarming statistics will…
- Reimagine Church – reject the common definition of church as a place and members as customers, reverting to the biblical perspective that members are the embodiment of church commissioned to pursue the “lost” in the community
- Reimagine Discipleship – abandon attraction and retention (addition) in favor of equipping and sending (multiplication) disciples who can reach those who wouldn’t consider stepping through the doors of a church building
- Reimagine Compassion – stop trying to out-preach Jesus, who rarely revealed who He was without first demonstrating His love and power to open ears to hear the Gospel
Why Churches Hit the Snooze Button
Why would churches be so anxious to get back to (a prepandemic) normal that wasn’t working – a return to Egypt? Continuing the status quo would leave us in a similar position during the next wake-up call, unwilling or unable to help unchurched friends and family recognize and respond to another Kingdom-building opportunity. Yet Church as We Know It (CAWKI) is all that most church leaders and consultants have ever been taught and known. Reorientation toward decentralized, empowerment-based models investing time, energy, and money into disciple-making and not buildings, programs and staff would be like learning a foreign language.
How to Awaken Deep Sleepers
The Bible provides the strongest argument and impetus for establishing a new normal among churches in America. The ekklesia or “assembly of called out ones” provides a vivid image of a church characterized by traits not valued or practiced enough today – united, holy, accountable, surrendered, evangelistic, discipling, Spirit-filled, repentant, and boldly sharing truth (with grace). Society is watching closely for anything supernatural or miraculous, evidence we truly know God, but instead sees institutions more influenced by culture than they’ve influenced it.
America’s Awakening – Revival
Government, education, media and activists have conspired to eradicate Christian influence from our nation. Their efforts have been tremendously successful – only 28% of Millennials believe the Bible is the Word of God, 4% hold a biblical world view, 74% think all faiths have equal value, and 31% are now Nones (Barna). The result among those same Millennials and Gen Z are unprecedented rates of substance abuse, depression, and suicides.
Answering America’s Wake-up Call
An awakening to the futility of life apart from Jesus given those statistics would involve…
- Faith – reclaiming the identity, purpose, values, hope and humility that comes with accepting the reality that human nature is sinful and our forgiving Father is good
- Family – restoring the foundational unit of society that leaders of the 7 Mountains have worked so hard to destroy to eliminate any resistance to their authority over our lives
- Fellowship – rebuilding a spirit of unity and justice around Christian principles, like the inherent worth of all human beings, whereas today we see only division that devalues
Why America Hits the Snooze Button
Our culture wants nothing to do with Christianity because we worship another God besides government and don’t bow to idols that fuel our consumer-driven economy. The road to political control and corporate profits begins by detaching citizens and customers from the Savior by elevating self, vilifying believers, and defaming our nation’s heritage. Then when a self-centered, divided, individualistic, standard-free, lust-filled, hopeless, and crime-ridden society inevitably breaks down, they will swoop in as “saviors” to rescue us from ourselves.
How to Awaken Deep Sleepers
Ultimately, revival can only come by a move of God so prayer is the best way for Christians to set an alarm for America. At the same time, we most remove any impediments to faith and excuses for disbelief, many of which we constructed. For example, our love can conquer legalism, our confession can diffuse hypocrisy, and our compassion can overcome (perceived or actual) “intolerance”.
It’s Your Turn
How could you be in a better position to help your friends, family, church and nation hear, understand and respond to the frequent calls our loving Father makes to wake them up?