ZIonica News came out with some interesting statistics regarding churches in America in their April 24, 2012 issue. Their figures revealed that over 85% of the churches are declining; when measuring church growth with population growth, only 4% of our churches are growing. One startling statistic was that no one county in the United States has more attending church today than it did ten years ago. The study showed that atheism, Mormonism and New Age groups are growing. The Barna Group said that of the more than 350,000 Protestant churches in America, over 60,000 do not have one convert per year. These are saddening statistics. What is more saddening is that the problems have gained momentum in my lifetime. Much like our transportation…for approximately 5900 years, if you wanted to get someplace faster, you needed a faster animal. Then in 1888 the first automobile was produced in Germany and fifteen years later (1903) the Wright brothers flew the first airplane. In 100 years the world went from the horse and buggy to jet travel. On the other hand, the visible church has done the opposite and much faster. America was the last frontier for evangelism. Our nation was founded on many Bible principles and was the last stop for the great Bible preachers and teachers of England, Scotland, etc. As technology improved, spirituality seemed to wane.
Let me insert here that Bible believers should not be surprised or upset at this condition. God has forewarned us. It doesn’t make it any easier to stomach, but we had to know it was coming. In Paul’s last letter, he warned us of the conditions of the “last days” and summed it up thus:
“But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.” 2 Timothy 3:13
I must say that I do not believe it is these men that have drained the power of our churches or that have watered down the gospel. It seems that good men have enabled bad men to take over. An example would be Peter cutting off the man’s ear (John 18:10.) Peter wanted to protect Jesus and in doing so, he cut off all communication with that man. Instead of following Christ’s plans for the church, we have felt we needed to upgrade God’s program. When the horse and buggy became obsolete we felt our programs and practices in the church were obsolete. No one stopped to think that the wheel on the buggy, race car and jet plane was still round. No one had to reinvent the wheel. Men look for shortcuts and there are none when it comes to the gospel. True evangelism still requires prayer, Bible study and vocal witnessing; nothing substitutes for these actions when it comes to seeing lives changed.
Let me suggest some things that began the local church’s demise.
One thing we did was to reverse the two great commandments (Matthew 22:37-40.) We began to focus on man’s material needs instead of his spiritual needs. Our programs became service oriented instead of evangelism. It is good to build schools, dig water wells and repair houses IF they are accompanied by the gospel…vocal, purposeful and personal. Our mission projects too often omit the spiritual and praise the physical. I am for using different methods, but the purpose must include presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ. Is it possible that some of our social projects are enabling people instead of leading them to Christ?
The second thing we have done is develop way too much tolerance. Tolerance simply means that we will put up with something with which we do not agree. If we agree with things, we promote them, not tolerate them. The very fact that we tolerate something means we do accept it as good.
Look at the backward progress (?) we have made. When I was a child divorce was frowned upon and was seldom granted except for adultery; then divorce became accepted (and granted for a catchall phrase, irreconcilable differences.) Today men and women just live together without the label of marriage. Instead of our pulpits crying out against the sin (or sins) causing divorce, we do Divorce Recovery Seminars.
With most of the sins plaguing the church, we refuse to cry out against them and look for cures instead of prevention. No one talks of how to prevent AIDS, rock stars gather to raise money to cure the sexually transmitted disease (I know you can get it a few other ways, but you and the public knows how the disease started and what will stop it.) When I was a child, polio (also known as infantile paralysis) was the most feared disease in America. A man by the name of Jonas Salk developed a vaccine that prevented polio. Each child receives this medication and polio has not been a threat in over 50 years. Salk did not cure polio, he prevented it!
Our churches are majoring in therapy, treatment and counseling instead of preaching against sin. Preaching against sin doesn’t save anyone but it teaches people they need saving.
“Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:20
The powers that be in this so called Christian nation have disallowed prayer and the Bible in our schools. The powers that be have supported killing of infants (abortion,) homosexuality (that God called an abomination,) handing out free condoms for our teenagers in school so they can ruin their lives and we call ourselves great!
Another problem is that our churches and pulpits are more concerned about our own needs than doing God’s will. We have gotten into politics instead of soulwinning. The best president or senator cannot fix one person. Our most generous service will not get one soul saved. America is fast becoming a “mission field.” Wicked men claim to be Christians and yet destroy the foundations of God’s word. Like Saul of old, when approached by Samuel about Saul’s disobedience, replied:
“And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the Lord: I have performed the commandment of the Lord. And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” 1 Samuel 15:13-14
God told Saul to destroy all of the Amalekites and their king, Amalek, but Saul decided to pick and chose whom he would destroy and whom he would not. Though this was outright brazen disobedience, Saul claimed he did the right thing and never confessed his wrong. So do most of our religious leaders today. They abandon God’s way, come up with their way and never repent of their sin.
It is time that we (anyone who claims Christ as Savior) stand for righteousness and holiness, and get back to God’s way. Keep Looking Up! Leland Maples