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Draper: Serve as ‘ordinary soldiers’ in spiritual battles ‘raging around us’

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–Contemporary culture is a spiritual battlefield that requires committed Christians serving as “ordinary soldiers,” LifeWay Christian Resources President James T. Draper Jr., told LifeWay trustees at their semi-annual meeting Sept. 8. Unfortunately, he said, there have only been a few informed Christian voices prominent in the debate of today’s prominent issues.

Draper challenged trustees and LifeWay’s management team to be committed “disciples individually so that corporately God will continue to use us to transform lives and cultures. This means we’ll be champions of biblical truth even in a day when biblical truth is not popular. People will know that LifeWay will deliver answers that can be trusted.”

Draper drew the “ordinary soldiers” reference from a recent letter he received from the LifeWay Christian Store manager in Clarksville, Tenn., located near Fort Campbell, an Army base. A woman was purchasing a Bible to send to her husband stationed in Iraq. His detail had been responsible for guarding Iraqi prisoners of war. In discussing his faith with another American soldier, a group of Iraqis overheard him. When the POWs were released, one approached the soldier and said he wanted to know more about “this Jesus.” The soldier led the Iraqi to faith in Christ. The Iraqi immediately wanted to learn more and the Bible was being purchased to send to him.

When the manager asked the woman if her husband was a chaplain, she responded, “No, he’s just an ordinary soldier.”

“Transfer that idea and ask, ‘Are we, LifeWay, grunting it out in the trenches, making a difference at or near the front lines of the spiritual battle that is raging around us?’ I feel a real sense of urgency that we stay anchored to our biblical foundation while at the same time contributing to the struggle within the cultural arena.”

Draper quoted Anglican priest David Watson in his book, “Called and Committed: World-Changing Discipleship.” Watson writes: “It is widely held that the battle of the century will be between Marxism, Islam, and Third-World Christianity. Western Christianity is considered too weak and ineffective to contribute anything significant to this universal struggle.”

“That’s a sobering accusation and one I’ve been unable to discredit since I first read it 21 years ago,” Draper said. “In fact, simply look at the tidal wave of godlessness washing across our country and you can almost see evangelicalism in this country running for cover.”

As an example, Draper cited the success of the homosexual agenda, noting the recent Supreme Court decision “that has basically sanctioned homosexual behavior” with the repeal of Texas’ sodomy law. In addition, the Massachusetts high court is on the verge of ruling in favor of same-sex “marriage.” The same issue is before the courts in Arizona, Indiana and New Jersey. Homosexual activists also have filed suit in a U.S. district court case to overturn Nebraska’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

The tragedy, he said, is that instead of championing biblical morality, American Christianity is abandoning biblical positions and centuries of church history in favor of liberal and inaccurate interpretations of Scripture. The recent action of the Episcopalian Church appointing a homosexual bishop was “a major blow to Christianity and gives credence to Watson’s contention,” Draper said.

Religious liberty is under assault, he said, shifting to the legal battle in Alabama over the Ten Commandments. “A federal judge has unilaterally ruled that that the people of Alabama have no right to acknowledge God,” Draper said, “even though the state’s constitution clearly and specifically invokes ‘the favor and guidance of Almighty God’ as the basis for the laws and justice system of that state.

“Through a series of judicial rulings over the past several decades, the nation’s courts have taken prayer out of schools, legalized abortion, made sodomy legal and are one step closer to completely secularizing America by taking away our constitutional right as a people to acknowledge God.”

Draper said Christians also have embraced political correctness in responding to unbiblical religions like Islam.

“Islam has as a core message the conversion or submission of non-Muslims,” Draper said. “This is Jihad. The word has several meanings, but the Koran encourages jihad with the sword — to defend Islam from attack, or to forcefully establish Islam in foreign lands if Islam is not granted free expression there. In this sense, Jihad may be waged against oppressors, disbelievers, idolaters and even Christians and Jews. This doesn’t sound like a peaceful message to me. Show me in the Bible where Christ has asked us to go and make disciples whether they want to be or not.”

For the most part, Draper said, the church has been absent in the debate of these and other key issues such as abortion and state lotteries.

“As tragic as the contemporary social and moral landscape of our country is, it is not nearly as disconcerting to me as the deafening silence coming from Christianity,” he said. “How can we inventory our response to the current situation and deny Watson’s indictment that we have nothing to contribute? Christians have cowered to pop culture regarding these pivotal issues.”

Draper said Christians need to understand what Christ had in mind when calling for disciples. “We have missed the boat because we think Christianity is about us,” he said. “It is not. It’s about God and His Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. He has chosen Christians to play a significant role in showing the world what His Kingdom looks like.”

Discipleship is a major emphasis of Christ’s ministry, Draper said, highlighting five characteristics of a true disciple: A disciple is chosen by Christ, has a personal relationship with Him, is completely under His authority, is willing to sacrifice for Him and conforms to the likeness of Christ.

“How close are you to becoming like the Master when compared with Him?” Draper asked. “He’s the standard.”

Mastering these five elements of discipleship is the goal, Draper said, as he challenged trustees and LifeWay’s management team to make it their personal pursuit.

“I believe we are on the right track,” Draper said. He mentioned two books released this summer by Broadman & Holman, LifeWay’s publishing arm.

“If you want to have an in-depth, readable understanding of the intentional strategy of the homosexual agenda, get the book ‘The Homosexual Agenda.’ If you want an excellent juxtaposition between liberal theology’s use of Scripture to justify homosexuality and a solid theological defense of homosexuality as a sin, get ‘Dark Obsession.'”

Draper said other recent B&H releases address other contemporary issues such as the family, creationism, marriage and Islam.

Draper added that LifeWay is addressing today’s challenges through opportunities such as the National Conference on Islam hosted recently by LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center. The conference gave a background of Islamic beliefs, a comparison of doctrinal differences between Islam and Christianity and strategies for how to witness to Muslims. The conference will be repeated at LifeWay Glorieta Conference Center Sept. 19-21.

Another is through True Love Waits, a biblically based sexual abstinence program, which was recently introduced into Guyana as a way to combat the Western hemisphere’s second-highest percentage of HIV/AIDS. True Love Waits is credited with decreasing the problem by more than 30 percent in the African nation of Uganda and it is hoped that the program will have similar results in Guyana.

The potential for LifeWay to have a global impact is far-reaching, Draper said, since materials are available in 81 countries and since more than 138,000 pastors and church leaders from nearly 18,000 churches have been trained through LifeWay conferences and seminars.

“We are helping people and churches know Jesus Christ and to seek His Kingdom by providing biblical solutions that spiritually transform individuals and churches,” Draper said. “But we can’t let up. We’ve got to press on despite cultural, economical and political challenges. Discipleship demands it. If Jesus were to return this next year, we’d want him to find us in the trenches, near the front line, serving as ordinary soldiers.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: DRAPER ISSUES CALL and CHAMPIONS NEEDED.