I found this in a record of our church’s history the other day. “The good of the church and her members dedication, conduct, and loyalty were expected.” Many ask what is happening to the church today as we face lower baptisms, higher ratio of member:convert, trouble meeting the bills, lower, and leaving, attendance, and a general disregard for the things of church both physical and spiritual. The answers we come to are sometimes the following:
- We need new music.
- We need a light show.
- We need redecoration.
- We need to go casual.
- We need new leadership.
Sometimes we just blame the generation we are not for the problems we face.
- If the old people would just get on board with technology.
- If the young people would just appreciate the tradition.
- If these children would stop moving around and drawing on the walls.
- If the youth would just respect something.
Many, if not all, of these reasons and finger-pointings mask the real issue. If you review much of what I just listed you will find that it is cosmetic. You can put makeup on a naked mole rat but at the end of the day you still have a naked mole rat.
Jesus phrased it this way when he called down the Pharisees, ” You white-washed tombs!”
He knew that although they appeared righteous they were still dead inside. No amount of cosmetic changes we make in our churches matter because we have a heart problem. We come off to the general public like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz: stiff, rusty, and robotic. Is there hope? Yes. However, like a friend of mine who just had a heart attack, we will need to change our diet, start exercising, and other internal changes. His prescription dealt with lifestyle issues, not cosmetic ones.
Or churches need to return to where our church started. We need godly leadership ( not staff ) to model and demand the following of membership.
Dedication to God – we have often been taught that we are to put God as #1. I will not argue this point other than how this is usually explained. We have been taught to line up our life in order with God and family at the top. I think it should be expressed differently. Instead of linear we should look at it like a wheel. Wheels only have one hub. Our life only has room for one hub around which everything rotates. Jesus said we cannot serve both God and Man. We must choose. If God is not at the center, we have problems.
Conduct becoming a believer – I admit this can be a sticky issue. Who are we to judge, right? “Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matthew 7:1 ESV) There is judging and then there is accountability. Every Bible-believing church has the Bible as the standard by which we live. Titus is very clear that the older are to train the younger. This verse also means that the younger are to submit to the teaching of the older. In this way, we manage our conduct and presentation to the community. Why have we moved away from this biblical perspective? We must “spur one another on to love and good works.” The horse doesn’t like getting spurred but has been trained to obey.
Loyalty to the local church – We give too many outs to people. In the early days of our church I read that the deacons and Sunday School director communicated about the attendance of people. If people quit attending they were visited. This visit had to do with support. It was believed that if you were not attending you were not supporting the church. Your loyalty was in question. There was an easy way to quantify this loyalty: attendance. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (Hebrews 10:24, 25 ESV). We excuse people too often for foolish things because we are either envious they are going or ashamed to demand that which Scripture demands. If a person continued to not attend, the conclusion was they did not support the church and were removed from the roll. This was last resort option, but made the point that loyalty to the local church was important.
We are facing many issues in today’s culture. Many of us are striving to embrace some new option when the old might work just fine if given the chance. Jesus said He would build the church, let’s stop second-guessing.