If you haven’t read the introduction to this series please read it here first.
Activists are Christians who worship, love and draw near to God through confrontation and intercession. Probably no other spiritual temperament is as loved or as misunderstood as this one. Beyond postures and songs, worship is the offering of one’s totality —heart, mind and soul— to God. No one knows this better than the activist. It is not enough to sing and pray; we must love what God loves, hate what He hates, and take action accordingly.
Activism that is centred on God’s love, as opposed to confrontation for its own sake or for selfish gain, is as acceptable to God as the worship of a traditionalist or a contemplative.
Christians with this temperament find themselves in great company throughout history, from Moses, Elijah, Habakkuk and Peter, to St. Joan of Arc, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth and Martin Luther King Jr.
Songs, feasts, liturgies, symbols, dancing, high praise and sacrifice are important, but to see lasting change we must have brethren among us keenly cooperating with God by taking action to push back evil, rescue the endangered, and turn hearts back to God in repentance and true holiness.
Not every activist stands on a platform and shouts. Most peaceful protests in history have been led by men and women of faith who were passionate about the issues and causes heavy in their hearts.
All through scripture, we have activists giving inspired speeches, tearing down false altars, crying out to God in intercession for His people, and confronting evil face to face, propelled by the Spirit. Whether facing Pharaoh or facing Ahab, they obeyed God and gave their all to championing His cause and seeing His will carried out on earth.
Today we see them in God’s army still, offline and online, awakening the church from apathy, challenging alarming school curriculums, walking or sitting peacefully in protest, raising funds, standing up for the oppressed and the unborn, walking around government buildings praying for justice. They write tracts and pamphlets, challenge and answer the enemies of Truth, push for social reform, and create positive alternatives. They spend hours on their knees, map in hand, praying from Medina to Mecca.
Some tips to help you grow spiritually as an activist:
1. Go for prayer walks. Request the areas the soles of your feet tread upon for the kingdom. This is particularly helpful when preparing to evangelise an area.
2. Speak the truth in love. Whether you’re telling unbelievers about the Good News, or you’re pointing out error to believers and calling them to repentance, do it with love and compassion.
3. Organise or participate in a peaceful protest or sit-out. With the Lord’s leading this is a very effective way for activists to raise awareness and take a stand for justice and righteousness.
4. Stay plugged in to God. Activists are most effective when they remain dependent on God and keep their personal prayer lives vibrant.
5. Crucify your natural desire to be liked. If you’re speaking the truth to power, defending the oppressed, or calling out evil, you will be hated by many. There may even be fellow Christians who will feel “your own is too much” but you must stand firm in humility and love, serving the Lord who called you.
6. Be informed. Few things are worse than an activist proceeding without knowing all the facts only to make a mess of things. Learn from Nehemiah; do your research first.
7. Rest. Many activists end up victims of burnout. You need to take care of your body if you must discharge your duties. Times of intense ministry should be followed by times of rest and spiritual refreshment.
8. Create. Many activists have helped correct social ills and brought about great change simply by writing a book, a song, or a series of articles. Books have also been used to awaken a sleeping church and nurture growing faith. Novelist Karen Kingsbury, for instance, has championed the cause of Christ through her life-changing fiction, essentially “preaching without being preachy” as she tackles premarital sex, abortion, homosexuality, drug abuse and many other topics with skill and grace. Others have created clean wholesome media content to entertain kids instead of just complaining about the world’s programming.
Some temptations to watch out for as an activist:
1. Going before you are sent: We all know how gingered Moses was to deliver the people of Israel from the Egyptians, and the trouble he got into. We also know what mighty feats God accomplished through him when he had been processed and the right time had come. The battle is the Lord’s; wait for Him to send you, and follow His instructions.
2. Accusing God instead of petitioning Him: In their zeal to see justice and righteousness established, some activists turn their intercession into accusation, as if they are more concerned about justice than God Himself. God is always working behind the scenes even when we can’t see immediate results. The activist must learn this, and persevere.
3. Judging others: This is a temptation of every temperament, really. Once another Christian doesn’t worship the way we do, our flesh wants to judge or disdain them. This is not the spirit of Christ. Many activists struggle with feeling better than others who are not as confrontational or as holy as them, becoming critical, self-righteous and even elitist. We must remember that those who stay behind to watch the supplies, and those who go out to engage the enemy, will all share in the plunder (1 Samuel 30).
4. Extremism: Rather than hate the sin and love the sinner, overzealous activists have been known to dispose of baby and bath water. There have even been pro-lifers who have taken up arms to kill abortion doctors. This is appallingly un-Christian, and it shows how easy it is to cross the line.
Activists will do well to remember that social action can never take the place of personal sanctity. We must remove the logs in our own eyes first, and bring our bodies under, lest after much confrontation and preaching, we become disqualified for service.
Next Sunday we’ll be reviewing Naturalists: Loving God Out of Doors.