The Long, Gone Golden Age of Christianity

I grew up listening to 97.1.  At the time it was called Fox 97 and it played nothing but oldies.  For several years, it was one of the more popular radio stations in the Atlanta market.

Fox 97 is how I found out about Elvis Presley, Credence Clearwater Revival and the Beach Boys.  Whenever my mom drove me somewhere in her 1970ish Chevy Nova with wood panels I would get a lesson in rock and roll history.  For her, it was more of a reminder.  I guess that you could say that we both grew up on the exact same music.  I called it oldies but I don’t know that she ever used that term.

Several years later I was at a pizza restaurant with high school students from my youth ministry.  During our meal, a song from Journey came on.  One of the kids at our table got real excited and started to sing along.  I was shocked.

“How do you know this song?  It came out a decade before you were born.”

Her response crushed me.

“Oh, I love oldies.”

I was only about 25 but I had never felt so old.

Fox 97 eventually went away.  Now it’s called 97.1 The River and it plays classic rock.  Whenever I drive my kids places, we listen to 97.1 and they get introduced to Led Zepplin, Def Lepard and the Allman Brothers.  For me, it’s more of a reminder.  A reminder of my childhood.  And a reminder of how old I am.  Now the music I grew up listening to, even the music I listened to in college, could be considered oldies.  But I don’t use that term.

A lot of people look at Christianity like an old radio station.  It had its day and ran its course.  Now it’s time for another religion or worldview to take center stage.  It’s easy to think this way after last week’s events.  After all, if Christianity is so great then why are people getting killed with bombs on the streets of Boston?  If Jesus is still Lord, why are dozens of people getting killed in fertilizer plant explosions?

Some within the Church hope for the return of the long, gone golden age of Christianity when it was possible to at least pretend that the president was an evangelical.  They miss the days when the movement had its swagger and evangelicals were considered a voting bloc to be reckoned with.  If only we could get our power back, then things in this country would turn around, they reason.

But power, at least as it relates to the kingdom of Christ, has a way of looking different than you might expect.

The early Church didn’t look very powerful when one of their new leaders, Stephen, was staring down an angry mob.  But Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit and saw the glory of God with Jesus standing at the Father’s right hand (Acts 7:54-56).

The power of the Holy Spirit sustains us in our weakest moments.

Things weren’t looking good for the body of Christ when that same angry mob started throwing rocks at Stephen’s head.  One after another until, finally, Stephen died.  But during his execution, Stephen was acting just like his Savior (Acts 7:57-60).

“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

“Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

This sounds almost exactly like the words that Jesus spoke during his crucifixion.

The power of the cross helps us to live and die like our Savior.

I’m sure that most cultural observers in that day thought that Christianity was done as a man named Saul carried believers from their home and threw them in prison.  And it looked even worse when the remaining believers scattered, leaving only the apostles in Jerusalem.

But consider where these believers scattered to.  Judea and Samaria.  Just like Jesus said that they would in Acts 1:8.  And as they scattered, what were these believers doing?

Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.  Acts 8:4 (ESV)

God’s sovereign power has a way of redeeming even the worst of circumstances.

Throughout the Scriptures and the rest of human history, we tend to see God’s power on display when his people are at their weakest.  Jesus doesn’t need the president’s ear or a really big voting bloc to accomplish his purposes.  In fact, those things have a way of becoming obstacles that prevent us from really knowing God’s power.

So the Church hasn’t lost any power.  That’s never a concern because nothing can separate us from the love of God.  But the real issue is whether or not we are willing to rely on God’s power.

Even if it means living without the facade of man’s power.