Saturday, July 30, 2016

Good evening everyone. I hope you’ve had a great week and have experienced an enjoyable weekend to this point. Tomorrow we have an opportunity to again meet with our fellow believers to worship our Lord and fellowship with each other. I know it should be a day of rest but for many of us our day will be full of activity. Some may be able to catch a nap but for me it’s not likely.

The last few weeks I have spent discussing some of the current problems our local churches face in today’s world. As I completed the summary last week I suddenly realized that all of those problems were created and initiated by people. Church people. Preachers, deacons, staff members, Sunday School teachers, lay members. Church people! I really wonder what our churches would be like if each one of us took our eyes off of ourselves and placed them on Jesus first and then on others around us. Can you imagine? I pray that it would be so in my own life!

I have spent very little time the last two weeks watching the political party conventions and even less time listening to all the rhetoric from both sides.It appears to me that we are in deep trouble if we are forced to choose the next President of the United States of America from the two candidates that have been presented to us. I’m afraid the downhill slide is going to continue and the speed will be dependent on the one who is elected. God help us! Where have our moral values gone? Well, enough of the pessimistic talk and negative thinking. Moving on to a brighter subject.

I was thinking earlier today about all the blessings that God has sent my way and I began to realize how ungrateful I am most of the time. So I decided that I will begin a list of all the things I should be thankful for and maybe discuss them somewhat during the next few weeks. Of course number one on my list would be that He has lifted me up from the miry pits of clay and set my feet on the solid rock. And that rock is Jesus. My sins are gone. Thank you Father. Thank you Jesus. Thank you Holy Spirit for your convicting power.

Next week I’ll continue with my list. Maybe my list would be similar to yours if you had one. Until next week may God continue to richly bless you.

 

Summary

The four problems that have been described and discussed in the previous sections are what I consider to be the most prevalent in the church today. Most likely there is no local church existing today that is not affected in some way by one or more of these. And I’m sure that there are other issues that I’m not aware of or have not witnessed first-hand. There’s one thing for sure; they are damaging to any local church body and will eventually result in either an impotent or dead church.

In the past few years there has been the emergence of what is referred to as mega-churches. I’m not sure what the criteria is that places a church in that category but I’m willing to bet it is measured by the number of members. Obviously the larger the membership the greater the attendance. But at the same time the larger the membership the less likely it is for each member to know each other and the more likely the cliques are to form. In addition more programs are required to keep everyone happy and satisfied. In most cases there are more than one Sunday morning service and most likely each one is of a different type such as traditional or contemporary. The music preference usually dictates this and it seems that the preference is also age dependent. In other words, the older generation prefers traditional and the younger prefers the contemporary.

On the other hand, the small churches have their share of problems. Most of them have trouble keeping a pastor for any length of time. There are a number of reasons for this such as inability to properly compensate the pastor, personal agendas of some of the members or maybe the pastor using the church as a stepping stone to a larger one. The smaller churches also have a tendency to not want to change at all even when it is for the better. They are stuck in their tradition.

So what is the answer?  It starts with two people. The pastor and the member. The pastor must be one who stays true to God’s word when he preaches and is not distracted by those who would attempt to reinterpret the scriptures because they have read some book or heard some intellectual academia expound some new philosophy. And that’s all it is. In addition, every member should also stay true to God’s word by staying in the word and spending time in prayer and fellowshipping with those of like mind. That way, complacency can’t take over their lives and their walk with the Lord.

Although everything written over the last few weeks seem to be nothing but negative, I still believe there is hope for the local church. We just need to get back to the basics and pray for revival. I believe God will hear our prayer if we are sincere in our desire to return to Him. I need this as much as anyone.

#4 – Personal Agendas & Social Cliques

In recent years, at a couple of local churches that I have been associated with, I have observed a number of disturbing and questionable situations that I would classify as personal agendas. I have also observed that it is becoming more and more prevalent to see social cliques form inside the church membership. In both cases these are unhealthy and harmful to the church body and most likely will ultimately lead to disunity in the church. In light of this, let’s take a closer look at these two problems.

