An Awful Brokenness | John Wimber
By John Wimber
The apostle Paul wrote prophetically about a time-”the last days”- of runaway selfindulgence and godless behavior on a monumental scale. Our time, as we approach the turn of the millennium, certainly fits the description. And now the church of Jesus Christ has an awesome task as it deals with the fallout from…
Back in the early 70s, as a young pastor I occasionally dealt with a promiscuous Christian. I counseled a few folks who had homosexual or lesbian inclinations. And there was the rare wife battering, the occasional abuse of a child.
Times have changed.
When I talk to our local staff pastors and counselors today, I realize they must confront far more complex and evil moral issues than I did when I started my pastorale. There’s little doubt in my mind that we’re pastoring a generation of hurting and confused people, whose consciences have been sullied by sins that our forefathers would have had difficulty imagining.
If my impressions are anywhere near accurate, the situation will worsen by the end of this decade. What will the church look like? How will we cope with the perplexing problems baby boomer and buster families bring with them into the church? Will the church rise to the challenge?
Our society is heading in a direction that Paul describes prophetically as earmarks of “the last days” when writing to Timothy: “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without selfcontrol, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-having a form of godliness but denying its power. (2 Tim. 3:15)”
By all objective standards, these sins are widespread and increasing in the Western world today. Psychological and sociological traits that only a few years ago were considered aberrant are now celebrated in a culture that has forgotten God. Let’s take a closer look at a few of the characteristics of these terrible times.
First, people will be lovers of themselves. Paul isn’t referring here to the healthy kind of self love and acceptance that is rooted in God’s grace and forgiveness. He is referring to men’s and women’s attempts to replace God with themselves.
The New Age Movement is probably the greatest source of deception toward selfdeification in Western civilization. One of its foundational doctrines is the idea that each of us has a “god within.” Shirley MacLaine, in her best selling book Dancing in the Light, writes: “I know that I exist, therefore I AM. I know that godforce exists, therefore IT IS. Since I am a part of that godforce, then I AM THAT I AM.” This blasphemous assertion deceives people into thinking they are the center of the universe, and leads inevitably to bondage to demonic influences.
The last days will be marked by “lovers of money.” The 80s’ referred to in the media as the “decade of greed,” introduced an era of unparalleled appetite for material possessions. There appears to be no let up to that appetite in the 90s.
Yet many economists believe that the legacy of the debtladen 80s will leave a corrosive mark on business conditions well into the twentyfirst century. To fuel our love of money, the national debt (government and personal) is rising at an alarming rate. Currently, each dollar of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) supports almost two dollars of non financial debt. In 1983- the beginning of the last economic upturn -each dollar of GDP was servicing only about $1.50 of this debt. Christian writer Larry Burkett predicts the love of money is leading us to an economic earthquake that will negatively effect every person on earth.
Financial experts have indicated to me that they believe the Western world went financially bankrupt in December of 1989, and that now we are sorting through to determine what our standard of living will look like in a debtriddled society. It is my personal conviction that most people will find themselves living in a downsized economy, with limitations on travel, automobile purchases, homes-anything beyond the “basics.” Our economy could look more like the 50s than the 80s. The church must help people through these painful adjustments, through counsel, prayer. and instruction from God’s word.
The love of money contributes to problems with depression, anxiety, and other emotional disorders, as people struggle with fear about material provision. Not surprising, the social fabric of the family tends to unravel with a failing economy.
Next, Paul describes people who are “boastful, proud and abusive.” Statistics from the 80s reveal an explosion of child abuse and neglect in America. Reports of child neglect and abuse per 1,000 population doubled between 1980 and 1987. According to some experts, this number could double again by the end of the 90s. One in six American adults today were abused physically during their rearing. One in seven were abused sexually. By the end of this decade, one in three children under ten years of age will be sexually abused before they reach their twenties. What makes these statistics so hideous is that most of this abuse will be perpetrated by people within the family system. What kind of monsters are we becoming when we turn on our children and abuse them?
Another kind of abuse involves drugs and alcohol. According to a 1990 report on alcohol and health from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 10 percent of adult Americans either abuse alcohol or are dependent on it. A minimum of three out of 100 deaths in this country have alcoholrelated causes. In the U.S. 63.4% of young adults between 18 and 25 have used an illicit drug, with 25.2% using cocaine. “The Drug Enforcement Agency has been unable to keep pace with the major drugtrafficking organizations in operation today,” admitted Administrator Jack Lawn in 1990 before resigning to take a job with the New York Yankees.
New drugs are appearing yearly as people devise new ways to escape from life … or exploit those who want to escape.
Paul continues: “…disobedient to parents’ ungrateful, unholy….” One indication of the deterioration of relationships between parents and children is, despite the emphasis on sex education (some would say because of it) the rate of births to unmarried women has doubled over the past twenty years. Most of those children are being born to teenage mothers.
One in five Baby Busters lose their virginity before reaching the age of 13. The principal motivating factor is peer pressure. Two out of three will have lost their virginity by the age of 16. The percentage of people coming into marriage with their virginity intact will almost be nil by the end of this decade.
Statistics for Christian children, though not as severe as general society’s, are not far behind. I recently talked with the leaders of a premarital training class in a large evangelical church, and they said 90 percent of all couples in their class were already sleeping together!
Paul goes on to describe a generation “without love’ unforgiving, and slanderous….” We see this reflected in a U.S. divorce rate that has doubled over the past thirty years, going from 2.5 per thousand to 5.2 per thousand. This trend, combined with the rise of unwed mothers, has contributed to an alarming escalation of singleparent households. Today one third of all children will see their parents divorce.
Many recent university studies show that children whose parents have divorced are more likely to have behavior problems. For example, researchers in New Zealand confirmed previous findings that, compared with children of stable twoparent families, children whose parents divorce show more aggressive, antisocial, and withdrawn behavior.
