Five Reasons Why Churches Die

After hearing from the demographics party, it is easy to think that churches die because they are doing something wrong, or failing to do something right procedurally. That is, they have lost the technique, or have never gained the skills, “to reach their generation.”

I think this is bunk. Churches die for the reasons the Bible says they die; and by “death,” I don’t mean losing their property, finances, charitable status, but death—the congregation, a people gathered in Christ’s name, is no more.

Reason 1: Abandonment of the love of Christ (Revelation 2:4-5).

Reason 2: The false teachings of Balaam and sexual immorality. Toleration of false teaching (Revelation 2:14-15).

Reason 3: Tolerating a false prophetess, also called a Jezebel (as bad as it gets), who advocates for sexual immorality (Revelation 2:20).

Reason 4: Having a reputation of being alive, but that reputation is only among men and not known to God. Therefore, it is note having the works pleasing to God. (Revelation 3:1-2).

Reason 5: Pride, smugness, self-assuredness, which to God means uselessness (Revelation 3:15-18).

The Christian church, as a group in Ontario, is but a shell of its former self. By saying this I do not mean we must yearn for a nostalgic “good old days,” but admit that we are in decline (this is a place where demographic studies might help). What is unique in our message is lost to a majority of the people in Ontario. The province is growing in population, we are not.

I think it is far too easy to assume that the reason for our decline is that we are doing the wrong things (or failing to do the right things). There is no fix, technique, model, program or church growth guru that will turn this around.

We must somehow come to see that the problem we face is one of belief and life. We must also that Christ has never tolerated false teaching and ungodly living in His church. We are no exception. No technique can grow death, and growth in false belief and ungodliness is the mark of the Mormons, Islam, the prosperity “Gospel,” and such abominations. A methodology may work but not be true and faithful.

Unfaithfulness and ungodliness always results in God’s judgement. To say that we are under the judgement of God reflects reality more than to say that the population is simply not open anymore to the gospel. The Gospel grows in closed lands, and Ontario is hardly closed. If we think we live in an impossible land, we should ask ourselves how it was that the small band of outsider disciples flipped the world over in one generation.

In summary, we are dying because God wants us dead, if we continue in our present state.

What to do? Let’s look at the five reasons again:

Reason 1: Abandonment of the love of Christ (Revelation 2:4-5).

Are we more in love with programs, worldly reputation, methods, and signs of success? Do we claim to care so much for people that we fail to realise we serve Christ first, and people as a part of that? Do we spend time in the Word of God, or is our approach, “I already read that.” Are we mining the depths of God’s wisdom in Scripture and communicating to Him in prayer? Is our first inclination to read the Bible and pray at the onset of a challenge? Are our sermons an explanation of the Bible, or our opinions with the Bible added for authority? What is our final authority, and how often do we consult it?

Solution: Repent and go back to the beginning (Revelation 2:5). We never outgrow the love of Christ.

Reason 2: The false teachings of Balaam and sexual immorality. Toleration of false teaching (Revelation 2:14-15).

The religion of Balaam, is what taught the Israelites to indulge in the pagan practises of their neighbours (Numbers 25:1-4). Do we tolerate those of unholy living to encourage others to do the same? What are our neighbours’ pagan practises? Greed, immorality, sexual immorality, shallowness, pride, lust, hatred—to name a few. Do we stand in these or against them? What do we tolerate? Answering this question will show us the danger we’re in, the danger of Christ’s judgement.

Do we tolerate false teaching? Do we welcome books like “The Shack” or “Jesus Calling” into our homes and fellowship? Do we even understand why these are problems?

Solution: Repent. Repentance in Scripture means to change our minds, and therefore our actions.

Reason 3: Tolerating a false prophetess, also called a Jezebel (as bad as it gets), who advocates for sexual immorality (Revelation 2:20).

The teaching of the false prophetess is that one can be an idolater and sexually immoral and remain a Christian (Revelation 14:8; 17:1-19:10).

It is no secret that churches have not done well holding the line against the sexual revolution of the 1960s, which is now bearing the bitter fruit of every kind of deviancy. Many once strong congregations have caved into this pressure, and, in the name of reaching people, have abandoned the truth of the Gospel and the hope it brings to those caught up in immorality!

Solution: Develop a holy intolerance of this false teaching. Prepare to take an unpopular stand, and prepare yourself to be betrayed by those you thought were Christian brothers and sisters.

Reason 4: Having a reputation of being alive, but that reputation is only among men and not known to God. Therefore, it is not having the works pleasing to God. (Revelation 3:1-2).

Are our works things that matter to God, or what brings prestige to ourselves? Do we look good to others because we have made that our aim, rather than pleasing God? Do we have an uneasy sense that we are alive on the surface, but dead inside (and if we do, that is a gift of God)?

