Justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found- Isaiah 59:13-14a NIV
The world is a pretty messy place right now.
A reputation can be ruined and anyone can be vilified simply by using a few simple trigger words to describe that person (racist, sexist homophobic). Clever sinners have literally invented new ways to sin especially in the arenas of gender and sexuality. Furthermore, all one has to do is watch five minutes of any news program on any channel and it becomes painfully obvious that no one in the political sphere is even pretending to get along with anyone else anymore.
Christianity is also pretty messy right now.
Conversions are down and scandals are up. Millennial Christians left the church years ago and show no signs of returning any time soon. Now many of their parents are following suit and trading Sunday services for Sunday hikes. Few view the church as a force for good in the world. Pastors and Priests are no longer at top of the list of professions that people trust most. Just a few years ago clergy were thought to be above reproach by the vast majority of people.
There is no end to the theories regarding the whys and how’s of what got us to this place. Some church-goers blame the materialistic mindset of many Christians. Others blame weak preaching, scarcity of Bible study, lack of care for the poor and the less than saintly lifestyle choices of many Christians. Others are convinced the fault lies with too much focus on Bible study and the emphasis Christians place on the lifestyle choices of others. Some say the problem lies with churches (or the people in the churches) who have been reluctant to change with the times. Others argue just as passionately that the problem is with all the changes that have taken place within the church in recent years.
Okay, so, some theories make a little more sense than others. That said, none do anything to resolve the real issue. The real issue is that a church in crisis can do nothing to help or heal a culture in crisis. Real and lasting change in the culture will only come through a movement of repentance that leads to revival. Historically, revival has always begun with a movement among individuals in the church to repent, love the unlovable and embrace spiritual obedience (Luke 10:27).
Getting there begins with:
Getting our spiritual stuff together-
There are a massive number of people who attend church consistently who simply do not have their spiritual stuff together. Sadly, no one can do this for anyone else. It’s something we all have to do for ourselves. There is an epidemic of moral compromise in the body of Christ and where moral goodness does exist there tends to be a great deal of life-choking, joy-killing legalism. Change is never easy and, in this case, it will require a willingness to take a hard look at our own lives and then repent of things that need repenting including pointless legalism (Colossians 3:5-14, Galatians 2:16, Hebrews 7:19).
Stop tolerating bad leaders because they deliver results-
This week the lead Pastor at Willow Creek Church in Wheaton stepped down after publicly acknowledging that he “has an intense drive to see results in the ministry”. He also disclosed that he “pushes others ruthlessly” to achieve the results he wants. Six months of coaching and therapy did nothing to correct his self-confessed leadership deficiencies. His predecessor, Bill Hybels was fired after a multitude of women came forward over the course of many years alleging inappropriate sexual behavior. Unfortunately, these stories have become all too common in the church world, especially in larger churches. We have forgotten that it is not an act of leadership to bully subordinates and it is possible have excellence without intimidation tactics or sexual misconduct. Church has become an industry. All too often Pastors who prove they can achieve results (butts in the seats and bucks in the offering plate) are allowed to bully and harass so long as people keep coming, giving and writing five-star-reviews on Yelp. Church board members need to get their priorities in order and demand more of Pastors (1stTimothy 3:1-13) from a moral and leadership perspective.
Start thinking biblically about worldly things-
There are many behaviors and attitudes that the Bible does not necessarily forbid but are not wise or beneficial from a spiritual perspective (1stCorinthians 10:23). It’s time we made a practice looking down the road and thinking through the potential long-term cost of today’s choices.
Expect more from new converts-
For whatever reason, it has become standard operating procedure to do everything possible to keep new Christians from identifying themselves as new converts to Christianity. It’s as if we think that somewhere there is a safer place to “come out” as a Christian than at church. We have nixed the embarrassing altar calls and pesky talks about the importance of repentance and living a holy life. We just wait for conviction to come along on its own. Is it any wonder new converts to Christianity aren’t impacting their world for Jesus?
Find ways to give back-
Change will come as we learn to contribute, help and do rather than criticize, compromise and protest the chaos in the world (Matthew 22:37-40).
Seriously. None of this will happen without prayer.