First of all, what do we mean by a personal agenda? Generally, this kind of situation arises because of a single individual’s desire to receive something they long for. It may be power or recognition or control but rest assured it comes from a heart full of pride. They will attempt to solicit the assistance of others in their endeavor and most of the time it is disguised as something reasonable and acceptable. These individuals have no real concern for the well-being of the church body and will always oppose any attempt to move forward if the ideas or methods are in conflict with theirs. It can come from anyone in the church including the pastor, a deacon, a staff member, a Sunday school teacher or a single church member. I have personally witnessed a group of staff members and deacons undergo a successful campaign to railroad the pastor out of the church. I have seen deacons take over Sunday school class ministries apparently for the recognition. I have witnessed pastors who have not been transparent with the church body and use calculated and targeted sermons to apparently push their personal agenda. I think we can all agree that these are dangerous to the cause of Christ and that there is no place for these things in the Lord’s church.

Now for cliques. What are they? They are formations of a group of people who have similar interests and those interests can be anything common to the group. As teenagers, we all experienced social cliques when we were in school and as adults, to some extent, in the workplace. In the church, they usually form by social standing in the community, by age group, by children’s activities outside the church and sometimes by college football team preference. Some are even formed by those who seem to think they are more spiritually mature than others. Therefore, herein lies the problem. Isolation of those outside the clique and pressure on those in the clique to not associate with those outside. This is totally opposite of what Christ expects from His church. I have heard it said that we all are equal at the foot of the cross but many times we sure don’t act like it. As you can see, social cliques in the church are not healthy to the church body and the ultimate result will be disunity, arrogance and complacency. Again, I think we can all agree that the church is no place for them.

Let’s all resolve to refrain from personal agendas and social cliques in our church and keep our focus on the main thing. Sharing the gospel by word and with our lives and ministering to others in time of need.

#3 -Misdirected Focus on Church Music

I love music. I love all types of music. Classical. Big Band. Country. Western. Southern Gospel. I even love some Opera music. But, in my book, no music compares to the old Hymns of the faith I grew up hearing and singing. They have been engraved on my mind and embedded in my very heart and soul. They all present  truth from God’s word and it is very obvious that the authors wrote them from a personal perspective emanating from their relationship with the Savior. The vast majority of them are based on sound doctrine straight from the Bible. They preach a sermon every time they are sung. And there is nothing more moving than hearing a great choir and the entire church congregation raise the roof of the building when they join in singing one of these hymns. The sad thing is, however, that you don’t hear that happening much any more in today’s church.

The music of today in many churches has migrated from the old hymns and has replaced them with what is called ‘Praise & Worship Music” led by a “Worship Leader” and a “Praise Team”. Most of the songs have very little doctrinal substance and seem to repeat the same few words over and over until the participants become tired and lose interest. In many cases, it appears that the “Worship Leader” is trying to work the people into some state of spiritual frenzy in preparation for what is to come next. Most of today’s  “worship songs” have been written by someone who is most likely only interested in the potential notoriety or income it may bring them. You may ask why I say that. It’s simple. With all of the hype with this kind of music and the number of people involved, you would think that the entire country would be in a state of spiritual revival but we know that is not the case. As a matter of fact, the trend is in the reverse direction. I don’t think it is coincidental that the decline we are experiencing in the church today seems to go hand in hand with the change in direction of the music. Now, mind you, I don’t believe that it is the only reason for the decline because I have already pointed two issues that the church is faced with. But I certainly think it is a contributor.

One of the dangers of participating in that kind of “worship music” is that it can bring about an emotional high that causes a person to feel like they are more spiritually mature than they really are. The fact is, the high that they reach is only temporary because the things that lead to spiritual maturity is staying in God’s word, spending type in talking to Him and having a lifestyle of associating with other believers. I know a lot of people that have been caught up in this kind of worship and have no doubt that they are sincere. I also have noticed it is most predominate with the younger generations. I really believe that we are depriving others of something special when we do not share the old hymns in our worship services. They really are an important part of the foundation of my faith in addition to God’s word. I pray that my grandchildren and great grandchildren will not be deprived of something of such importance.

