I was strolling through my Facebook feed as I do regularly looking for prayer opportunities and to see how my friends and family are doing. As usual, I came across many different kinds of advertisements, some for health programs some for religious events/activities. One of the advertisements raised my spiritual antenna. It was promoting a text program for churches who are struggling with dwindling church attendance. I read the body of the advertisement and what stood out immediately was there was not one word about God or the Holy Spirit. Now I do understand and see nothing wrong with 'church' members using current technology to communicate with each other, but this advertisement was talking about how to get 'new' members or how to keep those who just visit a few times. The next day I was looking at news websites and noticed on one of them, another advertisement about another program to help churches 'retain' or get new members using email. Again no mention of God or The Holy Spirit. Then I went online and googled 'texting in church' and many different 'programs' came up. Some of wording in the body of their webpages mentioned some things like,
"It can be disheartening for you to see new guests visit your church but don't return" and that "'texting' programs to help retain membership and help with follow up visits". Many of the other text or email recommendations echo the same underlying message, "You Need Some Man Made Method To Keep People In Your Church Or To Get New Members In Your Church". A few mentioned that the 'church' needed to represent Christ when guests arrived but otherwise nothing about God or the Holy Spirit or Jesus.
Why I am posing about this? Because of the alarming trend to supplant the work of The Holy Spirit and God/Jesus in the workings in the current church body with 'man made traditions/technologies'. Does the bible say that 'Paul' added to the church daily? Or John, Peter, Matthew, or any other apostle? Is it the work of man that keeps a church together? Was it that the 1st Century church had a good 'music program'; or maybe it was their great 'social activates' program. It is a fact that God works 'through' people. We are the clay He is The Potter, humans are His vessel, God through His Holy Spirit indwells 'real' Christians and that power is shown 'through' people. The POWER works through the people for them to do good works. The bible tells us 'how' the church grew in the beginning, why do we think that the way it grows today should be any different? The apostles and other disciples went through the land with POWER-healing, casting out demons, working other miracles and preaching the gospel, and the new 'converts' lived together, and shared everything/sold property to the benefit of the whole body, they ate together and studied the word of God together and "GOD added to their 'church body' daily. Acts 2:47. Jesus's last commands before ascending back to heaven were, "GO into all the world, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit". Matthew 28:19.
Fast forward to today, how many church bodies are 'going' out into the world to 'preach the good news'? No where in the Bible in the New Testament does it say ANYTHING about Paul, Peter, John, Andrew, Bartholomew, James, Matthew, Matthias, or Simon EVER going out into the world to tell the lost , 'go to the church is Ephesus, Philippi, Thyatira, Laodicea, or Corinth or any other church to 'get saved' or 'go to one of these churches to hear a sermon' or 'come to our church for pancakes and to hear about God'. Paul stated in 1 Corinthians Chapter 1:18-24:
"The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent." Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? HAS NOT GOD MADE FOOLISH THE WISDOM OF THIS WORLD? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; BUT WE PREACH CHRIST CRUCIFIED, to the Jews a stumbling block and the Greeks foolishness, but TO THOSE WHO ARE CALLED, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God."
And in the following chapter, Paul says starting at verse 1, "And I brethren, WHEN I CAME TO YOU..."(Paul went to them, not the non-believers coming to him.) And again he reiterates that he did not spend time with the Corinthian believers telling them about how great the music program was, or what a great youth ministry they had, or how God was going to prosper them, Paul said in verses 2 through 5, "For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in DEMONSTRATIONS OF THE SPIRIT AND OF POWER, that YOUR FAITH SHOULD NOT BE IN THE WISDOM OF MEN BUT IN THE POWER OF GOD."
