Read a couple interesting articles today, both of which have great and in my view, flawed points.
IS the church “in decline” in the U.S.? What about all those local churches and house churches few know about or poll on all such matters?
DOES open source (I write this on a Linux computer by the way) mean “no structure/anything goes”? Nope.
Form never equals substance. Is God open? Perfect? Righteous in all His judgments? Christians believe He is and still we also disagree with Him at times! No shock that those who disbelieve in church or even God would disagree with Him? And disagreeing with a load of imperfect, sometimes sinning saints, same-same.
Do individual Christians as well as local churches at times “sandbag” those who might otherwise join in faith and relationship? Of course. It’s wrong but nothing new, sad to say.
Are we to seek numbers or authentic relationships? I think the Bible itself is clear on this… consider Jesus talking about focus on the 1 who is lost and leaving the 99 behind at times. People are more than numbers and nobody wants to be treated like one.
Like I said, I agree with points and disagree with others made by all 3 of the folks presenting the ideas. Rather than unpack all that, I’d rather spend time in this blog offering a few reasons why some of the negative things are as they are followed by what I believe are time-tested, viable solutions.
At the end of the day, love invites.
If you are God (Who “-is- love”) you may well command also.
Right off the bat, not only do believers but those not of the Christian faith love promises kept… but disdain commands! I can think of many ways people of faith as well as agnostics and atheists line up for promises and kisses but run from commandments and personal crosses. Nothing particularly new about this!
There were certainly those in the early church (as now) who “commanded” people but always those already in the faith. Some of the scriptures that make this plain include 1 Tim. 4.11, 1 Thes. 4.2, 2 Thes. 3.10, 1 Jn. 2.17
In terms of mission, of outreach to people who have not been following Jesus, how do we see (now and in history) people turning to faith in Him and linking with those Christ-followers in their immediate geographical locale?
It’s not rocket science and it’s not a mountain too large to climb.
First, the church, biblically speaking, isn’t a building nor series of them. The biblical term means “assembly”, it is a gathering of people who love and follow Jesus.
Secondly, for all the reality and truth of Christian churches in decline, people leaving or staying away from them, it’s the people rather than the buildings or I would largely argue the people more than the programs which are problematic. It’s not “structure A vs. structure B or C”.
If WE (you and I, dear saint) aren’t willing to serve people in love and motivated by God’s love serve those around us, all bets are off as to what sort of fruitfulness our local assembly will ever produce.
Let me add that all true Christian believers in the U.S. are not any one “brand” though at times we may be though of in terms of “ALL Christians”, “ALL evangelicals”, “ALL name-the-denomination-or-church-association-or-even-individual-local-church) ” are like THAT!!”
See, you don’t have to be a Christian to judge a person or entire people group.
All are not right-wing Republicans. “All” do not fully agree with all other Christians.
Most know this but such sense often never enters the conversation.
Conversation is of course a huge need, not simply one-way lecture. Authority issues (who gets their way) always include or separate people and this is as plainly obvious OUTSIDE any form of Christian gathering as it is within the churches.
Christians have not cornered the market on pettiness, ignorance, selfishness snubbing others or straight-up hypocrisy. Fact of history don’t you think?
So here is my very simplistic response to “the church (ALL of it in every form and place??!!) is IRRELEVANT and I ain’t messin’ wit’ ’em!”:
Not always, but often it’s someone, a few someones or a large group from a local congregation of Christians who help meet actual needs for needy people around where they live and/or meet.
Historically the church has grown in times of war, famine, natural disasters and when individuals didn’t have the money, transportation or in other ways, availability to meet their own needs.
In terms of meeting loving, caring people who helped with food, clothing, clean water, housing, helped build/serve/visit/take people to hospital or help out those in jail or prison, the long historical reality is that such people loved enough and authentically did so over a period of time… which resulted in many of those they served to faith and following Jesus Christ.
Yes, those 6 things Jesus spoke of in Matthew chapter 25: food, water, clothing, shelter, hospital and prison visitation/care/aftercare still ring loudly to an increasing number of people who either don’t have access or have been refused access to such relationships and practical service among others and in other programs.
The “sky is falling” as it always has!
When we begin to talk about Bible definitions of sin people feel judged. When we neglect serving as we’re each able to via our individual gifts, talents and yes, time and sacrifice, they ARE judged: they are judged unworthy and feel like it.
Unrighteous people in and outside the churches (local congregations) often point fingers. Books and web blogs are written about what to do.
Love, serving to meet genuine needs, two-way conversations that build relationship and not merely “I got what I wanted” dependency can be quantified by a historical reality: sheep go where they’re fed.
Now, if a person WANTS to eat garbage, live as a “goat”, there’s nothing I know of that can automatically stop them. They don’t want to be fed.
We -all- will never in this life agree about everything in terms of how to “do” church, on various doctrines and so on. What we all agree on is that when we meet another’s need with love, compassion and respect (though rarely tacit agreement on ALL points!!), good things happen.
A scriptural assembly is a gathering of people God rules even when those attending often themselves don’t like it! A waste of time is where the gathered people rule and the Spirit is grieved and quenched… and let’s ’em have their way though they actively reject His Word and will as a matter of course… rejecting The Comforter for comfort.
It all begins with me. Relationship issues, lack of loving obedience and servanthood via my own life are the real enemy.
In part, my hope comes from the reality that there are genuine, loving Christ-followers who have served and won others to a sound faith- past and present.
An authentic walk with Jesus in our daily life and loving service for others combined are still our best answer to the questions that come our way.
Thanks for stopping by 🙂