Each Sunday, as the train passed by, parishioners could hear the screams and cries for mercy coming from the train cars. In an effort to distance themselves from the tragedy, the churchgoers learned to sing at the top of their lungs in order to drown out the Jewish voices.
Although evangelist James Robison does not believe Americans live under a heinous regime like Hitler's, he uses the illustration to communicate his fear that the church today has turned a deaf ear to the nation's departure from its Christian heritage.
"At this moment, freedom as we have known it is under a subtle assault from an insidious worldview that is attacking faith, family and freedom," Robison told members of First Baptist Church in Euless, Texas, during a special service he was invited to address Oct. 3.
Robison cited the nation's maladies, including high abortion and divorce rates, legalization of homosexual marriages, economic turmoil and narrowing restrictions on religious liberty.
"I fear the American church has been singing louder," Robison said.
Robison's message was part of a "Speaking Out for the Nation" series at First Baptist Euless, where he and his family were members 30 years ago. He said he was speaking to the church like family, from his heart, based on earnest prayers over the past 24 months.
Robison, an itinerant evangelist since 1962 and founder of Life Outreach International, has organized conservative Christian efforts in the past to pray about national leadership and to promote Christian involvement in the electoral process. Most significantly, he staged the National Affairs Briefing in Dallas in 1980 which gave widespread credibility to Ronald Reagan's candidacy.
"In 1980, the enemy was visible," Robison said, alluding to the former Soviet Union. "Today, the enemy is within. For many, it's not obvious. For the church, it must become obvious. I do not exaggerate when I say to you that the only hope for the world -- for security, stability, peace and opportunity -- rests upon the shoulders of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ."
Noting that 50 percent of evangelicals do not vote, and even those who do are largely uninformed, Robison challenged Christians to become involved. He emphasized that Christians must vote based on convictions rather than political party.
"An uninformed voter is an easily manipulated voter," Robison said. "Quit pointing fingers -- when you get to choose, you're responsible."
Robison also urged Christians to stop assuming government alone will meet people's needs.
"You don't throw money at the problem," Robison said. "You get involved in the pain, and nobody knows how to be involved in pain like the church. You've got to do more than sit here in your seat and hear sermons.... There's no substitute for a compassion connection."
Robison vowed to continue to seek the Lord on how he can lead and encourage believers to make a difference in returning the United States to its religious roots.
"I pledge to you before God that I'm going to find the steps that must be taken to restore freedom's foundation, the freedom, the opportunity, the peace and the security and stability that our founders established and died to provide and our military has protected through the ages," Robison said. "This nation was born because of people who believed the Word and believed the God of the Word."
John Meador, pastor of the Euless church, said of Robison, "I don't know anybody today who is speaking with more passion and more clarity about our nation than this man.
"I believe God has raised him up to do mighty things in our nation today. It's hard to describe what that is because it's kind of out of the box of what we've traditionally seen pastors and evangelists and Christian leaders do. But it's a call to repentance and it's a call to renew the foundations of our nation. And I believe people are listening. I believe God has raised him up so that people will listen. I believe we're ripe and ready for a message like that."
Meador told the audience that the idea for Robison to speak stemmed from Robison's attendance at a recent church service in which Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, spoke. Robison spoke up during a question-and-answer session following Land's message and attended a prayer breakfast the next morning. Jimmy Draper, former First Baptist Euless pastor and president emeritus of LifeWay Christian Resources, encouraged Meador to consider having Robison speak to the church about his convictions regarding the nation.
"I appreciate James' passion for this task," Draper, a longtime friend of Robison, told the Southern Baptist TEXAN in an interview. "He has proven himself as a champion of Christian social and political activism and has not stopped challenging Christians to respond."
"I believe that Southern Baptist pastors and church members need to accept the challenge to pray for our elected officials, to actively participate in the electoral process by voting Christian values regardless of party affiliation," Draper said. "We desperately need a biblical worldview to have a strong presence in Washington. Our response should be fervent and earnest prayers and exercising our right to vote. And for many, it may be to inject themselves into the political processes and run for public office in the days ahead."
In early September, Robison organized a prayer summit at a location near DFW International Airport which drew a diverse crowd of pastors and religious leaders who influence an estimated 20 million people on a weekly basis. Land, also a longtime friend of Robison, attended the prayer summit and appreciates Robison's convictions and desire to see revival come to the nation.
"James is a man of absolute conviction who is fearless," Land said in an interview with the TEXAN. "He's not intimidated by anybody or anything. I appreciate his commitment to church and to America, his commitment to revival and awakening, and his fearlessness in speaking out against sin."
Regarding the prayer meeting, Land said, "It was a very diverse group. It's not often you get Pentecostal Holiness, Baptists and Reformed evangelicals in the same room together for a common purpose, which is that America is at a very critical fork in the road. Without a spiritual revival, we don't see our way out of this.... We're praying for revival."
Meador echoed those sentiments in an interview, saying, "It was an interesting gathering for the purpose of praying and seeking answers to what is perceived by most as a growing atmosphere of intolerance towards Christianity and the practice of religious liberty. We shared how we perceive the landscape is changing in America and discussed how we can pray or inform our people toward the future.
"Interestingly, little was said about the November elections, as this is not seemingly a political movement," Meador said. "We did hear from many who are proactively impacting their community through ministries the government speaks about needing, such as feeding and clothing people, and helping with job training."
Robison also has been active in encouraging pastors to lead their people in praying for the nation through a "Pray and Act" website (www.prayandact.org), which has displayed a 40-day prayer guide for the Nov. 2 elections. Robison, Land, Prison Fellowship founder Chuck Colson, columnist Maggie Gallagher and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee are among those who have supported the effort.
Land said the website is similar to a Southern Baptist site created by the ERLC and North American Mission Board (www.4040prayer.com). "After the election," Land said, "we will continue to pray for revival, renewal and awakening."
Meador summarized his meetings with Robison, saying, "I believe our conversations with James have resulted in us having a greater fervency in prayer, repentance on behalf of our nation, and a renewed desire to see a more biblical worldview in our churches."
In addition to Land and Meador, Southern Baptists at the summit joining in signing an appeal for prayer included Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas; O.S. Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial Resources in Dallas; Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson; Richard Lee, pastor of First Redeemer Church in Cumming, Ga.; and Gary Phillips, administrative pastor of First Baptist Church in Euless.
Keith Collier wrote this story as a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.
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