When viewing the religious scene today, we are tempted to fix on one or another weaknesses and say "this is what is wrong with the church. If this were corrected, we could recapture the glory of the early church and have Pentecostal times back with us again.
This tendency to oversimplification is itself a weakness and should be guarded against always, especially when dealing with anything as complex as religion as it occurs in modern times. It takes a very young man to reduce all our present woes to a single disease and cure the whole thing with one simple remedy. Older and wiser heads will be more cautious, having learned that the prescribed nostrum seldom works for the reason that the diagnosis has not been correct. Nothing is that simple. Few spiritual diseases occur alone. Almost all are complicated by the presence of others and are so vitally interrelated as they spread over the whole religious body that it would take the wisdom of Solomon to find a single cure. For this reason, I am hesitant to point to any one defect in present day Christianity and make all our troubles to stem from it alone. That so-called Bible religion in our times is suffering rapid decline is so evident as to need no proof, but just what has brought about this decline is not easy to discover. I can only say that I have observed one significant lack among evangelical Christians that might turn out to be the real cause of most of our spiritual troubles. Of course, if that were true, then the supplying of that lack would be our most critical need.
The great deficiency to which I refer is the lack of spiritual discernment, especially among our leaders. How there can be so much Bible knowledge and so little insight, so little moral penetration, is one of the enigmas of the religious world today. I think it is altogether accurate to say that there has never been a time in history of the church when so many people were engaged in Bible study as are so engaged today. If the knowledge of Bible doctrine were any guarantee of godliness, this would with a doubt be known in history as the age of sanctity. Instead, it may well be known as the age of the churches Babylonish captivity, or the age of worldliness, when the professed Bride of Christ allowed herself to be successfully courted by the fallen sons of men in unbelievable numbers. The body of evangelical believers, under evil influences, has during the last 25 years gone over to the world in complete and abject surrender, avoiding only a few of the gross sins such as drunkenness and sexual promiscuity.
That this disgraceful betrayal has taken place in broad daylight with full consent of our Bible teachers and evangelists is one of the most terrible affairs in the spiritual history of the world. Yet I for one cannot believe that the great surrender was negotiated by men of evil heart who set out deliberately to destroy the faith of our fathers. Many good and clean living people have collaborated with the quislings who betrayed us. Why? The answer can only be, from a lack of spiritual vision. Something like a mist has settled over the church as "the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations" (Is. 25:7). Such a veil once descended upon Israel: "for their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts" (2 Cor. 3:14,15). That was Israel's tragic hour. God raised up the church and temporarily disfranchised His ancient people. He could not trust His work to blind men.
Surely we need a baptism of clear seeing if we are to escape the fate of Israel (and of every other religious body in history that forsook God). If not the greatest need, then surely one of the greatest, is for the appearance of Christian leaders with prophetic vision. We desperately need seers who can see through the mist. Unless they come soon, it will be too late for this generation. And if they do come, we will no doubt crucify a few of them in the name of our worldly orthodoxy. But the cross is always the harbinger of the resurrection.
Mere evangelism is not our present need. Evangelism does no more than extend religion, of whatever kind it may be. It gains acceptance for religion among larger numbers of people without giving much thought to the quality of that religion. The tragedy is that present-day evangelism accepts the degenerate form of Christianity now current as the very religion of the apostles and busies itself with making converts to it with no questions asked.
We must have a new reformation. There must come a violent break with that irresponsible, amusement-mad, paganized pseudo-religion which passes today for the faith of Christ and which is being spread all over the world. When the Roman church apostatized, God brought about the Reformation. When the Reformation declined, God raised up the Moravians and the Wesley's. When those movements began to die, God raised up fundamentalism and the "deeper life" groups. Now that these have almost without exception sold out to the world - what next?
Excerpted from we travel an Appointed way 1988 by Christian Publications, Camp Hill, Pa.
This is a rather critical view of the church today. I can not say that I agree 100% with what was said. I do however agree with much of it, and that pains me greatly. I see many a body of Christ in this present age with no vision for the future. I often say, and I know some do not understand or agree that the church is one generation from extinction. There are those who just do not like to think about reality and so they do not want to hear such facts. Others site scripture teaching that the kingdom of Christ will never end and so this can not be true for Christ would not allow it to happen. I agree somewhat with the later thought. His kingdom will never end, nor will his reign. The problem is who will be in the kingdom and who will be left to reign. Christ will always be the head of the church. Who will be in the body if we do not solve the problems we face today?
