“Yeah, we do that.” Those are some of the coldest words I have ever read.
After an entire Lord’s Day (literally) at a church in Washington, D.C., I was waiting at a subway station to head back to my hotel. As I walked up and down the platform, killing time, I came upon an advertising board, which, in bold, white letters on a pinkish background, screamed the words, “ABORTION.” Underneath, in somewhat smaller letters, was the sentence, “YEAH, WE DO THAT.” I was dumbfounded. In fact, I carefully examined the sign to make sure I was not missing something. I wasn’t. But whoever made that sign certainly was. They were missing the fear of the Lord.
The advertisement went on to boast that this clinic was “here for you always. 24/7.” And that you could “get professional care, non-judgemental support and the abortion pill.” This was followed by a phone number. And, in gross irony, the clinic was located in a suburb of Washington named Friendship Heights. Friends who will join you in killing your baby? With friends like that …
I was sickened. I was angry. “Yeah, we do that” was a cavalier, calloused, and contemptible line. It was meant to be. Because such a godless worldview is. “Sure, we will help you kill your baby. No big deal!”
Juxtaposed against several hours of worship and fellowship with those who love the Lord, and therefore with those who love life, I must confess that, for a moment, I was a bit disoriented and even disillusioned about the relevance of my day’s worship. I found myself wondering what difference local churches can really make in a society that can so coldly promote a “non-judgemental” choice to destroy a human life. “How long, O Lord?” was my despondent thought. Thankfully, I kept thinking; and since then I have continued thinking, applying my mind to the revelation of God’s mind in His Word. My conclusion is therefore that, even though many will write off the church as irrelevant, nevertheless when asked if we really spend our Sundays worshipping, we can confidently say, “Yes, we do that! And you should join us.”
It was about a fifteen-minute walk to the subway station from the church. It was late at night, about 9:00 PM, and, as I made my way to the trains, I walked by several cafes with customers spilling out onto the streets, seemingly oblivious that this was the day on which their Creator had risen from the dead after laying down His life for sinners. I was struck by the anomaly that, in this suburb, I was surrounded by professionals and wealthy millennials sipping their wine at $5 a glass while, at the same time, homeless men and women were asking me for some spare change—perhaps to also purchase wine, at $5 a box. Ignoring the external superficial differences, perhaps in some cases these socially and economically diverse people may deep down have been sharing the same sense of futility. Perhaps the only difference was that one group was financing their futility in a more expensive way.
Again, I was struck with another anomaly: These people were, for the most part, missing out on worshipping our great God, the one who made far better wine than they could possibly imagine (John 2). And they were doing so just down the street from one of the most blessed local churches in the world. They were missing out on drinking from the wineskin that will never go dry. But let me backtrack.
As I arrived for the morning service early that day the police were out in force, blocking off streets, because a 10km road race was scheduled for 8:00 AM. In fact, many on my train were in their running gear and disembarked the station with me. They were on their way to run a race; I was on my way to listen to my Captain and Coach, who would help me to continue my race (Hebrews 12:1–2).
The race literally encircled the church that day. The church had warned on their website that people needed to arrive early so they would be able to get to the building. At one point in the service I thought about the reality that what was happening outside on the pavement was of no eternal value, yet the most important thing in the universe—so important that angels and the spirits of just men made perfect were in attendance (Hebrews 12:22–24)—was taking place inside. Yet thousands of people were completely oblivious to this. If you were to ask the average participant if they really ran races on Sunday rather than joining in the worship of the one true God—the God who is both all-consuming fire as well as all-consuming love—they might respond nonchalantly, “Yeah, we do that.” And with a shrug of their shoulders they might say, “Big deal; don’t you?”
My point in sharing these experiences is that, if we are honest, sometimes we question whether or not we are having an impact. We question our own relevance as Christians and as local churches in the wider culture. We might question the significance of corporately worshipping the Lord each Sunday as the surrounding society carelessly runs laps around us. But I want to remind you that it is indeed very significant. As we submit to the lordship of Christ, as we prioritise loving Him and living for Him, then He will make a difference—for His glory—through us.
The previous day, I approached a prolife demonstration in front of the White House. I told one of the demonstrators that I agreed with his position. Rather sternly, he responded, “What are you doing about it?” It was a fair question, and we had a good discussion. But as I walked away I thought about the ultimate way for me to oppose abortion. Though I am in full support of such demonstrations, nevertheless the most important way to overcome such a culture of death is to preach the gospel, and then to make disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ of those who are saved by that gospel. As minds are transformed, we can expect those who once said callously, “Yeah, we do that,” to now with horror say, “No, I don’t do that—because, loving Christ, I can’t do that.” It is the gospel that makes the difference. And since the local church is God’s appointed steward of the gospel, we need to continue to press home the local church’s significance. This is inseparable from honouring the Lord’s Day as His appointed means to further equip us in the gospel.
Collectively, as churches reform according to God’s Word, the surrounding society will feel our presence as salt and light. But as important as it is to gather together in our designated place each Lord’s Day, the objective is to apply outside of that building what we learned inside it. Our transcendent experience of worship is to overflow into an immanent evangelistic effort in the days between. As we take the gospel to those who do not value life, as we evangelise and then disciple those saved from homelessness and hopelessness, as God saves the covetous and the otherwise culturally-complacent, we can expect to see changes. So let us worship God acceptably, leading us to work evangelistically. And, in God’s good timing, many who currently ignore the worship of the true God will be converted. And when asked, “Do you love the Lord and value life?” they will join us and joyfully respond, “Yes, we do that.”