Are you willing to take an honest look at some of the reasons why people are not coming to or are not involved in your church?
Are you crying out to God asking why things are not going right in your church? Dealing with apathy and ineptitude? Is your church on the path of self-destruction and ineffectiveness? Are people lining up for war in various factions and sides while conflict and discontent are running amok? Are some people gossiping while others are being ignored? Is Christ outside knocking on your door, but not getting in? Instead, have you replaced Him with what you think is relevance and attractiveness to the Gospel but in fact, it is not the Gospel at all? Or, perhaps you are worse off, thinking everything is OK when, in fact, it is not.
The main proposition we should worry about as Christians is Church Leadership falling to pride, apostasy, apathy, and the ways of the world versus faithfulness to Christ! Because, sin then gets its roots in us and our church causing gossip and strife to flourish as we ignore the call and commands of Christ. What we may be doing or allowing to happen is considered evil in God's sight and even the more when we are the one causing it. Never think evil is just in the world and not in your local church or in your heart. Gossiping, in God's sight, is as evil as evil can be; just look up "gossip" in a concordance and see what He says about it! So is leading a church our way and not His! Gossip is not just a problem; it is a symptom of a much deeper problem! Are your church's messages so watered down that people go away feeling good for a while but nothing that is real and impacting has met them? How we lead a church says where our real devotion and character are. Are we placating to pride, false agendas, and trends, or are we worshiping and glorifying Christ as Lord? How will your church be led?
I have been on staff at large churches of 6,000+ members and small churches of less then 100 members. Numbers do not mean effectiveness. I'd much rather have a church of 100 people who are growing in Christ, being contagious with their faith, and producing disciples with trust and obedience to Christ over a large church of 10,000 who just pew-sit and do nothing with their faith. As a Church, we are not in the entertainment business; we are not to be a TV show or ever compete with one. We are in the proclaiming Jesus ministry and it is not a business; we are a family-to call on, to take care of one another, and to increase our faith, too.
Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the LORD. Psalm 27:6
The problem is not in the lack or success of numbers, but lack of success of discipleship and Bible teaching! Our spiritual formation, led by His Word and Spirit, deploys our faith into our daily lives and then displays it into other's lives as well. After researching and tracking these 1,000 churches for over 10 years, I found that the vast majority of the people were spiritually very weak. They did not know the Bible, were not involved in ministry, and were not affected by Christ as we should be according to Romans 12. There is a disconnection where the church becomes just another activity like sports and waterskiing-a part of our lives, but not THE MAIN part of our lives. Christ is to be our all in all (Colossians 1; Revelation 1:1-8), not an occasional afterthought; He is to be our forethought in all we are and do.
Hear my voice when I call, O LORD; be merciful to me and answer me. My heart says of you, "Seek his face!" Your face, LORD, I will seek. Psalm 27:7-8
It is our call to point Christians to nurse the wounds so we are healed, calling for reform so we can be the Church as Christ has called us to be. I love the Church; I have dedicated my life to His service and to His bride the Church. It grieves me deeply to see her wounded and failing. I love the Church and I hope you do too.
Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior. Psalm 27:9
Psalm 27 is an excellent template on how the Church sometimes functions. The Psalm is not about the church specifically; rather, it is about worship and the love of God and His people. Yet, this theme is sandwiched between being beaten by our fellow man, and the trouble we have in society. We at the Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership seek to understand the mindset of the people who claim Jesus as Lord-people who go to church, have access to His Word and His people, and have more knowledge and resources than ever before but who are not acting and behaving in the character and ways we are called to. We are sandwiched between the injustices of some Christians and the schemes of the world that seek their own and not the Lord. All the while, we are facing the world's declining values, which we are seemingly following. This is what Francis Schaeffer was so concerned about in the latter period of his life. Psalm 27 directs us not to give up, but to seek our Lord who first sought us, even against hostilities all around us. This is what Schaeffer challenged me with when I went to him ready to give up ministry and leave the church for good. I hope we all can look to Christ and follow Him to show the responsibility and hope we have in Him and His Church. We all have been hurt; also, we have all hurt others. At the same time, we all have the responsibly to grow beyond our hurt and embrace Christ as King in our lives. So, we cannot allow whatever we have faced to become our identity and mantra; rather, it is Christ as our King who is our identity and starting place in all that we do in life and how we are to serve in his Church!
Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me. Psalm 27:10
My aim is to point out some of the more grievous problems that I have observed over the years-problems which I will call "diseases," that strike at the core and foundation of some of our churches. Of some, I was the victim; of others, I was the perpetrator thereof. All of these are real, and most of us, including me, would rather ignore and not face them, but we must so we can be the Church that Christ has called us to be. We can't just say, "Well, all churches have their problems. That is just the way it is," and let that be our guide. His Word and call must be our guides. We must be motivated to do our churches by the best means possible, even if it hurts our preferences and ideas. We are to proclaim and worship Him as Lord, and not our wisdom and ways. We have to take a look at our errors so we can move from them to Him.
