For years now, I have been researching and thinking about why the church in America seems to be losing the war against evil. Whether evil takes the form of outright, open opposition to God or the form of an increasing apathy of people calling themselves Christians, nobody can dispute we have a church in crisis.
In Christianity, we are called to be witnesses of the truth – the Gospel of Jesus Christ being Lord and Savior of the world. This witness is THE MISSION of the church.
When Jesus rose from the dead, victory for the church was assured. Jesus gives His disciples marching orders to go be witnesses of this great truth.
Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judaea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
But along with what we say regarding the truth, it’s just as important what we do as witnesses. Jesus gave a call to action, not just words, in the Great Commission:
Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Our witness is made up of what we say and what we do and Jesus supplied us everything we need to know in His words. So why are we not getting the job done? Why are people getting further from God instead of becoming His disciples?
These are the reasons why I think the church is failing at it’s mission to be witnesses:
1. Church structure is the biggest culprit. Church as we know it today is a business. At the core of it’s priorities is money. Money to pay for staff, buildings, utilities, programs, etc. Media Christians always like to quote statistics that show Christians to be more generous with their money than the average person. What these statistics don’t show, however, is where does this money go to? Feeding the poor?
According to a recent study published by the Evangelical Christian Credit Union, here is a breakdown of how churches spend the tithes and offerings from church congregations.
– 82% goes to personnel, building, and administration expenses
– 3% goes to children’s and youth programs
– 2% goes to adult programs
– 1% goes to benevolence to help those in need
Is it any wonder unbelievers have a negative view of the church? Until churches turn their spending budgets on their head, they will have no credibility in their community.
Along with the money issue, the personnel structure itself quenches any efforts by the Holy Spirit to grow the church. Having paid pastors and other staff members prohibits the Body of Christ from functioning like it was designed. Too often, these professionals make all the decisions and don’t listen to other vital parts of the church body as to what activities the church should be engaged in. Power, money, and self glory are the drivers for decision making and what the Bible says on these things always gets ignored. And for those who have often wondered, there is no biblical justification for paying someone a salary to run a church. In fact, the Bible warns against these types of people as do some of the earliest church documents like the Catechism of the Apostles.
Chapter 11. Concerning Teachers, Apostles, and Prophets. Whosoever, therefore, comes and teaches you all these things that have been said before, receive him. But if the teacher himself turns and teaches another doctrine to the destruction of this, hear him not. But if he teaches so as to increase righteousness and the knowledge of the Lord, receive him as the Lord. But concerning the apostles and prophets, act according to the decree of the Gospel. Let every apostle who comes to you be received as the Lord. But he shall not remain more than one day; or two days, if there’s a need. But if he remains three days, he is a false prophet. And when the apostle goes away, let him take nothing but bread until he lodges. If he asks for money, he is a false prophet. And every prophet who speaks in the Spirit you shall neither try nor judge; for every sin shall be forgiven, but this sin shall not be forgiven. But not every one who speaks in the Spirit is a prophet; but only if he holds the ways of the Lord. Therefore from their ways shall the false prophet and the prophet be known. And every prophet who orders a meal in the Spirit does not eat it, unless he is indeed a false prophet. And every prophet who teaches the truth, but does not do what he teaches, is a false prophet. And every prophet, proved true, working unto the mystery of the Church in the world, yet not teaching others to do what he himself does, shall not be judged among you, for with God he has his judgment; for so did also the ancient prophets. But whoever says in the Spirit, Give me money, or something else, you shall not listen to him. But if he tells you to give for others’ sake who are in need, let no one judge him.
In the early church, everyone was expected to work to contribute to the poor. Biblically, we could easily make the argument that someone collecting a salary from the rest of the congregation is stealing from the church. In recent years, many professional pastors have repented of this and given this up as a career. And as you would expect, many of these pastors talk of a “freedom” they now feel to actually follow Jesus and His words.
This leads us to the 2nd thing hurting our witness.
2. False teaching has run rampant in the modern church for decades. Thanks to the rise of the seeker sensitive movement, the church has raised up an entire generation of Christians that are illiterate when it comes to the word of God. Instead, paid professionals graduating from seminaries have been schooled in pop psychology and philosophy. What many Christians don’t understand is that the psychology and philosophy methods being taught and used today originate from atheists like Sigmund Freud and Rousseau, both very disturbed individuals who had an all out hatred for God.
The result is a church that has no response to the culture around them about sin and suffering and how Jesus Christ can transform them into new people with a new purpose that brings joy instead of anxiety. Instead, we try to console the suffering and excuse the sin. That’s the whole purpose behind psychology. And it fails.
Until the church returns to the whole counsel of the Bible, the church will continue to not only be ineffective, but will become worldly and under the influence of Satan. The church can’t serve Jesus and the world at the same time. If you know your bible, then this is a plain truth.
And finally, the 3rd thing that is hurting the witness of the church.
3. Rampant sin without church discipline within the very congregation of believers destroys the power that should be the witness of the church.
When the church holds to a worldview that does not differ from the world around it, how can it possibly be a witness for Jesus Christ?
When Christians identify themselves as pro-choice, pro-homosexuality, pro-divorce, etc. they nullify the very teachings of Christ and trap others in captivity to the sin of the world. When the church fails to discipline these people and their views, its making a statement that the world matters more than Gods Kingdom.
Until Christians get these 3 things back in line with Gods word, the witness of the church will continue to be powerless.