International Bible Givers

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From the Chairman

IBG Chairman Chuck Hayes

Mask Mandates & Evangelical Unity

Dear Bible Giver,

We’ve spent the last 2 months looking at, despite cultural headwinds and media reports to the contrary, an American church that continues to thrive. The Evangelical church in the US numbers now around 90 million people – larger than the entire population of any country in Europe except Russia. The explosive growth of the evangelical church has made the North American church a minority in the rapid global expansion of the Gospel reach. But the last year has involved a disruptive pandemic, leaving many wondering how the church will emerge from COVID.

There’s been a lot of dialogue and worry lately in Christian circles regarding evangelical unity in this divisive environment of race relations and government mandates. An April editorial in Christianity Today was titled “The Splintering of the Evangelical Soul”. A blog from March postulated “Why Evangelicalism was Splintering”. But has it really? Or are we just feeling the constant uncivil discourse around us? Look, I didn’t come from an evangelical background, and I’ve never viewed the Evangelical community as monolithic on anything but a few critical essential beliefs regarding the nature of God and the saving work of Jesus Christ. There are many aspects of faith that we will collectively never agree on, and even more when you enter the field of politics, social justice and COVID. So why the unity concern?

An interesting fact emerged recently on habits during the pandemic. As people spent more time at home, the average amount of time spent consuming digital media – everything from traditional TV and radio to social media and internet – DOUBLED to 6 hours and 59 minutes on average. Per day. Per person. And if you just reflect for one moment on how divisive, how shaming, and how nasty much of this content has been over the past year, you can get a sense for why some leaders are concerned for the unity of the evangelical church.

We’ve all seen it play out locally. People get called out for not wearing masks. People get shamed on Facebook for wearing a mask. Or for closing churches and bowing to the government, or for leaving the church open and putting people at risk. It’s a tough time for church leadership when both sides are calling for action against their opposite. Was is a riot or an insurrection? Does the CDC want you to wear masks or not.. Is it helpful or harmful… Pthhh… It’s exhausting.

So the question is out there: will the powerful evangelical movement splinter or come together post-pandemic? I’d say that is largely dependent upon each of us.

Seven hours a day being influenced by the world! Not just non-Christians – everybody. Think about that. It’s no wonder society is in a crazy mood. Let’s contrast that with how many hours a day we each spend in the Word. Okay, then, how about minutes? You see, I don’t think the “problem” in front of us is all that complex. It’s not the insurmountable problems of racial justice, or politics, or mask mandates. It is a spiritual one. Christian, are you tending to your soul in the Word and in prayer MORE than you are letting the world influence your life? You WILL be influenced by the media you spend time with. If you practice self-care with generous time in prayer and the Word, the church will stand firm on that great unity of purpose God has provided for us. The Great Commandment to love – even those whose ideas are crazier than yours, and the Great Commission, to GO make disciples.

The church is standing on the edge of a great harvest field. People are exhausted from the rancor and uncertainty around them. Their faith in social institutions is shaken. We, His church, can lean into that historic opportunity with the TRUTH and LOVE of Jesus Christ, or we can spend our time arguing the merits of masks. Choose wisely! Give Hope. Give Life. Give Bibles! CJH