When Bruce Springsteen wrote The Rising, he was thinking mostly about the first responders who ran heroically into peril after 9-11. But he also sensed there was a resurrection quality to the anthem. His song came to mind again today as I thought about the Church here in the USA. After years of decline and discouragement, I have begun to suspect The Rising may well be underway in Christian America.
Millennials have reached their tipping point in regard to marriage. Just a few months ago, we turned a corner: more of that generation are now married than single. Young Americans have historically shied away from the Church until they have married and begun think about babies. A friend who is well-known for his research into the church scene sees evidence at the national level that the return of Millennials to Christ and his Kingdom is now beginning to build. They were simply delayed in the journey by their tardy embrace of matrimony.
In the face of so much hostility, the Gospel and followers of Christ are showing up everywhere. Christians have featured prominently in medal ceremonies at the Olympics in Rio. Michael Phelps reported to ESPN that his high profile recovery and transformed attitude are rooted in his reading of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. After taking Sundance by storm, The Birth of a Nation comes to the big screen this fall. The writer/director/star of the film is Nate Parker, an outspoken follower of Jesus Christ. The NFL and NBA are well known for athletes like Ben Roethlisberger, Kirk Cousins, and Stephen Curry, who confess Christ and the power of the Gospel.
No doubt, there’s a difference between a fashion and an awakening. The Jesus Movement became a fad back in the late 1960’s and early 70’s. Pop music celebrated The Spirit in the Sky and love for fellow man. Books and movies were electrified by tales of exorcism and theories from Revelation; but the world was much more inclined toward faith and biblical values back then. The breakthroughs happening today are in absolute defiance of an angry, secular culture. Believers are beginning to boldly swim against the cultural tide.
There’s a familiar scene in 1 Kings 19 in which we find Elijah fleeing for his life, cowering in the wilderness. He cries out in despair that he’s the last believer left in the land and Jezebel is determined to assassinate him. God scoffs, and tells his prophet to man up and get back to work. “I have reserved 7,000 souls who have not bowed down at the altar of Baal.”
After two decades of gloom and doom reports of rising atheism, irreligious young Americans, and declining churches, we who follow Christ in the USA may be a bit like Elijah in his throes of depression: we have forgotten there is always more here than meets the eye. Yes, Europe has drifted into spiritual death; but Africa is exploding in revival. God may not be finished with America yet. There is still time to follow the road not taken- the narrow one.
So let’s never stop praying for fire from Heaven. But let’s not be so discouraged that we fail to see the first signs of spiritual springtime spreading across the land. I’m looking all around for sparks to shelter and glowing embers that can be fanned into flames. These may well be the Good Old Days.
Lift up the Cross!