Summary: We are going to look back at some of the obstacles and opportunities the church has faced the last decade, and look ahead at some obstacles and opportunities which may be in our path during the next ten years.
A few weeks ago I was sitting at my desk planning my sermon schedule for the holiday season. I came up with topics for Advent, Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, but I really wasn't sure what would be appropriate for the first Sunday of the year 2000. So, I paged through my files and came across an interesting message I had preached on December 31, 1989 - ten years ago. What I had done in that sermon was make some predictions about the 1990s. I focused on obstacles that I thought the evangelical church would face in that decade and opportunities I believed that God would provide. And, do you know what? I maybe didn't exactly hit the nail on the head, but I hit it pretty squarely. In other words, what I predicted ten years ago basically came true. Now, don't worry. I'm not going to show up in any of those ads for the Psychotic Hotline. I don't have any of those types of powers, nor do I want them. I also don't claim to be a prophet in the biblical sense, at least like the Old Testament prophets who would foretell the future and could face the death penalty if what they said did not come to pass. What I did ten years ago was make some educated guesses, based on my knowledge of the Bible and the world in which we live. So, what I want to do today is look both ways. We are going to look back at some of the obstacles and opportunities the church has faced the last decade, and look ahead at some obstacles and opportunities which may be in our path during the next ten years. Now, this is a different type of sermon from what I usually preach, but let's pray that God would use it to encourage and challenge each of us today.
We are going to take a look at three predictions which I made ten years ago. The first prediction was that the church would face a society which was more and more secular. Christians would feel increasingly uncomfortable because of a growing gap between the biblical values we cherish and the prevailing attitudes of our culture. There would also be a growing number of people who could best be described, not just as non-Christian, but as anti-Christian. What has happened in the '90s? Pretty much what I just said. Oh, there have been some spiritual bright spots the past ten years. The "Promise Keepers" movement impacted the lives of literally millions of men. Recently, women have been in the spotlight with gatherings like the "Women of Faith" conferences. Christian conservatives continue to be a potent force in American politics, though their influence probably peaked in 1994. Most evangelical denominations can point to some glowing growth statistics for the last ten years. This Sunday there are probably 35% more people attending a worship service in Baptist General Conference churches than there were ten years ago, chiefly because we have started a lot of new churches in recent years. Professional athletes, politicians, and other celebrities have been more vocal about their faith in Christ than in the past. WWJD, which stands for "What Would Jesus Do?" has become a symbol worn by millions across our country. There are some bright spots but, in the big picture, secularism is thriving and America has indeed become a post-Christian society.