Summary: The modern-day, Americanized church is a poor representation of the 1st Century church. We are confused about what we are.
Don’t be Confused – (THE TERM) - #1
* This morning I carry you on a brief journey on which, for the past couple of weeks, I have found myself. Quite honestly, this journey has been painful and helpful as well as hard and exciting. My first disclaimer is that my desire is not to offend anyone particularly. That being said, I know that through this journey I will be seen pretty much as an “equal opportunity offender” because the truth of God’s word will offend everyone who maintains a hint of personal pride or agenda. If, at the end of the day, you feel like your person has been assaulted, be thankful you are not me, because of the nature this ‘these messages’ I have come to feel that the work I have given my life to, moved my family around the southeast for, and for which I am here, has been challenged. What frightens me is this; I am not challenged by a colleague, or a church member, or a crisis, but rather, I am challenged by the truth of God’s word & our Lord’s teaching about HIS church. “HIS CHURCH” – it is probably a good idea to embrace this concept first – “HIS (not my) Church.”
* Have you ever begun a project (I.E. cooking, building, and cleaning) that, in the initial concept, was to be simple, sweet, & short, only to get frustrated that the more attention you gave it the larger it became? In fact, it was almost like it had a ‘life of its own.” This exactly described what has happened to me this past couple of weeks as I have fleshed out today’s message. It began as one message and now is a 3 part series.
* Let me give you the background of how God worked in my spirit to bring me to this place. You have heard from multiple preachers in this pulpit speak to you about the 21st century church in America. It matters not who you read, the discovery is generally disturbing. Over three-fourths of “CHRISTIAN” churches in America are plateaued & declining & of those who boast of gains in attendance, the majority are growing through ‘transfer growth’. That is, we are swapping sheep instead of birthing new sheep. Then we read books like “Essential Church” which tells us that young people, while not giving up on God, are in large numbers leaving the fellowship between the ages of 18 & 30 with only a small percentage of those ever returning to fold. (When you ask them why – you’ll get some alarming answers). My personal bookshelf is replete with books on the church (I.E. deliberate, external-focused, purpose-driven, and more) – which all attempt to combat the same issue – a dying church. Now we are reading the book “Already Gone” only to discover that one of the culprits to this dilemma is the very thing ‘we’ consider to be an invincible force for discipling our children to be the very thing which is not grounding & growing them in their faith. These only scratch the surface.
* Additionally, on Thursday of this week I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Frank Paige, the new CEO of the SBC Executive Committee say something like, “We are an aging people. Many of the congregations I speak to are “older white people” which is not particularly reflective of our culture.” If you are like me, you’re saying to yourself, “ENOUGH already” to which I respond, “I wish I could, but for me it gets worse.”
* We live in a culture which desperately needs a word from God which is ‘life-changing’, ‘God-revealing’, and landscape designing and because of what they have seen in the lives of the ‘churches’ they’ve gone shopping elsewhere. And by the thousands, this continues. Add to this dilemma the words of instruction from Jesus himself about the church and, as my dad used to say, ‘The cheese gets binding.’
* In my heart I heart I hear and sense that there is much confusion today about this thing called the church. (By the way, God is not the author of confusion). Yet, this confusion exists both from members & observers, but the one who is not confused is the founder. My call today, His call today is “Don’t be confused about the church.”
* Now, having said this, here is what I know and can in my mind’s eye see that arms are being folded, eyebrows raised, and heads tilted in that unmistakable attitude of ‘how dare you!’ and are “Who are you to tell me..?” (Frequently, this is the attitude seen in people who are confronted with sin and salvation). Yet, before I get to the text & the meat – please know a couple of things: a) who am I to do this? I am a very human, very imperfect man whom God has called to deliver truth (even when it hurts). b)This message is not intended to threaten anyone’s intellect or pride, it is my heart to display a difficult truth which, I believe, has been unseen.