Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Ignorant Church

There is no truth or mercy or knowledge of God in the land…. My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. (Hosea 4:1, 6) This was God’s message to Israel during the days of Hosea the prophet. I wonder what God would say to the church today? Israel lacked a knowledge about God. They were ignorant, and their ignorance led them into both spiritual and physical bondage.

A recent Pew research has come up with some challenging statistics based on their recent survey. In asking Christians, atheists, Mormons, Jews, and other religions, the results revealed where the church has failed. For example, the results state: Four out of ten Catholics (45%) do not know that their church teaches that the elements of communion, the bread and the wine, are not symbols, but actually become the body and blood of Jesus. It makes we wonder how many folks come to church on a Sunday morning out of ritual and tradition, but who do not know what they believe or why they believe it. If they were asked the reason for their faith, how would they answer? The Bible tells us that ‘as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” (Prov. 23:7) What is the church thinking today?

The Ignorant Church

The Apostle Paul wrote to the early church, challenging them because of their seeming ignorance, their need for milk and not meat. They were acting like small children instead of mature saints. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. (Hebrews 5:12) Paul knew that if the church was going to survive, it needed to mature, grow up and challenge each succeeding generation to spiritual maturity. That maturity depends on our diet. What kind of spiritual food are we eating. Our natural man often demands that we feed it many kinds of things that are not good for us. Our cupboards are filled with junk food, foods that put on the pounds and destroy our immune systems. Somehow I wonder if what we tend to eat in the natural is a reflection of the lack of spiritual discipline and wisdom in our spiritual lives as well. It was a problem in the early church, so it is probably still a problem in the church today. Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. (2 Timothy 4:2-4) What a danger for any church to fall into! We can so easily fall into a trap of “not enduring sound doctrine.” The moment the church clamors for entertainment rather than sound doctrine, we begin the long trail to ignorance of the Word of God and solid teaching. When pastors and teachers fail to teach their congregations the basic doctrines of the Word, and clearly explain their importance for today, we risk being turned aside to fables. It is sad to say I have heard of some churches who no longer use the word ‘sin’ in their messages. In an attempt to not offend ‘sinners’, we tend to coddle them into an understand that God sees their ‘mistakes’ and loves them. They fail to get the sound doctrine regarding sin—that sin is an offence to a holy God, For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; (Romans 3:23)

Others have eliminated the Sunday School classes due to poor attendance or lack of teachers. When do we get to teach this next generation the basics of the Christian doctrine? Can it all fit into the neat package of 90 minutes most churches have for their Sunday morning Worship service? How will they learn what is wrong with the many cults and world religions clamoring for their attention today?

A New Generation

The Millennium generation (ages 19-29) is one that is moving more and more away from the church and all formal religion. They most often claim to be atheistic or agnostic or have no affiliation with religion at all. How does the church reach this generation today? They are not moved to action or to allegiance by our institutions (home, school, church,) or by our buildings (mega churches) or even by our religious code of conduct. They become passionate about a movement, as every generation in the past. Christ came not to establish an institution (church) but a movement...a kingdom of believers who would carry the message forward with passion and commitment. A movement is alive, something you can believe in and feel part of, and whereby you can change the world. This generation has seen how a ‘movement’ led by Muslims is changing the face of the world for Islam. It has seen how a movement of political agendas has sent America into a pit of debt. But what are they seeing from the spiritual camp? In the past they have witnessed the disgrace of individuals who have fallen into sin. But they have not seen the rise of any strong spiritual leadership that can change the world for God. Spiritual ignorance coupled with sinful behavior has crippled the church and turned off a generation. It’s not the size of your church sanctuary, nor the money you spend on missions, nor the fame of your pastor that matters. What motivates you to serve God to the point of sacrifice and even death? It takes us back to the basics. Jesus prepared His disciples to become the apostles. He told them in John 14: 11-15 Believe me: I am in my Father and my Father is in me. If you can't believe that, believe what you see—these works. The person who trusts me will not only do what I'm doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I've been doing. You can count on it. From now on, whatever you request along the lines of who I am and what I am doing, I'll do it. That's how the Father will be seen for who he is in the Son. I mean it. Whatever you request in this way, I'll do.15-"If you love me, show it by doing what I've told you.

Motivating a Generation

What will motivate this generation to see and become a part of a powerful movement of believers who walk in the Spirit...who are not afraid to do the “greater works” Jesus talked about? It will take an honest demonstration of the mighty power of God at work in the lives of needy people. You may have heard the famous quotation by Rod Wolford—“A man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with an argument.” The church that is maturing today needs that fresh experience of the mighty power of God. It needs to see bodies healed, lives transformed, and the kind of ‘revival’ that changes people, cities and nations. When I experience something dramatic, I never forget it. It becomes a part of me. When the church experiences the revitalizing power of God, it too will never be the same again.

Walk in the Spirit

Ignorance is swept away as we learn to walk in the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is our teacher. His role is to guide us into truth, keep us from error and give us power to speak boldly to those who will listen. He wants to flow through believers to touch a hurting world. How does God want to use you? What part will you play in allowing the Holy Spirit to flow? It is tempting to sit back and let others do it—the pastors, the evangelists, the deacons. But we are all His servants, His ministers, His disciples. He has called us all to disciple others, to teach and repel the spiritual ignorance that surrounds the church today like a fog. His wind want to blow in, and sweep away the fog. His fire wants to burn up all the dross, the chaff, the things that cannot stand the test. We may be challenged in the fire, but it must come to cleanse us.

When the church of today becomes rigid and unmoved, unwilling to change and experience the presence of God, it becomes an ‘institution’ rather than a ‘movement.’ An institutional mindset breeds attitudes such as—be faithful but don’t rock the boat, do enough just to get by and then leave unchanged. That attitude will destroy the church and cripple the next generation. If your church has fallen into this trap, it is time to call the church to prayer, to challenge each heart to spiritual change and growth. As times get tough, and terrorism and elections shake our world we need to know and experience the God who shakes hearts and minds and who transforms people and churches from ignorance to conviction and commitment . What is our part? Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen (Matthew 28: 19-20)
J. Johnson