Anytime you want to talk about people in general there are a number of things that must be considered. Folks come from all different walks of life, from all kinds of homes, from so many varied backgrounds and races that it is almost impossible to name them all. We know that there are no two people exactly alike. They may be similar in some aspects and may even look like each other but if you look close enough you will soon spot the difference. Even identical twins have some distinguishing mark that makes them different in physical appearance. In other words, every person is a one of a kind and God knows everything about each one!
In our Then and Now series we have already presented two major changes that have taken place in our Christian way of life over the last few decades. We have discussed the change in many of the messengers (preachers) and we have looked at how the message has been altered to some extent to satisfy many in the church realm today. Now we are going to focus on what has changed about the membership that makes up the churches of today. Therefore the title Then and Now; The Members.
We opened the post this evening talking about people in general but from this point on we will be focusing on a specific group of people we know as the church members. I’m sure we all realize that this term doesn’t always mean Christian , Believer or any other name you want to attach to a real born again person. A person that has put their total faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit permanently indwells them. So when I use the term members I am talking about anyone who attends a local church on somewhat of a routine basis and may even have some involvement in some of the programs offered by that church.
So let’s get to the point(s). I truly believe that what separates the real Christian/Believer from the “member” is their character. Their Christian character. Their “like Jesus” character. Not some “I’m this way today because I have to be but I will be the way I want to be tomorrow.” character. One of our greatest presidents, Abraham Lincoln, once said “Character is like a tree and reputation is like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” There seems to be real character missing in a lot of folks these days.
Now, let me take you back a few years, more like a few decades. Let’s go inside a small local church of that day. When you went in you were usually met with a firm handshake and a “glad to see you’ salutation. Let’s assume it’s Sunday morning. When you take a seat you look around and you see families just like yours seated around the building. Most of the time it was mom and dad all of the kids. There was no nursery, no children’s church. There wasn’t anyone assigned to take care of the kids. That was the parents job. The kids were expected to sit, be still and listen to the preacher. Now I realize this may have not been fun for the kids in their eyes but none the less that was the way it was. And the older kids and teenagers certainly were expected to sit up and act like adults. Sounds pretty tough doesn’t it? Everyone was there to worship in their singing and hear what God had to say through God’s man. I was in many of those services and there is no doubt in my mind that the Holy Spirit was present in that place. And the fact is, you saw the same people at church on Sunday evening and on Wednesday night. You could hardly tell a difference in attendance numbers between any of the meeting times. So, why was that? Because churches were full of people who truly loved the Lord and wanted to worship Him alongside other believer’s. They had real character. Christian character. They were who they were and not trying to be someone else. The services weren’t for entertainment or pleasure and the people were committed to Jesus and His church.
By comparison now, let’s take a look at what is happening in most churches today. The family arrives and immediately everyone is looking to go their separate ways. The kids are dumped off at the nursery and the teenagers make a beeline for the youth hangout. Mom and dad find a seat near some of their friends so they can talk about the activities of the previous week and what their coming week is going to be like. If you were able to overhear all of the conversations, I think you would be hard pressed to find one that involved anything to do with expectations of what God is doing, what He is going to do and how they can be a part of it. Once the service starts you will be lucky to hear one of the old hymns of the faith, or a worshipful choir number if there is even a choir. But you will hear plenty of what everyone calls praise and worship choruses, usually led by a ‘worship leader’ and his special entourage. It will appear like they have all been caught up in some religious trance and supposedly the congregation is now prepared for the sermon that is to follow. Once the service is over everyone try’s to beat everyone else to the restaurant so they can eat and then get about the business at hand which most likely is something other than resting. Let’s now go back to the church for the Sunday evening service. When you enter you will generally only see senior adults there. There won’t be any younger people. They won’t be there because there is nothing planned for the children or the youth. Besides that, it has been a long week and there is another one coming up. And you will find much the same scenario on Wednesday evenings as you do on Sunday evenings unless there are programs for the kids and youth. There is so much of the world in our churches today that you can’t tell them apart from the world. God help us!
I know I have been rather harsh and sarcastic about today’s churches and I certainly realize that all churches are not totally like what I have described. However, when you compare the then to the now, it is very obvious which one would God be more pleased with and which would have the greatest positive impact on the world around us. I want to be a part of that kind of church.
I guess the real question is, why has it gotten to this point? My personal opinion, and it is only opinion, that the majority of church members have never had a real encounter with the Savior and the Holy Spirit does not reside in them. The bible says that we are a new creation when we are born again and therefore it is evident in our lives. The other problem is that many Believers are not staying in God’s Word and the result is a lack of spiritual growth so they remain uncommitted babes and act just like the lost world. The world has subtly and slowly infiltrated our churches and we have not been spiritually mature enough to recognize it as it happened. Is the condition irreversible? Well, the bible says that nothing is impossible with God so there is no doubt it is going to take His mighty intervention. However, it also requires a repentant heart on our part and a turning back to Him. We must humble our hearts and pray and He will hear us and heal our land. I pray that this will happen, and as I’ve said before, it needs to begin with me.
May God richly bless each of you and I pray that we together will make a difference for the kingdom of God.