These 'programs' say they can 'teach' churches how to 'attract' and 'retain' 'members. Does God call all men to repentance or does a church text or email saying, "Glad you visited our church, we would love to see you again, please contact us if you have any questions." satisfy the requirement of 'going' into all the world with the good news of the gospel? and another question, why are people visiting and not staying in churches around the country? All the studies on religious activities show 'church' attendance is down, and that is one of the reasons we have all these new 'build your church' programs have sprung up. But what is sad is how many churches buy into these type of programs. Some of these programs charge $200 to $1000 for using their services. When did the Holy Spirit need 'help' appealing to people? God said He knows who are His, that His true people hear His voice. True believers in Christ 'plant' the seeds, that is tell the lost/unbelieving about the whole gospel, if they believe, then they get directed toward a local church established body. But the part of making the lost believe is not our job. We tell the gospel and God makes the heart transplant, IF the person is willing to allow Him to do it. Jesus says in Revelations 3:20 " Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him and dine with him and him with Me" and "Many are called but few are chosen." Matthew 22:14. The point is we don't know who's heart is open to the gospel, only God knows this, but what we do too often is judge the outer appearance of a person and make assumptions that that person will not listen to the gospel. "Do not look at the appearance or at his physical stature...For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7.We are charged with sharing the gospel to the whole world. We should not be treating the lost like a buffet line- 'well I don't like bikers, but I will talk to older people; I don't like black people, but I will talk to Hispanics; Young people won't listen to anyone, there's no point in talking to them.'' God is no respector of person, why are we?
No where in the New Testament is there anything direction on what to do if a church starts to lose members, what it does say about 'losing' members is that we are living in the time that 1 John in Chapter 3, warned believers to be aware of, that true believers are not to love the world or anything in the world, and that those who love the world- the lust of eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life- that some of those worldly people would be a part of the church, but when they leave, the church was not told to outreach them, check in on them, John says that they, those who left' WERE NOT REAL CHRISTIANS! Johns directions to the church were not about how to 'build the congregation' it was about keeping those who were real Christians abiding in the truth. Now in the church body, something that is completely lax in today's churches, is church discipline. Jesus says that we confront our brother about their sin, if they won't listen then we tell one or two more, and then if they still won't listen, then we tell it to the whole church, if they still won't repent, then "But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector'. Matthew 18:15-17; and real Christians are not to even 'eat' with with an unrepentant 'believer' those who call themselves "Christians" but they habitually live a life of blatant sin. The church turns those people over to Satan, and it is up to that person to repent and God to brings them back to the church body. The key is this is for 'believers'. So when actual church members decide to stop going to 'church' meetings, you let them go, as per the word they were never really in the church to begin with.
The early church did not have a problem with church 'retention' because it was the Grace of God and the Power of the Holy Spirit and the Love that each church body had within them to keep them together. Many of the churches today may have many 'good' programs, but one thing is missing, actually that is One person is missing, Jesus. Jesus tells us this in Revelation Chapter 2, verses 2 through 4, "I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil...and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My names's sake and have not become weary. NEVERTHELESS, I have this against you, that you have left your first love." Why are young people leaving the faith they grew up with? Why are church buildings closing? Why are churches turning to text/email or any other man made gimmicks to 'retain' membership in their congregations? One of the reasons is the lack of love in them. I've attended some church services and would have gotten a better reception at a cemetery. I've been to other church services where I could not tell the difference between the church and a club scene, especially by the manner of clothing worn by the women-the same clothes they wear 'bouncing in the club', they feel no shame in wearing to 'church'. Some churches preach that the gifts of the spirit are no longer available, when this contradicts what is in the Bible, Jesus said that He will NEVER leave us or forsake us, why would Jesus give the new church power but then take it back from current believers? Jesus did not say, "Just for a few years, you will be able to take poison, be bitten by serpents but they won't harm you, that you will be able to cast out demons, heal the sick, give the blind their site, but this power is only good for a few years and then you are on your own". That is how many churches operate today, on their own. The church system today brings to life fully the verse, "EVERYONE DOES WHAT IS RIGHT IN THEIR OWN EYES." Today we have a collidiscope of choices: Lutheran, Baptist, Episcopalian, 7th Day Adventist, Church of Christ, Church of God, Church of God in Christ, Mormon, Jehovah's Witness, Methodist, Rastafarian, Pentecostal, Non-Denomination, Catholic, and many other variations of 'Christianity'. It's like Baskin Robbins, just pick your favorite flavor. There's also no truth, just the doctrines of men.
