I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. (Re 2:2Ð4)
I've received two letters in as many days from missionaries saying that the collapse of the dollar has decreased their buying power to the effect that they will have to leave the field unless they can raise additional support. I've wondered how long the Lord would be providing miraculously for these folks, and it looks like the plagues on Egypt are now reaching Goshen. In case you're wondering why this is so, I can tell you: we're getting what we've been praying for.
I am familiar with only one congregation, but I peruse World magazine, so I think I'm on firm ground when I say that it's typical of the Bible-believing US Christian subculture. I've won no friends in this congregation by pointing out that during the congregational prayer, petitions are offered up consistently and in great detail for members of Uncle Sam's armada, but sporadically and generally for the missionaries the church supports. Nor have I won friends by questioning the presence of Old Glory in the sanctuary. I regard that as an attempt to serve two masters, an impression not diminished by cross-and-flag lapel pins.
This church sends at least three times as much money to Uncle Sam in taxes for support of the occupation of Iraq alone as it gives to missionaries. "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also," and if "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh," the heart of US evangelicals is with Uncle Sam's military, not with those spreading the Gospel.
I've heard government programs from schools and Social Security and Medicare to aid to Israel to the war in Ir-Af-Pak defended on the basis that people are coming to Christ because of them. Well, it appears that the missionaries are coming home, but Uncle Sam's agents will still be drawing their pay. And, of course, God is sovereign and working out his perfect will for the world.
"Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place" (Re 2:5). Will the US church be tomorrow where the church of Ephesus is today?