Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Revelation 2:7
Many of us who have been church leaders for a number of years are beginning to ask some hard questions of ourselves. On the one hand, we seem to have success all around us – megachurches that are larger than ever, celebrity pastors that are known nationwide, church facilities that are second to none, and para-church ministries that are multi-media money-making machines that spread our message to the ends of the earth.
But on the other hand, there are less churches and less Christians in the US than in previous years. The church is in decline, with more and more churches closing their doors every day and many pastors calling it quits, with some even leaving the faith. Church attendance is declining year after year, with many Christians accessing sermons and worship music online or not at all. In fact, it is often hard to tell who is a Christian and who is not – many people today profess faith in Christ but that has little bearing on how they live. They are not followers of Christ as much as they are followers of the worldly culture in which they live.
And as much as us church leaders would like to point fingers at the folks in our congregations or blame the culture or times in which we live, we have to admit that much of the problem is our own fault. In recent decades we have looked to business models and leadership principles for direction rather than inquiring of the Lord and the New Testament. Our goals and measurements of success come from the world, not from God. The church looks like a business offering services to consumers rather than the family of God or the Body of Christ that the New Testament describes.
It’s time that we faced the truth – we have lost our way. We have screwed up. We have conformed to the world around us rather than allowing ourselves and our churches to be transformed by the Word of God. We seek after worldly success rather than the One who created us. We peddle solutions to life’s problems without ever recognizing that we are the problem. We who are called to hold out the Word of Life to those who are dying give them platitudes and placebos instead. After all, if we told them the truth, they might leave our church and go somewhere else.
Even essential teachings of Jesus like the Great Commandment are often neglected as we bow our knees to the culture around us. Think about it. We’re not known for our love for God because we don’t live holy lives set apart from the world. We’re not known for our love for our neighbors or co-workers because we love ourselves more. We would rather burrow into our couches and watch our screens rather than go get to know someone. And we’re not known for our love for one another because in most churches we don’t even know one another.
We do talk about some of the teachings of Jesus when it suits our purposes. Take the Great Commission, for example. We teach people that Jesus told us to make disciples but then we tell them that all they need to do is get their friends to come to church and then the church professionals will take it from there. We don’t make disciples who make other disciples. In fact, often we don’t make disciples at all. At best we make spiritual babies that are dependent upon church leaders instead of growing in Christ and nurturing their own relationship with God.
The truth is that we have lost our way and we need a Savior. Thanks be to God that He hasn’t given up on us! His plan is still the same as it has always been – to raise up a flawless bride of Christ that can take the Good News to the world around us. God still loves us and still wants to use us for His glory despite our many flaws. Let’s look at His Word and discover together how we can apply Biblical teachings to how we do church.
What is the Spirit saying to the church in the US?
What is the Spirit saying to the church to which you belong?
What steps will you take to point the church in that direction?
Scriptures to Study: Revelation Chapters 1-3, Matt. 22:36-40, Matt. 28:18-20