It's interesting to note what gains a "trending" arrow or notification in the news via Facebook or Twitter.
Earlier this week when this story hit, Mayor Annise Parker and the Houston (TX) City Council became trending items in the world of Twitter, Facebook and internet news.
Todd Starnes was just one to write of this on his FoxNews Opinion site. It soon was being covered throughout the news media nationwide, albeit with perspectives unique to each news agency.
I shared the story via my Twitter and Facebook accounts and interesting comments resulted from followers. One follower commented "Saw this happening, but a little weirded [sic] out by the fact that it's in the Bible Belt."
THERE IS NO BIBLE BELT
At one time, the deep South and even some surrounding areas were considered the "Bible Belt" but my response to this statement was that "The Bible Belt is a myth. It's been unbuckled for years."
Nevertheless, to see this occur first in Houston, Texas was a bit of a surprise for many.
I shared with my church family yesterday about the need to pray for what is happening in Houston. There were the typical remarks by many ranging from "I can't believe this is happening" to "We've been told that persecution will increase."
The debate today now is being waged as to the nature of the subpoenas and the rights of pastors and religious leaders. There is a Snopes page that states that it's not fully a story about anti-homosexual teaching. However, it seems to be the overarching factor in the story, though it is couched in rhetoric regarding the HERO law in the city.
If the 5 pastors used pulpits for politics, their sermons are fair game. Were instructions given on filling out anti-HERO petition?-A— Annise Parker (@AnniseParker) October 15, 2014
Absolutely unbelievable. RT @AnniseParker: If the 5 pastors used pulpits for politics, their sermons are fair game.— Russell Moore (@drmoore) October 15, 2014
I appreciate Dr. Russell Moore's clear article about the incident. You can read it here.
TODAY IS ABOUT BACKTRACKING
As I predicted in my Bible study group yesterday, today would be about backtracking on the part of the mayor and the city leadership. Someone will be blamed for misstating or wrongly accusing pastors. The idea of subpoening sermons will be stated as "never our intention" by someone in authority.
Now, as you most likely know, the mayor and others are doing exactly that.
Since there are other headline-grabbing stories (and rightfully so) out there such as those regarding ebola, ISIS, fall elections, the stock market, etc., this story will fade away. . .and many will forget it.
BE CAREFUL, THE CAMEL'S NOSE IS UNDER THE TENT
As I stated yesterday in our Bible study group. . .this constitutional afront will end. The city of Houston will not win in this instance. Pastors will not have to hand over their sermons. They will not be hamstrung to preach only feel-good, politically correct, "ear tickling" messages that gain governmental approval. . .yet.
But, as the old saying goes, once the camel's nose is under the tent, it won't be long before it's standing inside.
There will be another court case.
There will be another city ordinance or state law.
There will likely be judges who reinterpret the Constitution to attempt to keep pastors from preaching the fullness of Scripture (all under the banner of "hate speech.")
The shift is already taking place. The movement is happening. It should not surprise us because it didn't just begin on Tuesday of this week. It has been happening for generations. Unfortunately, many churches have been afraid to address the issue and have continued to believe that "it could never happen here."
YOU CAN'T DROWN OUT THE NOISE JUST BY TURNING UP THE RADIO
I used to have a car that would make strange noises in the engine. One way to fix that is to turn that little knob on the interior of the car to the right. That knob increases the volume of music from the radio in the car and if the music is loud enough, I couldn't hear the noise any longer.
The problem is that by drowning out the engine noise, I was doing nothing to fix the problem, or even address it. Eventually, the noise stops and so does the engine.
Problems cannot be ignored. They don't just go away.
For generations the "trumpet" has been sounding regarding the role of church in American culture. As Christians dutifully wrapped their flags around their crosses, the reality of culture shift was being ignored. Now, it's as if many are looking up for the first time and lamenting "How did we get here?"
This story in Houston is more than a call to arms for pastors to fight politically. It's a wake up call for a generation lost. We can no longer just "turn up the radio" and pretend that everything's okay.
WHAT'S THE RESPONSE?
Well, first, we must wake up to the fact that prayer is not a passive response, but an active one. So, prior to "just doing something" we must pray, seek the face of God, repent for just doing church while a generation disappears, and realize that persecution will come, and it's something to celebrate.
We must remember that love fuels our churches, not hate. I loathe that some have ignored this reality in their reactions to the Houston story. However, love does not mean affirmation, nor does it result in capitulation or the ignoring of the mission.
So, pastors. . .preach the Gospel, unapologetically. Don't edit the Word of God to present pleasing messages to the unsaved. Realize that while this week's story will fade, the next one will come sooner than later. This will not be an isolated event.
WHAT IF YOU END UP BEING ARRESTED?
Well, when did pastoring a church fall under the "safe job" banner? I seem to remember a number of pretty godly men who ended up in jail simply due to their faith and their messages.
I shared with my family that there will come a day when preaching the Gospel will get me in trouble. I explained that I will not back down, nor will I change the message preached or taught to appease those who hate the Gospel. I cannot do that without disavowing my Lord, His calling and the mandate to the church.
Fortunately, my daughter and wife told me they'd visit me in jail when that happens.
In the meantime, be like the men if Issachar. Know the times. Stand firm.
Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do. . . 1 Chronicles 12:32a (ESV)