Summary: Insights that I have about the Church and what is happening to the Church today.
WHAT I SEE HAPPENING TO THE CHURCH IN THE 21ST CENTURY
This sermon is the insight that I have about the Church and what is happening to the Church today. Not everything I will say is good, but these are the things I see happening. Many of these things will be for the good of the Church, and many things will weaken the Church. Nevertheless, here is what I see happening in the Church.
Before I begin talking about the Church, I want to remind you what the Bible says about the Church. Jesus said, “I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Therefore, I believe the Church was begun by Jesus Christ, the Church will be protected by Jesus Christ; and the true Church will not suffer what people can do to it. There are four things we can know about the Church from this reference:
· Jesus is the Church-planter, He said, ‘I will build the church.” He began the first Church and works through every church-planter to begin every one of the churches that a Liberty graduate has planted.
· Jesus promised a future to the Church because He said, “I will (future tense) build My church.”
· The church belongs to Jesus Christ. Notice Jesus called it, “My Church.” The church does not belong to the deacons, congregations or pastor, but to Jesus.
· The word church comes from the Greek word ecclesia, which means “gathering of people.” To have a church, God’s people must gather. Technically, the word comes from two Greek words. First, ek, which is “out” and kalleo, which means “to call.” God’s people are called out from the world, and called together around Jesus Christ.
The second verse that demands my love and devotion to a church is Jesus’ example. Paul tells us, "Jesus loved the church and gave Himself for the church" (Ephesians 5:25). Some churches don’t look very strong; some are not very separated; and some are not very spiritual. But if Jesus loved the Church and gave Himself for it, that means we must love the Church and give ourselves in service to Christ through the church.
The third verse that means so much to me is, "And the Lord added to the Church daily such as were being saved" (Acts 2:47). Since the Church is a live body--and bodies grow--I love growing churches. Thomas Road has grown from a handful of adults to one of the mega churches in America. After all of these years, I still believe in saturation evangelism,
"Using every available means to reach every available person at every available time." Someone recently told me that they thought I believed in marketing to build a church, and they were against using marketing in the church. Let me tell you this, I didn’t get saturation evangelism from marketing. I got “superaggressive evangelism” from the Word of God.
Listen to what the critics of the early Jerusalem church said, "Did we not straightly command you that you should not teach in this name? And, behold you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine" (Acts 5:28). The early Church was fulfilling the purpose of a church, which is to fill its "Jerusalem" with the doctrine of the Lord Jesus Christ. That means going to every house, to every person, to every family, trying to get them saved. That means going in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening, and in the middle of the night, trying to get them saved. That means using radio, television, bus ministry, soul-winning, mailing; i.e., every available means to reach every available person at every available time.
WHAT I SEE HAPPENING
1. I see more people attending mainline churches, but they will be worshipping less.
Paul predicted the coming of liberalism and the apostate church, “In the latter times, some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrine of devils” (I Tim. 4:1).
In another place Paul said, “In the last days, perilous times shall come . . . having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (II Tim. 3:1, 5).
2. I see the number of life-long missionaries going to the foreign field continuing to decline.
In 1985 there were approximately 60,000 missionaries. Today there are less than 40,000 missionaries, and that number will continue to go down. That’s because many veterans, who went to World War II, saw the world and came back to get their education; then they turned to the mission field to evangelize the world. The church is not challenging young people to go take their place.
3. I see the number of short-term lay missionaries continuing to grow in numbers.
In the early 70’s Thomas Road Baptist Church sent a busload of our young people to Mexico to help build Baptist churches. I thought that was a long way off, and that was very extraordinary at the time. Now it seems like every month young people leave Liberty University to go to the mission field to do the Lord’s work. Not only do young people go but also retired people go to the mission field. There are more people going to the mission field as short-term missionaries. I’m not criticizing, I’m always thrilled when people go to carry out the Great Commission.