These diseases destroy more effectively than any fire or termite could ever do. The following articles on the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development are designed to clarify these diseases-in effect pointing out the facts and recklessness that is caused by the misdirecting attentions and actions of the parishioners so we can build a better Church for Christ's Glory. So many churches are relying on these diseases as their template rather than what Christ has called us to do. Most Christians have experienced these issues as diseases; they are not unique to a particular group, such as a denomination or the church in general, but unique to our human, sinful nature.
Teach me your way, O LORD; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, breathing out violence. Psalm 27:11-12
I may point out the problems, but this Institute is also and most emphatically about loving the bride of Christ and the hope and opportunities we have. Christ has empowered us-His people, His church; all we need to do is follow His plan and drive out the sin of our desires and aspirations that claw and eat away God's opportunities and call. We must realize that our faith has to disagree with the nature of our sin because what Christ gave us must move us and then transform us, and we must transform our thinking and actions (Romans 12).
I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Psalm 27:13
Any church, no matter how good it has been in the past, can easily fail when we think we no longer need to put our best efforts forward or that we are called to first love Christ and know Him and proclaim Him-first and foremost. It is when we stop growing, stop learning, and stop reaching out to Him and to others that we fail as His church. When we live in the past, we are not living now¾we actually are not living at all. Keep in mind that just about all churches were good and vibrant at one time or else they would never have been formed. It is when we fail to keep those things going that we fall short.
The Church is to be under His rule and kingship, not our committees and trends. We are to surrender to His lead and to His Way so we can proclaim His supremacy and majesty. If not, we engage in spiritual warfare, but not the kind that most Christians think of, as in our battling Satan. Rather, it becomes us battling God for control so we can conform His church to our pleasures. Satan does not need to battle us when we are already battling God. He will fuel our battling and provide the weapons, but he does not even need to do that, we are so good at it ourselves. Satan's objective is to manipulate those with bad intentions to battle the righteous and godly, to lead them astray, and/or to get them too busy to see Christ in their everyday lives.
We just need to see His hand upon us now, feel His presence, and allow His supremacy to lead us in His way. In the end, God wins out. Satan's spiritual warfare against us is as futile as our war against God. GOD WINS! There is no other way; His way is the best and most glorious for us and for Him. Satan wants our eyes distracted so we do not see Christ's majesty, with the goal being that we worship him and not Him. God wants us spiritually pure and faithful in and to Him. The choice is given, the call is made; the choosing is up to us! How will we lead and manage our spiritual journeys? How will you lead and manage your church? Will it be His supremacy or your inclinations? Which way do you think will win out? Then, why would a person of faith in Christ choose to run his or her life or church by any way other than His?
Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. Psalm 27:14
The Simple Problem is…
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you. Psalm 51:12-13
The problem is not so much how we do church; rather, it is how we are in church that causes people to leave! To say it "flat out," the problem of why churches fail comes down to we are not teaching the Word! And, we are not modeling the Fruit of the Spirit and Love to which Christ has called us!
Because we do not know better, because we are not learning about Him, and thus, we are not growing in Him, we cannot produce authentic spiritual formation, character, and maturity. Then, the reason people leave becomes the conflict and strife that move into the vacancies of our church when He is left out.
It is not so much how we do things; it is how we are! The problem is not what we do in our worship services; it is how we treat the people who go to our services. The problem is not how we are dressed for services but how we love and care at our services. The problem is not so much who we are (when we are proclaiming Christ as Lord); the problem is how we are (with our gossip, power plays, skewed agendas…). Too often we confuse the WHO (being a Christian) with the HOW (running our church and our lives our way and not His Way). The problem is not so much being a Christian in and of itself, but, how we treat others as Christians. It is easy to change the "who" (that is, our cultural identity), how outside people look upon us, and the way we reach out and present the Gospel. Most people from my research are open to learning the Word. They want something spiritual they can put into practice to better their lives. But, if they do not feel welcomed or get connected, they are gone forever from that church and perhaps any church in the future.
When we are twisting God's truths to fit our whims and rationalizing our sin, it is blatantly evil. It creates a bad "who" and a bad "how we are." Do not allow this in your church! We have to be willing to prevent, discipline, and even kick out the manipulative and deceptive people in our churches.
Our churches will not glorify Christ when we fail at knowing and growing in Him personally. We will not be able to teach others when we fail at following Him and Him alone! Remember, it is His Church; we are the caretakers of it, thus we must act accordingly as we are called.
© 2000, revised 2007 R. J. Krejcir Ph.D. Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development www.churchleadership.org