Wheaton, IL – Signs of incivility and outrage abound in today's culture. In Washington, DC, protesters, angry over the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation process, jammed Senate hallways and interrupted CBN News' coverage of the demonstrations.
The outrage is also happening on many college campuses.
Last year rioters virtually took over the University of California Berkeley because they wanted to stop a commentator from the conservative Breitbart website from speaking on campus.
A Culture of Outrage and Anger
"It seems we're at a time when people are increasingly at odds with one another and it's an outrageous time with a lot of anger," said pastor and author Ed Stetzer.
In his new book, Christians in the Age of Outrage: How to Bring our Best When the World is At Its Worst, Stetzer points out our country's deep divisions, hoping the church can bring about healing.
Church Must Focus on Itself
But before that can happen, he says the church must focus on itself.
"I think one of the things that has been important to note in the past few years is that sometimes the political divisions have actually gotten into the church, in a way that maybe it hasn't in the past," Stetzer said in an interview with CBN News.
He says Christians can counter the growing outrage we see in our culture by simply exercising greater spiritual discipline, such as reading the Bible and daily prayer.
"My desire is that we might act, and love and listen and speak more like Jesus would in these situations," he said.
Stetzer, who is also the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, and Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center, says social media is a big part of the outrage problem.
Road Map to Navigating Hot Button Topics Online
He says Christians can hurt their witness by not properly engaging online debates on hot topic issues such as gay marriage or politics.
He offers a road map to navigating such conversations
"We can be in an evangelical echo chamber where everyone sort of thinks like we do and then we're shocked to find out people have a different world view," said Stetzer. "We actually found out in our research that evangelicals like to mute people or block people who disagree with them and so you're never hearing different views.
He added, "We have almost an undiscipled approach to social media that's alienating our neighbors and building sometimes even divisions between Christians and what we're calling for in Christians in the Age of Outrage is a change to that, a more thoughtful, biblical, Spirit-filled approach that ultimately engages culture more effectively."
Model the Message of the Gospel
He encourages Christians to model the message of the Gospel.
"The question is we have to make choices. How do we speak up for what's right but also how do we show and share the love of Jesus in the midst of the brokenness? "The division is not helping anybody and in the long term, harming the witness of the Gospel."
Stetzer says the best way to do that is through proper discipleship.
"I used to listen to a political show but I found that I couldn't pray for the president at the time and listen to that person because I got so riled up," he explained.
"And so, what I had to do is – in my own discipleship through spiritual discipline – I had to say, 'that's shaping me in a way that leads me away from what the Bible calls me to do.'"
"So, I quit listening to that program. Kept praying for that president. Kept speaking up about things that mattered to me, but I was more discipled by my Bible and the promptings of the Holy Spirit than I was by the radio program or today it might be by the cable news program I'm watching."
Meanwhile, in this current culture, Stetzer challenges Christians to intentionally live in a way that makes the Gospel more appealing.
"I don't know that Christians can solve all the outrage issues," he said. "I think the culture has just gone, it's turned up the volume to eleven and it's just going all-in on the outrage. So what I would say is we need to show a counter-culture message.""The Gospel's always been counter-cultural. It's always shown a different way. When the world's running this way, the scriptures teach a different way. Jesus calls us to a better way. So, I think the better way is not to join in and turn up the outrage volume but instead to enter in on a mission."