Almost 30 years ago, I was riding through Wyoming with John Thomason, the founding executive director of the Wyoming Southern Baptist Convention. Baptist work in the western U.S. has always tended to be small and pioneer in nature, but in our country's least-populated state, the number of Baptist churches there at the time was only in the double digits.
I was there to write a series of stories on the work there in preparation for a potential missions partnership with Missouri Baptists. During one of the long stretches of highway between the churches we were visiting, I asked Brother Thomason, "What is the predominant religion or denomination in Wyoming?"
The veteran church planter and domestic missionary smiled a little bit and answered, "Nothing."
"You mean there's no clearly dominant denomination here?"
"No, I mean the predominant religion in Wyoming is 'nothing,'" he explained. "People here are so self-reliant, so independent, they often don't see the need for dependence on anyone but themselves, including dependence on God."
Independence without dependence on God or interdependence with others. What a tongue-twister. And not a great way to live.
Here in the U.S., we make a big deal every July 4 of celebrating our independence. This year, however, our celebration will be clouded by a number of challenges. We're enduring a global pandemic and its subsequent economic impact. We're in the middle of a tense, divisive and overdue national conversation on race, diversity and equality. We are in the run-up to a national election in a year of intense social unrest and political polarity.
It may seem we don't have much to celebrate, but we do. God is always with us; he's always in control; and he is more than able to bring peace to our country … if we depend on him.
This week, in addition to thanking God for the freedoms we enjoy in a country that celebrates independence, I think I will offer prayers that acknowledge my dependence on him personally and our collective need to depend on him as a country through these challenging times. I think I'll also offer prayers for interdependence, asking him to unite our American family with a spirit of love and equality.
Will you join me?
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” – 2 Corinthians 3:17