Winter Deer 2
Draining the Church 
"I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly."  
John 10:10

What is draining the life out of the American church? I believe it is the same thing that crippled the religious establishment 2000 years ago when Jesus came to make a course correction.
What is the problem? We are missing the life of Christ living in and through us. Churches today tend to fixate on certain things that are not the ONE ESSENTIAL THING-a living, vibrant, daily, hourly walk with God. Individuals and churches often rivet their attention on other things. Some of these other things may be good things, such as doctrine, standards, prophecy, lifestyle, Christian culture, but they're not the One Essential Thing!
Many of us who have been in and around the church for a long time are used to studying Scripture and listening to good preaching and teaching in order to gain information about the God Who is found in Scripture. Often we use Scripture as a tool to becoming more learned, preparing to lead or participate in a Bible study, teaching and preaching or proving a point. The Word of God in Scripture is our highest authority for faith and practice. In a Word - centered faith, it is possible to be so intent on gaining and proving information about the Word that we miss encountering the Incarnate Word Himself.
Notice how the Desire of Ages page 309 states it: "The greatest deception of the human mind in Christ's day was that a mere assent to the truth constitutes righteousness. In all human experience a theoretical knowledge of the truth has been proved to be insufficient for the saving of the soul. A jealous regard for what is termed theological truth often accompanies a hatred of genuine truth as made manifest in life..."
The same danger still exists. Many take it for granted that they are Christians, simply because they subscribe to certain theological tenets. But they have not brought the truth into practical life... If it does not make them sincere, kind, patient, forbearing, heavenly- minded, it is a curse to its possessors and through their influence is a curse to the world."
So is the Truth Giver living in your heart? Do your children see you forbearing and patient under provocation? Do those in your church who differ from you find you in a vital connection with the Word made flesh? Does your theoretical knowledge cause you to sacrifice your time and energy for the true needs of your spouse? Does your jealous regard for your church trump your love, care and consideration for all its members? Do you think less of those not in your clique? Is your interest in others not in your group superficial and flippant? Do others recognize a consistent lack of Christ living in you? If so, you're helping to drain the church. Your affinity to the truth without a surrendered, dependent connection with the Truth Giver has become the curse that drives members away.
For example, I know a person who is a leader in the church, speaks in the pulpit, teaches Bible classes, yet is at least 60 pounds overweight, who yells and shouts at his children, in public and treats his spouse with the same spirit. What's wrong here? No power! Intellectually converted but experientially not transformed into the image of God. This is dangerous religion. John 4:23 says, "The true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth."
How about you? Have you connected to the Power that gives you power over your appetites, passions, thoughts and words? If not then you are like my friend above. You need a life hid with Christ in God.
Unless each one of us have this experience, we will contribute to draining our own churches. Why? It's called, "Having a form of godliness but denying its power." 2 Timothy 3:5. This Power we deny is the heart of Christianity. It is the One Thing we all must possess, or should I say, it must possess us. Why? Because there is only one thing that brings life, and it is not rules, not standards, not lifestyle, not music--but a Jesus -centered life and experience.
When you are in church and the Holy Spirit whispers for you to encourage or simply talk to that person who is not in your clique - what do you do? This tells me whether you are a follower of Christ or merely a believer in His Word. Following Christ costs us a death to our own self and way.
When someone approaches you in the church and begins to smear someone else what do you do? The sin of omission is just as bad as the sin of commission. What you do or don't do demonstrates whether Christ is living in you, or if you merely, "hold the truth in unrighteousness." Romans 1:18
I think you get the idea? Unless we find and live the One Essential Thing, we will continue to drain our churches of our youth, our new converts and those who just see that we are powerless and self-centered. Powerless Christians can never build up the church - no, they just contribute to draining it of the ones whom Christ wishes to empower.
What would happen if we allowed the Word to take us into a truly Christ-centered experience
that affects our daily thoughts, words, and deeds to all of those around us? Quite simply we would fill our churches rather than drain them. Instead of a serious loss of members there would be a growing, vibrant, living body that DEMONSTRATES that our Jesus lives within us today.
Looking to Jesus,
Jim & Sally
What Will you do Today?