Solution: Wake up, strengthen what you do have that’s good, remember, keep it, and repent (Revelation 3:2, 3).

Reason 5: Lukewarm: Pride, smugness, self-assuredness, which to God means uselessness (Revelation 3:15-18).

Are our churches neither healing, like the hot medicinal pools of Hierapolis (near Laodicea), or refreshing like the cold springs of Colossae (also near Laodicea), but putridly lukewarm like the water piped in to Laodicea? Are we useless to God, because we have defined usefulness according to the world’s standards and not according to Christ’s? A Laodicean Christian would recoil at the comparison!

Is our confidence in the Gospel, or in our wealth and self-confidence? Are we poor before God, or wealthy, even if only in our own eyes? Do we have a holy dependence upon Christ or do we only need Him for salvation and try to take over our lives after that?

Solution: Come back to Christ for what we need as a church; buy from Him (Isaiah 55:1ff). We renew our relationship with Him by opening the door to our churches to Christ.

Common to all of the above solutions is that we must remember the faith we once had, repent for giving it up, and returning to our First Love. Failing this, why would we linger? We may remain, but our lampstands will be removed.

The Problem with the “Deeds, Not Creeds” Mentality Is Its Anti-Intellectualism

rauschenbusch

“Christianity is a life, not a doctrine” –Walter Rauschenbusch.

This idea has captured liberal congregations in the past, and today is the rallying cry for many who claim to be Christian conservatives. One reason that Christians often shy away from defending Scripture is because cool-shaming is a reality, especially among some of the university-age set.

Full article by Alex Wilgus here.

“Jesus Christ holds lawful title”

“The kingdom of God is the arena of God’s redemption. Jesus Christ redeemed the whole world — that is, He bought it back. He did this by paying the ultimate price for man’s sin: His death on the cross. The whole earth has now been judicially redeemed. It has been given “a new lease on life.” The lease that Satan gained from Adam has been revoked. The Second Adam (Jesus Christ) holds lawful title.

The world has not been fully restored in history, nor can it be; sin still has its effects, and will until the day of final judgment. But progressively over time, it is possible for the gospel to have its restorative effects. Through the empowering of God’s Holy Spirit, redeemed people are able to extend the principles of healing to all areas under their jurisdiction in life: church, family, and State.

All Christians admit that God’s principles can be used to reform the individual. They also understand that if this is the case, then the family can be reformed according to God’s Word. Next, the church is capable of restoration. But then they stop. Mention the State, and they say, “No; nothing can be done to restore the State. The State is inherently, permanently satanic. It is a waste of time to work to heal the State.” The Christian Reconstructionist asks: Why not?

They never tell you why not. They never point to a passage in the Bible that tells you why the church and family can be healed by God’s Word and Spirit, but the State can’t be. Today, it is the unique message of Christian Reconstruction that civil government, like family government and church government, is under the Bible-revealed law of God and therefore is capable in principle of being reformed according to God’s law.

This means that God has given to the Christian community as a whole enormous responsibility throughout history. This God-given responsibility is far greater than merely preaching a gospel of exclusively personal salvation. The gospel we preach must apply to every area of life that has been fouled by sin and its effects. The church and individual Christian evangelists must preach the biblical gospel of comprehensive redemption, not just personal soul-winning.’ Wherever sin reigns, there the gospel must be at work, transforming and restoring. The only area of life outside of the reach of Spirit-empowered restoration is an area that was not affected by the fall of man. This, of course, means no area at all.”

DeMar, Gary and North, Gary, Christian Reconstruction: What It Is, What It Isn’t (revised Text), n.d.

There is a True Emperor, and He has come.

“By the advent of the Saviour, then, paganism decreases, philosophy declines, all dæmoniacal deceits perish. The faith of Christ, on the other hand, spreads, and opposition to it decays.

As the darkness vanishes before the sun, so heathen darkness prevails no longer, and the whole earth is illuminated by Christ’s teaching.

The appearance of the true emperor exposes the usurpers; so the advent of Christ has exposed and silenced the usurpation of dæmons and idols.
The Son of God, the Only-Begotten Word, alone remains, while temporal things are vanishing away.
[Athanasius of Alexandria, Athanasius: On the Incarnation of the Word of God, trans. T. Herbert Bindley, Second Edition Revised. (London: The Religious Tract Society, 1903), 39.]

