Summary: The church in North America is dying. Oh, I know it doesn’t look like it when you see all the mega churches popping up with their multi-million dollar facilities, and hey, we have six churches in this little town, but the number of Christians is decreasin
The church in North America is dying. Oh, I know it doesn’t look like it when you see all the mega churches popping up with their multi-million dollar facilities, and hey, we have six churches in this little town, but the number of Christians is decreasing, not increasing every year on this continent.
But someone named Paul once said to one of his pastors Timothy, “…in the last days people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power”.
Now that certainly describes today even in the church, but that’s not the main reason I say the church is dying. Everytime in history when God’s people started conglomerating in large man made temples to themselves, the church died. Go back to the tower of Babel, God said don’t gather in cities and build monuments even if it is an attempt to get closer to me. God scattered them.
After the temple was rebuilt in Jerusalem, God scattered His people through exile. After Jesus ascended back to heaven, the church in Jerusalem grew like crazy, God brought heavy persecution and Christians scattered. For centuries the Catholic Church in Europe became very huge and very political and powerful, building massive cathedrals. The reformation came and scattered the believers, and some of them came to North America. Now most of those great cathedrals are either museums, or empty shells, very few are churches anymore and Europe by the year 2040 will be a Muslim continent.
Today, in North America, we are doing the same thing, Christians are conglomerating in these massive modern cathedrals we are building and becoming spectators of the faith. Have a look at these slides, Europe and their dead cathedrals, and then North Americas modern cathedrals. See any resemblance?
And many predict we are on the same path as Europe was. The reason is that the church was never meant to be a place where thousands gathered for services, it was meant to be an equipping centre where people come for a time and then get sent. Jesus said I am sending you as the Father sent me. Great buildings are usually the downfall of God’s people, because they cause people to get comfortable, selfish and stagnant in their Sunday Morning faith.
Supposedly we used to live in the Bible belt, but I think a more accurate term would be church belt. The church can become our idol, above Christ. I was surprised and somewhat disappointed at how many of my fellow long time Christians treated the Word of God. It was given a place in their faith but was largely neglected and often if it said something very clearly that involved our taking action in obedience, I found Christians explaining it away or rationalizing, or somehow suggesting that’s not really what it meant.
I think many people are mature in the ways of the modern church, but much fewer are mature and knowledgeable in the ways of the Bible. They put the man made church into practice but not so much the Word of God, certainly not the commands of the New Testament.
Jesus specifically said in his great commission when he said for all of us to make disciples, that we are to (didasko) or continually teach them to obey all that He commands. It’s easy to say OK I stood up here and told you what Jesus commands are, but that’s not what it means. What good would it do a teacher to stand in front of the class give them a textbook, and say learn math now, then walk out of the room never to return? Or a coach who said go be a player and then had no more involvement with the children he was coaching.
This teaching requires ongoing instruction, testing, correction, and accountability to see if the learning is being accomplished and put into practice. We do it with our children’s education but we refuse to do it in the church. It’s not learning about his commands its learning to live out his commands. I want to be your coach as players, not the concession stand guy handing out hotdogs.
When I received the call to be a pastor, God made it clear to me that I was to preach and to bring the Bible back to the center of the Christian faith in its completeness and truth. Two passages were key in what I saw as the biblical role of a pastor, Eph 4:11-16 was primary, and 1 Pet 5: 1-3. Let me briefly summarize them.
In 1 Peter, he commands elders/pastors to shepherd the flock of God. Now this word shepherd is not the same as “care for”. It is to lead, to spiritually feed, and protect. The next word we see is oversight in a humble way and by example. These terms reflect leadership and guidance more so than what we might call pastoral care. We are all supposed to be ministering pastoral care in that way to each other.