I know that I am quite old fashion in my thinking and am suspicious of some people’s motives in this arena but I have seen the results of staying with the basics and the simplicity of the gospel. I know what has been successful for decades before the changes came about that we see today. I long for a return to those days. I long for revival in myself and in the church. May God grant it to be so. Amen and amen.

#2 – Shallow and Complacent Christians

I believe that another major issue in the local church today is a congregation full of spiritually shallow Christians, or Christians who have let complacency overcome them or those who call themselves Christians but have never had a true conversion experience. In any case, the church is full of spiritually weak or spiritually dead people. When you really get down to it these people are most likely the main problem in the church today and are the reason the church can’t advance. In fact they are the very ones that have contributed most to the church’s decline. So, let’s take a closer look at each of these categories and see if we can identify with any of them.

First, what do I mean by spiritually shallow? I’m talking about those who have been a part of a church body for many years but yet they do not have a command of God’s word. They have probably been regular as clockwork when it comes to church attendance and have been in Sunday School all of their life. But I would bet that they have never read the Bible from beginning to end like any other book . They have read many passages throughout the Bible and have heard many sermons and Sunday School lessons on different topics but have never read the whole thing in order to grasp what God’s plan has been from the very beginning. They most likely have never shared the gospel with another person in their entire life and have probably never shared their personal testimony with anyone. They can’t speak to any real doctrinal issues because they have not grown in the Lord and are not sure what they really believe. Therefore, they are easily swayed by any idea presented to them whether scriptural or not. They are easy targets for those with personal agendas. Does this sound like anyone you know? Or could it be you?

Secondly, there are those who have grown complacent over the last few years. They don’t study or pray the way they used to and are most likely out of fellowship with the Father. How does this happen? There are a number of causes for this of which sin is probably number one. They have unconfessed sin in their life and their hearts have grown cold and hard because of that. They have learned to ignore the convicting power of the Holy Spirit and continue to live in that sin thinking that everything is ok. Another possible reason is that they have allowed today’s liberal society and social thinking to replace the truths of God’s word. They have accepted the lies that Satan has spewed from his filthy mouth and convinced them that God doesn’t really mean what He says. Oh, they still attend church regularly but wouldn’t recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit if He was visible and was sitting on the pew right beside them. As a matter of fact they are not expecting anything extraordinary to happen and it would scare them to death if it did. They just want the preacher to get done so they can move on with their lives without changing anything. Again the question is does this sound like anyone you know? Or could it be you?

Lastly, I believe that the many of those sitting in our churches today have never come to a real understanding of their sinful condition and truly repented. They may have walked down a church aisle, filled out a card, been baptized, or a multitude of other things but they are still empty on the inside. They are attempting to earn their entrance into Heaven by doing instead of trusting. Trusting in the sacrifice that God provided in the death and resurrection of His son Jesus. Trusting in His righteousness instead of their own. The way to recognize this type of person is in the way they live outside the church. There is no evidence of biblical fruit in their lives and they certainly do not live according to God’s word. Another way to say it is they are lost. Does this sound like anyone you know? Could it be you?

In closing, we have looked at the negative side of this issue by describing these three type of people. But I know that they are others in our churches today that are the real deal. They’ve had a real life conversion experience and they live everyday like it. They are in fellowship with the Father and have a life of prayer and study that is so detrimental to their spiritual growth. They are hungry for God’s word whether they hear it from the pulpit or they experience it through their personal study. They know what it means to confess their sin on a regular basis to maintain that fellowship. Does this sound like anyone you know? I hope it is you.

Let’s pray that God will bring revival to His church and His people so that those who don’t know Him will see Him at work and come to a saving knowledge of His son Jesus. Amen and amen.