“Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
which must be curbed with bit and bridle,
or it will not stay near you.”
We’re striking some chords here. I’m getting reports of these conversations being discussed among church elders and lead pastors as positive motivators to change. I’m sure there are others who aren’t happy at all. Change isn’t easy. That’s why we must sometimes force ourselves to look into the mirror. Look, we all know that sanctification is a process. There are times that God shines a light on things that we never noticed before. That light shines for a reason.
I became a believer while in an Episcopal church. I left that church because the more I came to see the bible as the Word of God, the more I could see how little they regarded it. It was hard for me to understand why they even went to church. Their service is very much like a Catholic service, liturgical in the mechanics. They were sticklers about ceremony. However, they had no problem setting aside biblical truth if it didn’t match their worldview. Still, church was very important to them. I concluded that church, to them, is more a social club than anything.
Do evangelical churches run the same risk as what I observed in the Episcopal church? Sure, we claim to be sticklers about the bible rather than ceremony, but do the words spoken simply go in one ear and out the other with little effect on our lives? If the word of God “is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of the spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart,” are we seeing evidence of this in the Evangelical church?
Before you answer that, think about what the Word of God is capable of. First, it is the vehicle that God uses to save unbelievers (Hebrews 10). It also is the vehicle used to harden hearts (Isaiah 6). It is also the vehicle in which we are to grow as Christians (2 Timothy 4).
The United States has now been called a “Post-Christian” nation. I believe this is accurate. In just a few decades, the very fabric of America has dramatically changed. Could it be that the church holds some responsibility in this?
On the other hand, might we have a misunderstanding of the very nature of Church membership? I’m not talking about the building. I’m talking about the Body of Christ. We cannot get around a couple of basic truths:
Matthew 7:14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
v. 21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Could it be that we aren’t discerning about who is sitting in our pews? Now, please, I’m not suggesting a witch hunt, but we would be wise to recognize that the Word of God applies to us. Let’s skip back a couple verses in Matthew.
v. 15-20 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
The good thing is that you and I don’t need to be the ones who judge. We can let that be up to the Word of God. But, let’s wait on this. First, let’s see if it is even possible that our churches might have far fewer sheep than goats.
• Tithe. “Christians are giving at 2.5% of income; during the Great Depression it was 3.3%. Only 3-5% of Americans who give to their local church do so through regular tithing. When surveyed, 17% of Americans state that they regularly tithe. For families making $75k+, 1% of them gave at least 10% in tithing.” https://nonprofitssource.com/online-giving-statistics/
• Pornography. “68% of church-going men and over 50% of pastors view porn on a regular basis.” https://conquerseries.com/15-mind-blowing-statistics-about-pornography-and-the-church/
Folks, we have huge problems in our pews. Yes, true believers struggle with sin, but we cannot deny that something is wrong. These are just two examples. Our congregations, as a whole, are not significantly different that the rest of the world. My conclusion is this.
1. We have more goats in our church than we realize.
2. Confusion in identifying and including these in the congregation is significantly and negatively impacting the sheep.
3. We are accountable for our failure to correct this. See Matthew 24:42-51
The good news is that the Word of God, delivered in a hard-hitting manner like the prophets of old, will soon correct this problem. It will certainly shake things up – big time – but isn’t that what we want? Isn’t that what we should seek?
To be continued.
Copyright © 2019 Scott Powers