Federal Reserve officials raised interest rates yesterday to their highest level in twenty-two years. They also left the door open to further rate increases in the future. Since financial downturns typically occur when the Fed raises rates, everyone wants to know: Is a recession coming?
Many economists have been predicting one over the past year. However, Americans are becoming much more confident about the economy, and the International Monetary Fund has upgraded its forecast for the global economy. But the IMF’s chief economist warns that there are many challenges ahead and it’s too soon to celebrate, a view some American economists share.
Here are some even larger questions: Is a spiritual recession coming?
Is it already here?
If so, what can you and I do to respond?
“Change comes, first, person by person”
Russell Moore is the editor in chief of Christianity Today and a cultural commentator I have long followed with gratitude. (You can hear Dr. Mark Turman’s recent podcast conversation with him here.) His new article for the Atlantic is adapted from his forthcoming book, Losing Our Religion: An Altar Call for Evangelical America.
In the article, he describes accurately and powerfully the divisions, distractions, and deceptions that have riddled evangelical Christianity in recent decades. From sexual abuse scandals to politically driven polarizations, culture war vehemence, and nostalgia for a past that never was, the evangelical movement is experiencing conflict and chaos.
What is the path forward? According to Dr. Moore, “That starts not with manifestos and strategic road maps, but with small-scale decisions to reawaken the awe of the God evangelicals proclaim.” Such “change comes, first, person by person, then congregation by congregation.”
Here’s a biblical guide to such “change” from Psalm 33:
One: Seek God with personal passion.
The psalmist calls us to “shout for joy in the Lᴏʀᴅ, O you righteous!” (Psalm 33:1) and to “sing to him a new song” (v. 3). The “old song” of your past conversion or experiences with the Lord is not sufficient to the challenges of the day. You and I need a daily, transformative encounter with the living Lord Jesus. The change we need to see must start with us.
Scientists tell us that just 5 percent of the universe is composed of “ordinary matter” we can see, while 95 percent of the universe is invisible to us. But nothing in creation is invisible to its Creator. Because “his understanding is beyond measure” (Psalm 147:5), “he knows everything” (1 John 3:20). Consequently, seeking an intimate personal experience with him is essential for facing a future filled with unprecedented challenges and uncertainty.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate John R. Mott observed: “A necessary precursor of any great spiritual awakening is a spirit of deep humiliation growing out of a consciousness of sin, and fresh revelation of the holiness and power and glory of God.”
Two: Use your influence for Jesus.
The psalmist continued: “Let all the earth fear the Lᴏʀᴅ; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!” (Psalm 33:8). Leading everyone we know to know Christ is urgent because everyone we know is one heartbeat from eternity.
For example, a construction crane atop a high-rise building in New York City caught fire and partially collapsed onto the street yesterday morning, injuring eleven people. A pipe bomb exploded at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta on this day in 1996, killing one person and injuring more than one hundred others. My family and I had walked through the exact spot where the bomb exploded just an hour earlier.
And this recent headline caught my eye: “Famous figures who had Titanic tickets but didn’t make it on board.” The seven notable figures described in the article avoided death on the infamous shipwreck, but every one of them eventually died anyway.
What is true of individuals is true of nations as well. The psalmist noted: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lᴏʀᴅ” (v. 12). By contrast, Scripture warns: “Every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution” (Hebrews 2:2) since “every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 3:10). God “makes nations great, and he destroys them; he enlarges nations, and leads them away” (Job 12:23).
Since God’s holy nature does not change, how is his judgment of sin not relevant for America?
Three: Repent of self-reliance and embrace hope in Christ.
The psalmist observed: “The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength” (Psalm 33:16). By contrast, “the eye of the Lᴏʀᴅ is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love” (v. 18).
If America and America’s Christians stop trusting in our “great army” and place our hope in our Father’s transforming love and grace, our future is as bright as the promises of God. If we insist on trusting in our capacities rather than his mercy, his judgment will be both inevitable and deserved.
St. Jerome (c. 347–419/20) wrote to newly baptized Christians: “Let the words of God lift you out of this turbulent age as a net lifts the little fishes out of the water. In us the laws of nature are turned upside down—for fish, taken out of the water, die; but the Apostles have fished us out of the sea that is the world not to kill us but to bring us from death to life.
“As long as we were in the world, our eyes were peering into the depths and we led our lives in the mud. Now we have been torn from the waves, we begin to see the true light. Moved by overwhelming joy, we say to our souls: Put your hope in the Lord, I will praise him still, my Savior and my God.”
What will you say to your soul today?