It has been heavy on my mind for quite some time the state that the American church currently finds itself in. You do not have to look far in order to realize that the church in America is dying. I submit that the cause for this is not attacks from the outside but the disease within the body of Christ.
We live in an age where our ministries are mostly born out of the flesh and are reliant on human abilities alone. Our ministries are more concerned with their ‘niche’ market rather than their call to carry the message to all people (Matthew 28:19). The current trend in churches across the country can be stated as follows: “The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule by their own authority. My people love it like this…For from least to greatest, everyone is gaining profit unjustly. From prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely. They have treated superficially the brokenness of My dear people, claiming: Peace, peace, when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 5:31; 8:10-11) By relying on our own strength and wisdom we have distorted the ministry of God.
The church is dry eyed and worldly. The world has infiltrated the church and changed it, more than the church has infiltrated the world to change it. The church is in such a state of self-fulfillment that the amount of debauchery and licentious behavior matches that of the world and we cannot be distinguished from it. (Jeremiah 6:15; Romans 1:32; 2 Timothy 3:1-9) As a result, we are no longer moved over our sin and we have seemingly forgotten, at least in our hearts, that we are great sinners and Christ is a Great Savior. Where are the Daniel’s who will determine that they will not be defiled by this world? Where are the people who will take James 1:22b seriously and keep themselves unstained by the world? We are stubborn and rebellious in heart. We have turned aside from truth and no longer say ‘Let’s fear the Lord our God’. (Jeremiah 5:23-24)
We are guilty of adultery! The church, the very bride of Christ, is married to the world! We are called with a holy calling and we are set apart, yet we have seemingly thrown it into God’s face by aligning ourselves with this world. How can we who are Christians, and yet live like the world, expect the world to become Christians? (Galatians 2:14) We simply pay lip service to our God, but do not pay Him due allegiance. We only want the benefits but want nothing to do with the commitment or burden of following Christ. To echo Leonard Ravenhill, I am embarrassed to be a part of the church of Christ because it is an embarrassment to a Holy God!
Are churches are not reproducing! Where are the new converts!? Not merely membership shuffling, but new believers!? Recently a pastor state this after two baptisms in the service: “You don’t see that every day.” WHY NOT? Why do we not see this everyday? The early church had converts by the thousands, yet he are fortunate to see a convert in a matter of months! Our altars are barren week after week, month after month and we hardly even notice! As Ravenhill put it, if we were as good at winning souls as we are at out jobs, we would have full altars. Yet if we were as poor at our job as we are in winning souls, we would lose that job. “Why are we waiting? What are we waiting for? How can we wait when the world waits for us!?”
There is a lack of tears in the pulpit and as a result, equally so in the pew. There is essentially very little concern for the lost around us. We know the state they are in and know where they are headed but are convinced, by the world, that it is not our place to tell someone how they can and cannot live. The fact of the matter is that we are no longer persuaded that Hell matters. If it really mattered to us, we would be a very different people. For too long we have suppressed the message of Hell because we deemed it too controversial and desired congregants more than the truth. It seems as though the Great Commission is only reserved for those who are considering ministry but is not to be taken seriously for anyone outside that. Have we forgotten that we are commissioned with this Gospel? Do we not take heed at the warning found in Ezekiel 3 that states: “If I say to the wicked person: You will surely die, but you do not warn him – you don’t speak out to warn him about his wicked way in order to save his life – that person will die for his iniquity. YET I WILL HOLD YOU RESPONSIBLE FOR HIS BLOOD”?
Oh! What a tragedy it is to be given such a great message, yet hold it within ourselves and not say a word. OH WHAT SIN! “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” – James 4:17. We have been given this powerful gospel of which is God’s power to Salvation (Romans 1:16). Why are we ashamed!?
The church has traveled to extremes of either a complete emphasis on relationships to the exclusion of a doctrinal foundation or complete doctrinal submersion to the exclusion of love. In other areas, the church has left sound doctrine and followed heretics and apostates. We have sought that which tickles our fancy and that which leaves us happy. There is no toleration of reproof or correction. Obedience has been mistaken for legalism. However, human freedom only leads to the bondage of sin while becoming ‘slaves’ to Christ we find true freedom. (1 Peter 2:16) We have become like the nation of Israel portrayed in Jeremiah: “You foolish and senseless people. They have eyes, but they don’t see. They have ears, but they don’t hear. Do you not fear Me? This is the Lord’s declaration. Do you not tremble before Me?” (Jeremiah 5:21-22)
This is not a matter of this doctrine verse that doctrine. For too long we have debated doctrine and it has weakened us. Doctrine is important, but at what point do we begin to indulge in meaningless debate? It seems that we get caught up in the debates that in the end, don’t change a thing! (i.e. Contemporary Music verse Hymns) Our doctrinal knowledge has become a cover: “By overstating the sovereignty of God and blundering on in an atmosphere of stagnant dispensationalism, we safeguard our spiritual bankruptcy.” (Leonard Ravenhill) When we will wake up to the fact that no amount of doctrinal knowledge will ever substitute a genuine walk with the Lord? Could it be that Satan has used this clever device in order to distract us from our commission? It is time we step down off of our high horse and get on our face before a Holy God pleading for the souls of men.
This Self-Indulgent, Self-Centered, Self-Fulfilled, Self-Reliant behavior must end! We are followers of Christ and as such, our attitude should be that which was found in Him: Humility, Self-Control, Servanthood, Obedience and Sacrifice.
Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death – even to death on a cross. Philippians 2:6-8
“Sow righteousness for yourselves and reap faithful love; break up your untilled ground. It is time to seek the Lord until He comes…” – Hosea 10:12
Is this not the message that the 21st Century American Church needs to hear right now? For far too long, we ‘surgeons of the soul’ have been guilty of malpractice. Instead of leading people to the Great Physician, we have left them to their own devices or worse yet, given them a ‘solution’ developed by man in order that we may profit, rather than give them the true cure. Time is growing short and the situation is dreadfully serious.
Preacher, if your soul is barren, if tears are absent from your eyes, if converts are absent from your altar, then take no comfort in your popularity; refuse the consolation of your degrees or of the books you have written! Sincerely but passionately invite the Holy Ghost to plague your heart with grief because you are spiritually unable to bring to birth. Oh, the reproach of our barren altars! – Leonard Ravenhill
However, in order to see to this task, we must first correct the malpractice in our own hearts. We are too worldly. The church of today does not even compare to the church of Acts or those mentioned in Hebrews 11. Those men and women, who suffered for Christ, found true life in denying their life and for that, this world was not worthy of them. Oh, how sorrowful it is that the world is worthy of the current church. It is time to circumcise our hearts to Christ and commit full obedience to him. We are to be Holy because He is Holy. (1 Peter 1: 13-25) This is not a call to a select few, but is for all who profess belief in Christ.
Lord, there are some who are reading this and know exactly what you are asking them to change. For too long we have lived out of self and ignored what you called us to. Renew that call and convict us to live as a holy people set apart for your work. Forgive us for taking the easy road and seeking to be a pleaser of man rather than you. Challenge us and grant us the power to uproot all those things that have no business in our lives in order that we may affectively serve you. Let us set aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Set our hearts afire anew. This is what we desire.