“For as when the sun is up darkness no longer prevails, but if there is any left anywhere it is driven away; so now, when the Divine Manifestation of the Word of God is come, the darkness of the idols prevails no longer, but every part of the whole earth is everywhere illuminated by His teaching. And just as, when an emperor is reigning in some country and does not appear, but remains within his own house, frequently some disorderly persons, abusing this withdrawal of his, proclaim themselves, and each being invested with the outward show, cheats the simple with his appearance as emperor, and thus men are deceived by the name, hearing indeed that there is an emperor, but not seeing him, p 145 especially as they cannot make their way within into his house; but when the true emperor comes forth and appears, then the disorderly deceivers are convicted by his presence, and men, seeing the true emperor, abandon those who formerly deceived them: so, in like manner, dæmons formerly deceived men, investing themselves with God’s honour; but when the Word of God appeared in a body, and made known to us His Father, at that moment the deceit of the dæmons vanishes and ceases; and men, looking to the true God, the Word of the Father, abandon idols, and themselves come to a clear knowledge of the true God.”

Athanasius of Alexandria, Athanasius: On the Incarnation of the Word of God, trans. T. Herbert Bindley, Second Edition Revised. (London: The Religious Tract Society, 1903), 144–145.

Christ is King

crown-and-thorns

What was Adam’s task in the garden (see Genesis 1:26-28; 2:15-17)? Adam’s purpose was not only to stay away from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Man’s purpose was (and is) to have dominion over creation.

By sin, Adam failed in that task, but the dominion mandate has not been rescinded. With the “sweat of his brow,” man must exercise dominion (notice the parallel between Genesis 2:15 and 3:17-19. The work remains, but it is with much difficulty). The covenant peoples, the Israelites first, and now, in this age, those in Christ, have been great culture-builders. Taking the command to heart, great civilizations have arisen from within Israel and Christendom. Seeing what great accomplishments of dominion has brought while under sin, it is an even more amazing to contemplate what may have been accomplished had sin not entered.

But praise be to God, what the first Adam failed to do, the Second Adam does. Christ, the Second Adam, completely fulfills what was lacking in the first; Christ is the king that Adam refused to be.

25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” 1 Corinthians 15:25 (ESV)

“Must reign” is present tense, active mood, indicating not a future reign only, but a present and active reign. It isn’t spiritual only, or only “in our hearts.” Christ is king today, and always has been. Every human government and ruler is subject and answerable to Him. Because of the resurrection, Christ reigns now. When those who are “in Christ” build cultures, they do their work as co-regents with Christ (2 Timothy 2:12, Revelation 20:4).

The resurrection provides the logic for the kingship of Jesus: Jesus is the first-fruit of those risen from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20). Verses 21 and 22 indicates that Jesus, the Second Adam brings life where Adam brought death. Jesus completes Adam’s mission, the dominion (cultural) mandate. This is the meaning of His reign–to do what Adam did not do.

Every king and ruler, every government, faces death. History proves that every ruler is someday a footnote to history; and this holds true of empires as well. Mortality swallows them all. Now the greatest threat any government can use against its enemies and its people, is the same weapon that will destroy themselves: death. Beyond physical death, man can do nothing (Matthew 10:28). By destroying the power of death, both physical and eternal (1 Corinthians 15:54-57), Jesus is firmly established as the “King of kings, and Lord of lords” (Revelation 17:14). There is nothing that the rulers of this world, or kings of the earth, can hold against a Christ.

So where does this leave the Christian, the one who is “in Christ?” Where He reigns, we reign.[i]

“The gates of hell” [Matthew 16:18] cannot prevail against an advancing church. Satan is in retreat, not the people of God. Rather than giving up cultural ground to the enemy, which has been the refrain among Christians at least since Darby and Scofield, the church is to take cultural ground, creating and defining it. The much-maligned (by Christians and pagans alike) Christendom, when Christian thought and God’s Law prevailed, was the church’s greatest era.

[i] Consider the passages which speak of being “in Christ” or “in Him” (referring to Christ):

Jn 1:4; 6:56; 15:5; Ac 10:43; Ro 3:24; 6:11, 23; 8:2, 39; 12:5; 16:3, 7; 1 Co 1:2, 5, 30; 15:22; 2 Co 1:19, 20; 2:14; 5:17, 19, 21; 13:4; Ga 1:22; 2:4, 17; 3:14, 26, 28; 5:6; Eph 1:3, 4, 7, 9, 10, 11, 13, 20; 2:6, 7, 10, 13, 22; 3:6, 11, 12, 21; 4:21, 32; Php 1:1; 2:1, 5; 3:3, 9, 14; 4:7, 19; Col 1:2, 17, 19, 24; 2:6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 15; 1 Th 4:16; 2 Th 1:12; 2 Ti 1:1, 9; 2:10; 3:12; Phm 8; Heb 3:14; 1 Pe 3:16; 5:10, 14; 1 Jn 2:5, 6, 27, 28; 3:6, 17, 24; 4:13, 15, 16; 5:20

 

The Christian and Social Justice

“The doctrine of grace must also be found unacceptable by humanitarian-based theological pragmatists, because grace allows one to accept without guilt what is not deserved. To have something that another does not have, or to have something that is not earned, by inheritance, by ‘luck,’ by gift—in other words, by grace—is unsupportable for those theorists and requires the imputation of guilt. Only grace can expunge guilt. Social justice advocates are hostile toward Christianity precisely because the latter stands on grace, which the former hates. Christians taken in by the social justice argument have a social ethic at war with their deepest convictions and are, therefore condemned to futility. The only theology consistent with humanitarianism is works-righteousness, or Pelagianism.”

Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, p 240

“But Church is Boring!”

Tozer

Religious Boredom

A. W. Tozer

THAT THERE IS SOMETHING gravely wrong with evangelical Christianity today is not likely to be denied by any serious minded person acquainted with the facts. Just what is wrong is not so easy to determine.

In examining the situation myself I find nature and reason in conflict within me, for I tend by temperament to want to settle everything with a sweep of the pen. But reason advises caution; nothing is that simple, and we must be careful to distinguish cause from effect. As every doctor knows there is a wide difference between the disease and the symptoms; and every Christian knows that there is a big difference between cause and effect in the sphere of religion.

At the root of our spiritual trouble lie a number of causes and these causes have effects, but which is cause and which effect is not always known. I suspect that many things currently under attack by our evangelists and pastors (and editors, for that matter) are not the causes of our troubles but the effects of causes that lie deeper. We treat the symptoms and wonder why the patient does not get well. Or, to change the figure, we lay down a heavy fire against nothing more substantial than the cloud of dust raised by marching enemy troops long gone by.

One mark of the low state of affairs among us is religious boredom. Whether this is a thing in itself or merely a symptom of the thing, I do not know for sure, though I suspect that it is the latter. And that it is found to some degree almost everywhere among Christians is too evident to be denied.

Boredom is, of course, a state of mind resulting from trying to maintain an interest in something that holds no trace of interest for us (the boss’s jokes, say, or that lecture on the care and nurture of dahlias to which we went because we could not resist the enthusiastic urging of a friend). No one is bored by what he can in good conscience walk away from. Boredom comes when a man must try to hear with relish what for want of relish he hardly hears at all.

By this definition there is certainly much boredom in religion these days. The businessman on a Sunday morning whose mind is on golf can scarcely disguise his lack of interest in the sermon he is compelled to hear. The housewife who is unacquainted with the learned theological or philosophical jargon of the speaker; the young couple who feel a tingle of love for each other but who neither love nor know the One about whom the choir is singing-these cannot escape the low-grade mental pain we call boredom while they struggle to keep their attention focused upon the service. All these are too courteous to admit to others that they are bored and possibly too timid to admit it even to themselves, but I believe that a bit of candid confession would do us all good.

When Moses tarried in the mount, Israel became bored with the faith that sees the invisible and clamored for a god they could see and touch. And they displayed a great deal more enthusiasm for the golden calf than they did over the Lord God of Abraham. Later they tired of manna and complained against the monotony of their diet. On their petulant insistence they finally got flesh to eat, and that to their own undoing.

Those Christians who belong to the evangelical wing of the church (which I firmly believe is the only one that even approximates New Testament Christianity) have over the last half-century shown an increasing impatience with things invisible and eternal and have demanded and got a host of things visible and temporal to satisfy their fleshly appetites. Without Biblical authority, or any other right under the sun, carnal religious leaders have introduced a host of attractions that serve no purpose except to provide entertainment for the retarded saints.

It is now common practice in most evangelical churches to offer the people, especially the young people, a maximum of entertainment and a minimum of serious instruction. It is scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend a meeting where the only attraction is God. One can only conclude that God’s professed children are bored with Him, for they must be wooed to meeting with a stick of striped candy in the form of religious movies, games and refreshments.

This has influenced the whole pattern of church life, and even brought into being a new type of church architecture, designed to house the golden calf.

So we have the strange anomaly of orthodoxy in creed and heterodoxy in practice. The striped-candy technique has been so fully integrated into our present religious thinking that it is simply taken for granted. Its victims never dream that it is not a part of the teachings of Christ and His apostles.

Any objection to the carryings on of our present golden-calf Christianity is met with the triumphant reply, “But we are winning them!” And winning them to what? To true discipleship? To cross-carrying? To self-denial? To separation from the world? To crucifixion of the flesh? To holy living? To nobility of character? To a despising of the world’s treasures? To hard self-discipline? To love for God? To total committal to Christ? Of course the answer to all these questions is no.

We are paying a frightful price for our religious boredom. And that at the moment of the world’s mortal peril.”