JESUS SAID "I DO NOT PRAY FOR THESE ALONE, BUT ALSO FOR THOSE WHO WILL BELIEVE IN ME THROUGH THEIR WORD; THAT THEY ALL MAY BE 'ONE', AS YOU FATHER, ARE IN ME, AND I IN YOU; THAT THEY ALSO MAY BE ONE IN US, THAT THE WORLD MAY BELIEVE THAT YOU SENT ME. AND THE GLORY WHICH YOU GAVE ME I HAVE GIVEN THEM, THAT THEY MAY BE ONE JUST AS WE ARE ONE" JOHN 17:20-22
One of common judgments about Christianity today that the perishing say, "Why should I become a Christian when you guys aren't even united." and "What is the point of becoming a Christian, you're life is no different than mine." It is understandable why they think these things, because they are partly true. It is true that Christians today are not united, and it is true many self proclaimed Christians lives look no different than an unbelievers. But a person is making a serious mistake in denying the gospel based on those truths, because there is no excuse for not believing. Man is without excuse when the evidence for God is crystal clear in this world and by His Word, the Bible. When each man/woman stands before the Judgement Seat of Christ, they will not be able to blame fake Christianity for their reason for not believing; and on the flip side, those fake Christians will have a very rude awakening because they will be without excuse as well for the same reason, we all have the Word of God and His Word with instructions for how to live a godly life, acceptable to God; and it says that His own are indwelt with the Holy Spirit. If you don't have the Holy Spirit, you are not saved. "For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace, because the carnal mind is an enemy against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, or indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, IF INDEED THE SPIRIT OF GOD DWELLS IN YOU. NOW IF ANYONE DOES NOT HAVE THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST, HE (THAT PERSON WITHOUT THE HOLY SPIRIT) IS NOT HIS (DOES NOT BELONG TO CHRIST)." Romans 8:6-9;
Christians are to go out into their communities, their jobs, their schools, where ever proclaiming the good news of Jesus. If people are not staying in a particular church, the answers they should be looking for are not outside, but inside, the key question to ask themselves is, WHY ARE THEY LEAVING IN THE FIRST PLACE? Just because a church may have a large number of members does not mean that God is blessing that church. Jesus tells us that WIDE is the way to destruction and NARROW is the way to truth and FEW find it. Are people staying in a particular church because they truly feel God's presence and they actually experience the real miracle doing power of God and the love of God can be clearly seen and they want to learn and grow more in Christ or are people staying in a particular church because they like the music, they like the pastor, they like the social outings, they like the fact that the church service ends exactly at 12:00 pm and the pastor tells them exactly what they want to hear, that it's okay if you engage in homosexual behavior God loves you, it's okay if you can't help sinning, God understands and forgives you, and they don't talk about hell or repentance or any of that 'scary' stuff? They say, "Come as you are", and some do come, but they leave the same way, unchanged, unconverted, even when they 'join' that particular church body.
This quote is an example of one of the problems in the church. Jesus said, "Don't Judge". Did Jesus say that the church is not to talk about sin and what happens to those who don't believe in Him? Absolutely not. I have already given the scripture that Jesus Himself said to confront sin the the church. If you see a brother or sister in a clearly defined sin, and you say to them, "Hey, stop doing XYZ". That is not judging, that is warning and trying to help them as instructed by God. Now if you said, "Hey, stupid idiot, stop doing that you are going to hell". That is judging. You don't know the heart of a person, only God does. Only God knows who are truly His. When we take on Christ, it does not mean we live perfect sinless lives from that point on. God does forgive when the person is truly repentant, but that does not give us a license to just keep living in sin. I won't go into that as I have covered that in a previous post, but just to reiterate that there are very dire warnings for the fake 'Christian'. And there is an answer to this anonymous quote, the 'reason' they do the 'things they do' is because they are born with sin and they cannot save or cure themselves, only God can. Period. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians Chapter 5 that we are to, with the power of Jesus Christ, to 'deliver up the sinning Christian' and to expel/put away/kick out the immoral/evil person from that congregation. How would a church expel the evil person without first identifying ie' 'judging' their behavior and coming to the conclusion that it is sin in the first place?
