Many studies today measure the church's effectiveness in our culture. The numbers are shocking. Per the Barna Research Group, there are about 360,000 churches in America. Current numbers tell us that only 15% of these churches are growing and only 2% to 5% of the churches are experiencing NEW conversion growth. In other words, 95% to 98% of the churches in America are either losing or stagnant. Is that true of your church? Has your church touched the lives of anyone from the world? If not, why not?
The statistic that breaks my heart is the one that Josh McDowell gives in his book, "The Last Christian Generation." In it he reveals that 85% of youth who come from Christian homes do NOT have a true biblical worldview. In other words, the very basics of Christianity are missing. Ouch! That means 85% of Christian youth do not believe the Bible and the Bible only is the standard for living. Nor do they believe that Jesus is the only door. They have no sensitivity to filter their thoughts and decisions through the Spirit of God. Their churches have failed them. How about the youth that have passed through your church? Are your statistics any better? If not, you have some very serious questions to ask!
This new American churchiness is becoming one of "no wrongs" and "everyone is going to heaven". It is a hodgepodge of multiple ideologies, with the main objective being self-fulfillment and self-satisfaction. Almost all Christian denominations have incorporated many of these doctrines without even knowing it. Or they are purposely collaborating and compromising with the culture to gain numbers.
God's church was supposed to reach the world. Instead the world is reaching the church. Worldly, humanistic views have crept into my church and is dumbing down our people as well. We are losing! The quality people are leaving. Have you watched the Exodus? Are they leaving in your church as well? What does that tell you? Are you asking the right questions? Is it possible that God is calling His Church out of the church?
Let's sum up what I see. American Christians are not bringing in the lost. They are not even reaching their own youth. They live the same way and chase the same things as the world. Their marriages and families have the same failure rate. No matter what church or denomination I go into there are multiple factions competing against each other. Doesn't the Bible say that, "A house divided against itself cannot stand?" Matt 12:25 They are not answering the last prayer of Christ in John 17, that we all be ONE even as He and His Father are one. Do you see this Oneness in your church? If not, why not? If we are not fulfilling Christ's last prayer for His church, will we? If we won't, are we just a decoy? Just keeping the lukewarm and foolish virgins pacified until it's too late?
I've had the pleasure to preach in hundreds of churches in over 20 different countries and 50 states as well as numerous denominations and cultures. Yet I do not see Christians exhibiting more kindness and faithfulness then the Mormons I know. Nor do they have more self-control than the Muslims. More peace than the Buddhists. More joy than the atheists. If God truly lives in them, which is the essence of the gospel, shouldn't we expect Christians to be different from everyone else? Isn't the Real gospel the power of Christ in us? If the power of Christ is in us then we truly should exude with the fruit of the spirit which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22, 23 If I found a local church that exemplified these traits, to a reasonable degree, I think I'd died and gone to heaven. I'd join it tomorrow. I'd embrace it. I'd bring all my friends and acquaintances. How does your church measure up to Gods ruler? Or are you afraid to ask the questions?
Instead, what I consistently find is what resembles the showdown between the 850 decoy prophets of Baal in Elijah's day and God's man on the scene, Elijah. 1Kings 18 The 850 decoys carried on with a loud, passionate worship gathering that lasted from morning till evening. But nothing happened. Just the same dull, stale, powerless false worship service. However, when the true representative of God took over they all, including the decoys, experienced the power of God. Fire! God was on the scene! Is God on the scene in your church? Is your church producing Godly fruit? My favorite part of that illustrative story comes when it is all over and the decoys are saying, "The Lord - He is God! The Lord- He is God! They were in awe of God's presence. They were in awe of an authentic service with the power of God demonstrated. They were in awe of the God of Elijah. Are others in awe of your God? Do they sense the presence of God in your service? Do they see the demonstration of God in your marriage and family?
What happens at the Christian gatherings you attend? Is it like the power behind Elijah or like the loud noises and murmurings of the decoy prophets? In the clear majority of situations, the churches are leaving us in our daily living with, No Fire. Powerless Christians! Christians in name only. Merely a mental assent to doctrines and concepts but no power to live above the pull of our flesh and the press of the world. Most of our marriages are coexisting just like the world's. Clearly 85% of our youth are leaving - no fire - no power - just empty words. Are we the decoy? Is your church a decoy? Are these not honest questions that deserve searching out?
Are you sure that if you continue the way you are that you'll somehow find that power? That fire to ignite you as it did the disciples in the upper room? I think that the day has come that those who truly want the gospel that ignites you with power and fire, are going to have to look away from their watered-down churches and go to God and God alone, just like Elijah did in his day. They, like Elijah are going to have to peel away all the pretentiousness and push through all the decoys and like Elijah to find and follow the One true God! History truly does repeat itself.
Sally and I were having lunch with a pastor and his wife when I asked her, "If your husband wasn't the pastor of this church, would you still attend?" She looked to her husband for direction. When I again quizzed her, she said no! I asked why? She said because of the INDIFFERENCE of the people. Yet she struggled with bulimia and her husband struggled with obesity. My heart goes out to them - it really does. But really, all he was offering to his church was conceptualism with no power - no fire. How could their members be any different than their shepherd?
Is that your church? Your leaders can offer nothing more than they possess. Do you have enough confidence in your leader or leadership to follow them into battle? Generally, almost all I've asked this question; agreed they would not. Most explain, "If I got hurt, I think they would just leave me in the field." In my denominated church alone there are more x-members living in the world than members. We lose 43 members for every hundred gained. Barely half the remaining members attend on a semi-frequent basis. In the businesses, I used to be involved in, this would equate to termination or bankruptcy. Are we honestly asking the right questions? Or are we like the frog in the boiling pot of water that just got used to it? Friends--don't get use to it!! Instead, "Lord what would Thou have me to do?" Acts 9:6.
These are hard and heart searching questions that demand honest answers. Why? Because the stakes are too high. The clear majority knew not Elijah's God though they were in God's denominated church. The leadership in Jesus day not only didn't recognize Him but were responsible for crucifying Him. In this our day, are we repeating the history of God's people? It is a sad history. So, "How long halt you between two opinions." 1 Kings 18:21
Are you following a decoy or the Real God?
Asking serious questions,
Jim & Sally