Yet, over the years, the organization most identifiable with faith, the church has been experiencing declining membership. While church membership worldwide seems to be growing; here in the U.S., church membership seems to be on the decline relative to population growth.
There are many reasons for this decline; too many to discuss at length right now. While I don’t believe the church carries all the blame for said decline, I do believe that we must shoulder much of it. In our attempt to stem the tide of losing folks, we have sought to be more “relevant” to society.
I don’t disagree with this approach. The church should be the most culturally relevant group of all. After all, the biblical message hits at the very heart of matters most important to life, i.e., life, death, marriage, relationships, the definition of success, how to successfully handle failure, forgiveness, etc.
But to many of us, becoming “culturally relevant” has meant that we must open a coffee shop in our church, change the look of the pastor to include spiky hair, square glasses and skinny jeans and change the style of our worship music to be more upbeat and modern.
Now, in essence, I don’t have a problem with any of these changes. But, we just can’t stick a latte in the hand of a honest, spiritual seeker and expect that to open doors of relevancy for us. Americans, especially young adults and teens are used to being courted commercially. They know when something is commercial and performance oriented. Let’s don’t insult their intelligence by thinking otherwise. If we are not real, they will know.
The only thing that makes the church relevant today is Jesus. Without Jesus, we are nothing more than a culture club competing among many other organizations for attention and resources.
Ok, I’m getting off my point. My question is:
Is the church really important?
Many people who believe in God are saying, “no” by their lack of involvement. While belief in God runs at about 80% conservatively, church attendance runs less than 25% nationally.
It is so very easy to make spiritual decisions in the intellectual or emotional realm. When it comes to need for church involvement, many make a spiritual decision using intellectual or emotional factors.
Churches are like jeans: there are all kinds of fits and styles. Some are too “tight” and others are too “loose.” But, I’m not going to go around naked just because it takes time, effort, and money to find the right pair! If I choose nakedness, then I choose jail!
Church life is challenging but the Bible does not allow for me to give up on it!
No matter how “jacked” up the church is, Jesus is still found walking among the churches ( candlesticks) in Revelation, chapters 2 and 3. Jesus’ custom was to go to synagogue (Luke 4:16). Paul was also a synagogue member (Acts 17:2).
Hebrews 10:25 NLT -“And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”
There is a parable in Luke 14:16-24 that makes an important point.
It is about a man who gave a great supper and invited many. He sent His servants to tell those invited that all was ready. Many made excuse as to why they couldn’t attend. This story is ultimately about the Marriage Supper of the Lamb when all believers get to heaven.
But, listen to a few points found in the story that relate to right now.
1. If you stop feeding with believers, you’ll have plans when supper comes.
In this story, an invitation was given to supper but no time was listed as to when supper began. If you decide that eating with the family of God is no longer important, then in all likelihood – just like all the others listed who made excuse, you will have plans when supper comes. If you can’t hear God’s voice through His Word now regarding the importance of being together, why do you think you will hear later? If you resist believers now because they are not perfect, why would God think that you would want to spend eternity with them?
2. Whatever the excuse, it won’t be good enough.
One man said to the servants sent from the Master, “I have just married and I can’t come!” Boy, if there is a valid excuse, this must be it!
You will notice that no excuse is valid in this situation. What excuse are you using? After reading this story, are you still confident your excuse will be good enough?
3. If you forget your need for God, He’ll find someone that is hungry.
If you begin to put God and His body on the back burner; finding solace in things of the world, He’ll go find someone who recognizes their need for His love, forgiveness and fellowship. Just because you’re invited, doesn’t mean you’ll eat! The hungry will be in line when supper comes. The “satiated” will be somewhere else.
4. If you devalue what God offers, you devalue the Man.
The Word of God consistently tells us that we must stick together. No, it’s not easy! To stick together, we have to learn to change, and forgive, and to love unconditionally, and to be unselfish – all those things that bring spiritual growth that we don’t by nature want to do!
If you choose an alternate spiritual direction to God’s, what are your actions saying to Him?
I don’t trust you! I don’t need you! I don’t love the things you love! I don’t care what you think!
You can’t devalue what God offers without devaluing His lordship!
Before you make a decision about the Body of Christ, go back to what Jesus said and did. Neither you nor I have an exemption from obedience to His commands!
God uses His church to grow me up! “Sofa” church is used to soften me up!
It’s time to put your “blue jeans” on before you are arrested for being naked! God uses places to bless people! Find your place and get ready for a blessing!