And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.(hebrews 10:24-25)
One trend I have been noticing lately with a good many of those who would consider themselves Evangelicals, Pentecostals and Charismatics, is that many are dismissing the importance of commitment to a local church, or in some cases they have just left off going to church.
I know many longtime Christians, who have given up on the church. They are confessing Christians who believe, but for various reasons, they no longer support any local congregation.
Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it…”. There is no “plan B”. For we who live in the end of the Age, participation in the church, the body of Christ, and “Pillar and ground of the Truth” is the means of grace and flourishing spiritually.
Why is this generation so lax about church? How is it that people who have previously been converted and once burned with Spiritual fire, frequenting fellowship and worship/teachings as often as possible, are now so blasé about church, they no longer see the need to support one?
I think there are obviously a number of factors, some understandable and others inexcusable. Many people have had experiences in which their church leaders allowed the church to change, lowering the standard of teaching, even bringing in heresy, and false practices such as Charismatic nonsense(Toronto,Brownsville). Others have gotten offended and couldn’t be bothered to humble themselves to work things out with their brethren.In some cases Spiritual abuse by the leadership was perhaps a factor.
Like it or not, the Church is still important to God’s purposes, and is indeed the “body of the Messiah”.It is easy to miss all of that in the day to day mundane aspect of learning to love and worship with people of all walks of life, and to allow others to wash your feet as you wash others. God’s plan hasn’t changed, It is still true, that “Wherever two or more are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them….”.
Like the description of Jesus himself, it is also true of the church that “…(S)he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him…(Isaiah 53:2) We too, (the church) are “despised and rejected of men” and have little outward attractiveness to draw the World in.
All we have is the Love of Jesus and the Truth of the Word.
There are a good many Churches who have sought to remedy the problem of outward attractiveness, having received professional training from the marketing world and the church growth industry.
No money is spared to purchase the finest buildings, the” hippest pastors” , studio quality music, they have remade once staid and plain Evangelical churches(Whose emphasis was at one time the Word of God), into worship centers,complete with coffee shops ,gyms and game rooms.They now seek to attract the unchurched. No longer can anyone say of these church ” there is no beauty that we should desire them…”.
It works, as far as drawing in large crowds. Everyone wants to be part of something successful, Hip and growing.
When I was young , going to mass meant coming into a fantastically decorated, otherworldly building, with beautiful and in some cases awe-inspiring statues of Angels, Jesus, His mother, and stain glassed beauty. The Priests dressed in august robes, stoles and embroidered cowls. To walk into Mass on a Sunday morning in the early 1960s was a sensual experience, one smelled incense, saw the colors and felt as close to heaven as it was possible. Even the language seemed Ancient, ethereal, and otherworldly (Latin).
But we never found God there. I never heard the Word of God. No one there could tell me how to be saved…
One day I walked into an Assembly of God church in Ames Iowa. The building was plain and unadorned, no statues, pictures, candles or bells. A small group of people were praying and worshipping, lifting hands to God, tears streaming down many of there faces. At first I thought it phony, I despised it, “This couldn’t be church!” (the minister had no sacred clothes, just a bad polyester suit).
But I saw people of all walks of life; here a businessman, there a washerwoman, with closed eyes, weeping and I can only describe it as Adoring God and Jesus Christ.
The very secrets of my heart were revealed,(I thought the preacher was speaking directly to me in all of my sin and filth).
I had stumbled into the church.
I had never seen it before…the body of Christ…small, marginalized, despised by this world, but lifting up Jesus (as though he was real to them!).
Many years have passed since that day, and I have since been saved and allowed the church to shape me, and to disciple and indoctrinate me, (I knew I needed it). I love this body that Jesus made…He is there wherever they are!
There is no question one can be hurt in church, for all God has to work with are sinners. People will hurt us and we will no doubt hurt others, in the course of time. This is one of the ways God sanctifies and shapes us, chipping away the old man and bringing forth the new.
But too many of us up and leave a church, just at that point the LORD had been bringing them to where they would have had to deal with others and themselves.
One thing people do not understand is that church isn’t a consumer good, like a restaurant, or a health club. The question isn’t “what can I and mine get out of this church?” There will always be a “better church” with more programs and ‘benefits’. This is merely the consumer mindset brought into the Church.
A “mega Church” then does to countless little local churches what a Walmart does to the old storefront shopping districts in little towns. It wipes them out, by offering the “Customer” more and better, and even prettier. I have actually had people explain to me, “We had to leave because we can’t worship to the old Hymn style, we need the Music of the CWHN(Church of whats happening now).
This betrays a lack of understanding of the church, its function and what a spiritual approach to Church would look like. Christians are not ‘religious shoppers’, consumers looking for the best deal. We are all witnesses to our generation of the reality of God.What counts is what God wants of you and what He can offer the church through you.Where does He want you?
Don’t get me wrong , I am not one who believes that everyone in my town should go to our church, we are blessed with a number of valid evangelical gospel preaching churches. Nor do I object if a cult or heretical church goes out of business.Jesus himself warned he would take our Lamp stands out, if we remain apostate.
I happen to believe that many of God’s people have become tired of the whole subject, they have supported churches which changed radically without their agreement, or they have participated in things because their church joined a fad or false revival, or they have had a sour experience here or there with the brethren, and they just don’t think they need church.
So they take themselves out, when the true church needs them more now than ever. It is always worth while to keep seeking fellowship, and to make it a priority, and if you are a parent to make sure your children love church and revolve their life around worship in the body. Don’t model to them that it is unimportant, you will rue the day you did. We need each other!
No Cd or television preacher can take the place of a human being handing you a piece of bread and saying “This is my body broken for you…” .
This is particularly true at the end.