In Luke Chapter 10, Jesus is instructing His disciples on what they are to do when it comes to 'evangelizing: saying, "The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few;" and that those disciples were to GO to houses/cities with the gospel message, not that the disciples were to bring people back to Jesus or to a church building. It is a verifiable fact that the 'laborers are few'. Statistics on church evangelism 'programs' are abysmal, many congregations do not even bother to send their members out into their world to share the gospel. Barna Group's, a respected research program, research on religious beliefs and on one particular study on church evangelism shows that not only is evangelism going down across the board, that over 70% percent of Protestants believe they have the responsibility of sharing their faith but when it comes to actual action less than 30% actually do share their faith with ONE person in a 12 month period! And other denominations score even less. One interesting point of the research was the result that high income earner "Christians" are the least of all to share their faith.
You are in denial if you don't think America is not sick. America is sick to it's very core. When you have churches turning to man and not God for help with soul winning, we know there is a serious problem. When you have a person with a medical disease at first you can't tell anything is wrong, it is when the disease breaks out on the skin, and the sores and warts and breakdown of tissue lets you know that something is really wrong. The sores are showing in America. EVERY SINGLE DAY, murder, abuse of innocent children, shootings, corruption, sexual immorality is made into law, preachers preaching that sin is okay, young people addicted to drugs and incurable sexually transmitted diseases are rampant, billions of babies are murdered in the womb, and every sin that God will condemn to eternal hell is showcased on TV, in the movies and in the homes; and the one's who are supposed to have the truth, soul saving, life changing message of hope and restoration, keep silent until that congregation dies a slow and painful death. But there is still hope, God is NOT dead and His grace and mercy still abound abundantly.
There is going to be a Day of Judgment, and God will judge everyone who has ever lived, His wrath is going to poured out on all the wicked and ungodly. The eyes of the unrepentant wicked need to be opened and the ears unplugged so they can see and hear the truth. The Good News is Salvation is a free gift from God, you can't work for it or buy because the price has already been paid with the Blood of Jesus Christ. and Believing in Jesus saves us from the righteous wrath of God. But that is not all, He gives us a new heart and mind NOW, and we receive some of His blessing from heaven NOW and are equipped to be able to live a life that is holy and acceptable to Him NOW.
1. Believe in your heart that Jesus Christ is real, He lived and died and rose from the grave.
2. Believe that you are a sinner, repent-turn from your sins and realize and accept you need Jesus.
3. Confess that Jesus is your Lord and God
4. Find a local Bible preaching church that does obey the commandment for water baptism for the remission of your sins and to identify yourself with Christ.
This is just the first step to a lifelong journey of growing in truth and love with the God who created this earth and everything in it, including every human being that has ever lived.
Bible verses related to this post: Matthew 28:19;Acts 2:47 ;Revelations 3:20; 1 John Chapter 3; Galatians 6:1: Titus 3:10: Matthew 18:15-17; 1 Corinthians 5:11; Revelations 2:2-4; Judges 17:6; John 17:20-22; Luke Chapter 10; 1 Corinthians Chapter 1:18-24; 2 Corinthians 1-5;Matthew 22:14; 1 Samuel 16:7; Romans 8:6-9; Romans 1:18-23; 2 Chronicles 7:14
Erica Harris is a God Gifted Christian Coach, Counselor, providing insights and truths from the Word of God, The Bible.