Another result of the breakdown in the family structure is the remarkable increase in teenage suicides-especially among young, white males, where it has gone up 400% since 1950. A recent survey of 1,986 teens in Who’s Who Among American High School Students found that 30 percent of these young people had considered suicide, 4 percent has attempted it, and 60 percent said they knew a peer who had attempted suicide or had killed himself. More than 5,000 teens take their own life each year.
Distinguished child psychologist David Elkind believes the increase in the teenagesuicide rate over the past quarter century may reflect the increase in the stress that contemporary young people experience. “Today’s teenagers face problems that are different from those faced by teens of previous generations” says Elkind. “They have more freedom-to engage in sexual activity and to abuse drugs. They experience more loss due to the soaring divorce rate. And on another level, young people today also have lost the sense of progress, that the world is getting better.”
The new plague
Paul’s Letter to Timothy goes on to describe the lastdays generation as being “without selfcontrol….” There’s no better indicator of our society’s loss of control than the problem of sexually transmitted diseases. People continue to engage in immoral sexual practices and intravenous drug use’ even though they know it puts them in a high risk category of contracting the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS, and other diseases.
There are approximately one million people in the U.S. who test positive for HIV. It took 8 years since 1981 for the first 100,000 cases of fullblown AIDS to be reported, and only two years for the second 100,000 cases to be reported. However, through faulty reporting or misdiagnosis, there could be as many as 2.2 million who have HIV. Another 7 million people in our population are considered “high risk.”
On a global scale, the World Health Organization estimates that 8 to 10 million adults and 1 million children worldwide are infected with HIV. By the year 2000, 40 million persons may be infected with HIV.
Tragically, we live in a world that is infected with a dreadful disease. It will be spreading at an alarming rate to the heterosexual population in the remainder of this decade, unless people repent and confine their sexual practice to a monogamous marriage. The idea of “free love” is passe. It’s never been free. It has always had a big emotional and spiritual price tag on it. Immorality is now a matter of life and death.
Paul goes on to say, “…brutal and not lovers of the good.” The brutality and evil in our society is illustrated in the gruesome abortion statistics that reveal we have sacrificed over 20 million children since 1972 through abortion.
How immense is the problem? Consider this: the number of unborn infants we have killed since Roe v. Wade is three times the number of Jews that were killed by the Nazis in World War II. The church has a compelling moral responsibility to address this holocaust by protecting the unborn through any legal means at our disposal, and through offering hope and healing to the women and men who submit themselves to the hands of abortionists.
America is the most violent nation on earth. We are twenty times more violent than all of Western Europe, forty times more violent than the Japanese. A woman is twenty times more likely to be raped in American than she is in Japan or England. Our movies glorify bloodthirsty killers like Freddy Krueger, and our music urges anarchy through titles like “Cop Killer.”
Paul goes on to talk about being “treacherous, rash, and conceited.” Arrogance and treacherous behaviors are contributing to an explosion of the number of men and women incarcerated in federal and state prisons. Since 1970 the numbers of men and women in U.S. federal and state prisons have grown from 200,000 to over 700,000!
Finally, people in the last days are described as “lovers of pleasure, rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness, but denying its power.” A recent study says that 90 percent of Americans say they believe in God. But of these people, only 1 in 5 ever consults God, and or his church, concerning the major issues of life. Only 1 in 10 believe in all the ten commandments. They all believe in God (or a god of their own making) but they don’t think he has anything important to say about how they live.
God doesn’t fit into most people’s lives, especially in the daily decisions that form their character. Our generation is more interested in pleasure than righteousness. According to Lester Baker, President of the Adult Film Association of America, 65 million Americans rented or bought Xrated video cassettes in 1984. Arrests for sale and/or manufacture of heroin and cocaine in the 80s increased tenfold, and between 1970 and 1989 unmarried couples living together went from 523,000 to 2,764,000.
The path to healing for the problems Paul describes is arduous. Prayer, repentance, and counseling are certainly essential. In some instances healing will come quickly, but in most cases it’s a process. It takes time. It may be catalyzed by an experience, but it will continue as you walk it out, usually under counseling or in some sort of group that’ll help with learning a new way to live. The key to the process is cooperation with the Holy Spirit in applying God’s word and healing power in us.
The process will take place on two levels. First, individuals must experience healing and growth in God’s love. Second, healed individuals must grow together with brothers and sisters in love and health. Only as the church experiences individual and corporate healing will it become a healing force in a world in such need of God’s word.
If the church of Jesus Christ is going to minister effectively in the coming years, it must reckon above all else with its need for repentance and revival. The apostle Paul exhorted the Roman church to take action based on their understanding of the times.
The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature. (Rom.13:11b14)
A revived and healthy church will have four characteristics: house, hospital, school and an army. As a house we fellowship together as a family. We value relationships with and accountability to one another.
As a hospital, we yearn to provide healing and restoration of those who have been wounded. Specifically, we must become skilled in our helping ministries and lift our level of understanding, training, and methodology, and pray for more anointing and power as it relates to Scripture and to the Holy Spirit’s work among us.
As a school, we are committed to equipping the body of Christ and empowering every member for ministry. Furthermore, unless we educate the pastoral and lay leadership in our churches about the nature of these kinds of problems, we will be speaking to the wrong issues. This edition of Equipping the Saints is a modest, but I believe helpful step in that direction.
As an army, we are committed to benevolence, evangelism, and taking the kingdom of God into the community around us.
John Wesley said, “Making an open stand against all the ungodliness and unrighteousness which overspread our land as a flood, is one of the noblest ways of confessing Christ in the face of His enemies.”
Source: Equipping The Saints, Vol. 6, No. 4/Fall 1992
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