I must agree that much of the problem lies with the leaders and teachers of today. They trudge on with no clear-cut direction or vision for God's people ten, twenty or even fifty years from now. It seems they can see only as far as the end of their nose. To the leaders of the church today, long term planning is what will happen in the next three years. We do things today and seem to think that our children or their children will have to deal with the consequences. When we were doing the latest renovations to our building we saw a lot of this type of thinking. Things were done without much thought for the future or the consequences that would come from their actions. We are paying for those decisions now and will probably do so well into the future.
What are the Churches plan for evangelism for the next decade? What are our Christian Education plans for the next fifteen years? What plans are being made for the ever increasing and aging congregants of today's church and their future well being? When was the last time we had someone in from a Bible College to speak with our youth, to insure the ministers and preachers and evangelists of the future? We demand that our children have a Sunday school class to attend but refuse to teach one, thus insuring that teacher burn out continues well into the future. We spend more time planning our retirements than we do the future of the cause of Christ. How sad!
We base our entire Christian existence on the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Something that scripture tells us was planned from before the foundation of the world. God planned every last detail of our salvation for the long term. He was watching out for those who would come thousands of years after the fact. They would have the same benefits as those of the first century. Can we do any less? We plan our bible curriculum a quarter at a time maybe even a year in advance. But what of the children of the future? Will we have teachers for them? Will we have adequate class areas? Who is being groomed today to handle the task? Are our ministry leaders sharing the decision making with their committees so someone can assume leadership should the opportunity come? Lack of vision!
The bible! Twenty some odd writers on three continents from all walks of life. Writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit has brought to us the most complete accumulation of God's words to us. This was no accident. God planned it long before you or I were ever born or thought about. All that we need to know to live a Christ like and Godly life are right there for us to read. There was nothing left to chance. God didn't say, well its OK for today, let the future church figure out how it effects them. He left it complete and perfect. How are we preparing for the future generations of this and every church? Are things in place that will carry them through? Or do we let them fess for themselves? Lack of vision!
We need only look to our scripture history to see the result of such short sightedness. As Israel was chosen to be the people of God, they needed to stay focused on God to survive. The book of judges gives us an insight into their failures. As the people tried to exist on their own they failed miserably. They sought out other gods. They worshipped false idols, and disobeyed the one true God. Jehovah would send other nations to subdue them and bring them under servitude. The children of Israel would then cry out to God and He would send a deliverer, a judge. Under this judge, this leader, Israel would again gain independence and worship the true God. As long as that judge lived Israel would obey and all was well. As soon as the judge died and Israel was left to her own, she would again retreat to her evil ways.
This was a case of her going astray under no leadership. If there were no judge to lead her in the ways of righteousness she would go astray. Over and over throughout the book of judges we see this roller coaster ride of obedience/disobedience routine. Under Samson, Gideon, Deborah, and others Israel began to be the great nation God had intended. Without the leadership of the judges however, she became no more than another people, not the great people of Jehovah. Without the right leadership, righteousness was out of their reach.
From judges we move on to Kings. Both the northern and southern kingdoms had their share. Some good, but most bad. In fact some were down right terrible. Before the two kingdoms, there was just Israel. No southern and no northern kingdoms, just Gods people. Something like the church before denominations. The first king was Saul a tall and good looking man who the people loved. He started as a good king and should have been a great one. Jealousy and disobedience got the best of him though and it was his down fall. A young boy named David came along and he slew Goliath with nothing more than a sling. He later became one of Saul's captains and was a great warrior. The people recognized him as such, and even sang him a song. Saul has slain his thousands but David his ten thousands. This was the beginning of jealousy and Saul's down fall. Because he disobeyed God and later went to a medium he was removed as King and David put in his place.
David was loved by the people and by God as well. He ruled well and even wanted to build a great temple for God. But because he was a man of war, God would not permit it. David soon feel into his own sin, that of adultery and murder. He had an affair with a woman named Bathsheba and to cover it up had her husband sent to his death in battle. His family was wracked by internal strife. Brother turned against brother for the throne and even against their own father, the king. David's son, Solomon was the one who finally won the throne and eventually split the kingdom by his goings astray. He married many a heathen woman and had thousands of concubines. Small temples were set up throughout the land to accommodate these heathen wives and their gods. He also imposed forced labor to get the temple and hi kingdom built which angered the people greatly.
