USA (MNN) — The so-called "American Dream" has always been
clichéd as a house in the suburbs, two cars, two kids, a dog, and a white picket
Recent upheaval in both the social and the economic scene
has removed the labels and forced many families to re-examine their standards
of living. Evangelist Sammy Tippit says
that's as far as the introspection goes. "This economic condition that is taking place
in America right now is causing people to be much more disciplined in how they
approach life. However, it has not poured over into the moral and
spiritual application of that."
According to Researcher George Barna, the reshaping of the dream
is a reaction to mistakes of the recent past. Those missteps include living
beyond means, debt, lack of savings, and financial discontent. There's both a good and bad side to the
report. The good news, says Tippit, is
that "America has been here before. We've been at this crossroads in our
Tippit explains, "The last great spiritual awakening that
took place, took place in a very similar circumstance to what we have today." In the 1850's, the United States was coming
out of the Civil War. Religious fervor had cooled considerably from the Second
Great Awakening of the early 1800s, as evidenced by shrinking church bodies and
Then, a stock market crash brought hardship. And ethnic and racial tensions began to tear the
nation apart. In response, in 1857,
Jeremiah Lanphier, a businessman, began a series of prayer meetings in New
York. By the beginning of 1858, the congregation was crowded, often with a
majority of businessmen. The prayer
revival movement spread like wildfire across the country.
Tippit says, "We've had some things that are very similar to
what we've had happen right here, right now, in our very time. This says to me that God could be trying to
do something in our midst."
The bad news is: revival is slow to catch if people don't
prioritize their faith. Barna's research
bears this out, too. Says Tippit, "The
concerning part of this report is that there's not been a return to our faith.
In fact, there's a going away from our faith, and it seems like the secularist
and the skeptics are the ones that are growing the fastest."
Barna just released Futurecast, a book that looks at the
phenomenon in greater detail. He encourages leaders to remain aware of the
trends so that they and the people they lead do not become victims of those
patterns. In other words, if leaders
don't have a grasp on what is happening and where that leads, they can't react
to or change the direction.
Tippit agrees with the Barna report. He says the responsibility of priority falls
squarely on the shoulders of the Church's leaders. "One of the things we
have to say in our churches, as Christian leaders, is that to follow Christ means to
have a change in your lifestyle."
That starts, says Tippit, with some straight talk about
money in a country of prosperity. "I
think we've got to teach people and train people how to get out of debt, (and)
how to be content, in order that we can be free to do all that which God wants
us to do."
Once the body of Christ disentangles itself from debt, they
may be able to work toward earning the right to be heard. "I think part of the
skepticism that has grown in America is because we talk about God doing
something in us, but then that never gets out to helping people. When we start
reaching out–when God does such a deep work in us that changes our lifestyles, we are able to take what we
have and help people with it."
As Francis Assisi once said, "Preach the Gospel at all times,
and when necessary, use words." Tippit says with a country as richly
resourced as the United States, a shift in priorities could only mean taking on
the responsibilities of helping the poor, the fatherless, and the widows of our
day. That, in turn, opens hearts to
hear the message of hope that comes from the Gospel.
It's the logical conclusion: "When we begin to pour ourselves into that kind of kingdom priority," Tippit
says, "I think that we're going to see an incredible increase in the Kingdom of
God and people coming to Christ."
According to Barna, America is adapting new priorities to
the American dream. Which direction
that change goes and how deeply it penetrates will ultimately come from the
Holy Spirit. It will be the body of
Christ acting as His hands and feet that will facilitate permanence. For tools to help with revival, click here.