I last wrote about my history with the church here in May of 2010. The title, "The Church & I: Part 1" implied that there would be a part 2. And, until now, I have not felt compelled to add to this previous entry. However, some recent events around me have made me feel as though there is more I could say. These are my thoughts, and my opinions. Some are based on scripture, others are based on my emotions or on life experiences. I do not expect everyone to agree with what I say here, but it's part of my story just the same. And, for the purposes of this entry, when I refer to "the church," I am referencing the American church (unless otherwise specified).
Recently, I have felt a disillusionment and disenchantment with the church (and by "church" I mean the organized, body of believers headed by a pastor and housed in a building of some sort) that I have never felt before. In general, I feel that the churches in my world (and the believers that attend them) are losing their grip on the Truth. I look harder and harder to find what I am looking for, and have a harder and harder time finding it. There are so many things going on in the world that are overwhelming...wars and rumors of wars, terrorism, poverty, famine, persecution, riots, political complexities, the global spread of Islam, anti-semitism (and the persecution of Israel), global financial unrest...the list goes on and on. Yet, what do most of us hear about as we sit in our seats on Sunday mornings? Certainly nothing that could help in our understanding of world events. And certainly nothing that even touches on what could be construed as "controversial." I listened to an area radio program recently where two area pastors were asking other pastors in the area to talk about the subject of abortion with their congregations. I felt bad for the pastors because I knew their request would mostly fall on deaf ears. Most pastors don't want to touch an emotionally charged topic like abortion with a ten foot pole. (The Catholic church does much better in this regard than the Protestant church does.) It's too controversial. But, isn't the Bible controversial? Isn't Christ's death on the cross controversial? Isn't He Himself controversial? Aren't these and other topics inside the realm of the "full counsel of God" that pastors are required by scripture to present? Why are our churches suddenly afraid to address some of the things that are on the minds and hearts of anyone who has the ability to look outside of their tiny world (and not everyone wants to) and take stock of what is going on? I am only 35 years old, yet I feel that some of things happening in the world are unprecedented. Although no one can know the day or the hour of Jesus' return, I feel in my heart that it may be soon. And I want to be ready. In general, the American church is not fostering readiness. They are too busy trying to gloss-up and dumb-down the Truth, so that others are not offended. They do this in the name of drawing others to Christ, and it is a lie. One look at the early church and the persecution it endured (and the growth it experienced), will tell you that this is not the right equation for church growth. Comfort does not foster growth. At least not the kind of growth that lasts. And besides, church growth (in numbers) is not what is important. If you teach the Truth of God's Word (and don't leave the "tough" parts out), growth will happen. This growth may be evidenced in numbers, yes, but more importantly through the fruit of the Spirit that will be obvious in the lives of the attendees. I hear more in church today about bringing in money, paying off the debt of the church and how many people are attending the church than I do about meaningful things. And I see believers in the church (myself included) struggling with life's issues, and feeling more and more "stuck" in neutral...not growing in faith. I know it is my responsibility to work out my own salvation, and that I cannot rely on the church to do it for me. This is my own apathy, and it is isomorphic to the apathy in the church right now (I, too, am too comfortable). But sometimes, I want to go to church and feel as though I have gotten a fresh word from God. I want to feel as though I have just listened to a sermon from an inspired man of God that listened carefully to the Holy Spirit in his preparation for that Sunday's message.
I look around me and wonder, "Where are the giants of the Faith?" Where are those Christian leaders in America who will risk all to tell others the full Truth of scripture? Certainly there are persecuted churches overseas, and leaders of the faith who have or are willing to give their lives for it. But here in America, I daresay we are too comfortable. Recently, John Piper made a statement in a sermon that stuck with me. In essence, he prayed that God would allow the American church to come under persecution. I do not take this lightly. I know what persecution means, and I know what could be required of me and of those I love. I wonder if I am ready to pray that? I know that is what it would take for the American church to wake up from it's apathetic, prosperity-induced coma that it has been in for the last few decades. I just wish the awakening would happen before it comes to that point.
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