After his death the kingdom was split into two separate kingdoms one run by his son Rehoboam and the other by Jeroboam. This was the start of a line in both kingdoms of king after king who did not follow Jehovah. If you read first and second kings and the Chronicles you will get the full story of this spiral downward fall of Gods people. It ended finally with the taking away of both kingdoms into captivity by the Babylonians. This finally broke the idol worship trends that Israel went through and she never again served false gods. But the captivity and eventual return to the land God had given them gave rise to a new threat. The forming of the Pharisee's and Sadusee's sects. Even the High priesthood became a political rather than religious office by the time of the Roman occupation. Once again the people of God had leaders who had no vision or righteous values in which to lead the people.
Jesus often came into conflict with these two bodies of supposed leaders. Jesus accused them of being blind and leading the flock over the cliff. They were hard nosed, stiff necked and such traditionalists that there was no room for change in their minds. They were self centered and only interested in protecting their own standing within the assembly. The people were not a concern other than for their tithe and their service to the leaders. Each body had its own disciples or followers and each had its own idea of what was true worship and true religion. Starting to see the similarities yet?
Christianity was the answer to all this pomp and tradition. It was pure and perfect in every way. But our lord was not out of the picture (physically) ten years when sects started to spring up with in the church. Judaizers who wanted to incorporate the law with Christ. Gnostics who claimed to have special knowledge. Nicolaitans which pitted the ministry against the laity and so on. Leaders who led their people into separation rather than unity. Lack of vision.
The roman church tried to secularize the church and make it a world government. The reformation only reformed an already ailing church. The restoration movement while having the right idea still had to deal with the lack of true leadership we still suffer from today. Now don't get your feathers in an uproar. I still think we are doing things doctrinally accurate and scripturaly sound. However, we need to be doing more and we need to be doing it now. I also do not want to alienate ministers and elders as I use the term leader, although they are included all too often. The leadership of the church goes beyond titles. The Sunday school teacher is a leader. The song leader is a leader. The building and grounds people are leaders. Get the point? If we are functioning the way we are supposed to we are all leaders in one way or another. So there is no lack of leadership (although we can always use more teachers) the lack, is in vision!
Where do we want to be in ten years, twenty years, fifty years. What does the church have for the guy on the street that will attract him to us? The answer has always been Jesus of course. The question is how do we let him know about Jesus. When we look at our community what do we see? Is it the lost, the seeking, the clueless. Great, now what do you do about it? Not just this week, but what is the long term plan for these lost souls and the souls of their children and grand children? How are we serving the community we live and serve in? We have people come through our doors each week from Pre School and AA just to mention two. What is being done to serve them and their needs? Do we have speakers lined up for the next year or two to help us recognize current issues, missions or Christian education or do we try to get someone at the last minute and wonder why we got turned down. Vision!
Program planning takes vision. Programs take people. How can anyone put their child in a Sunday school class and expect top teaching and yet not volunteer to be a part of the Christian Education committee? How can one claim to be mission minded and never take up a pen and write to encourage the missions we support? How can a parent claim to be in favor of church growth and never talk to their children about a career in the ministry? Why are not more people involved in the planning of our worship times, guest speakers and yes even fellowship times? How can someone see trash on the front lawn and leave it for someone else to pick up and still claim it is his or her church? Sometimes planning for the future is as simple as saying if I see a burned out light bulb, I'll change it. Vision!
It is time to take off the blinders and realize we all can be doing more. If not for us then for the future church. I tend not to talk about it very often because I find it hard to control my emotions on the subject. The question comes down to this, how can you just sit there and do nothing or as little as possible after what you have been given. You were a wretched sinner bound for the fire of hell and Christ stepped in and changed your whole future. Can you rally just sit there and do nothing? Can you really not get involved? Can you really not even come for weeks at a time? I guess if the problem is really a lack of vision. Maybe itís the way we are facing. Turn around and look back. Hindsight is always 20/20. So where did you come from? Not very pretty is it. Now turn around again. Look forward and tell me where are you going because of the love of Jesus and what he did for YOU? Now what are you doing in the in between part? Vision, thatís all it takes.
No I do not see us as doomed. I do see us as a very pampered and spoiled church though. I guess working with the persecuted church organization has done that to me. I see their persistence and steadfastness for the Lord and our lack of it and it sickens me a little. I see those willing to die for Christ and then I see those who are not even willing to teach, or serve for Christ. The problem is not universal, thank God. There are those who work to the point of burn out. You know who you are. And there are those who have not sweat in a decade or so. You know who you are. We have the opportunity to form and change lives. We have the opportunity to form the church of the 21st century. Do not let it be lost opportunity. All it takes is VISION!
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