They went far from Me, and walked after emptiness and became empty– Jeremiah 2:5b NASB
The Western Church is in crisis.
The crisis came about because somehow over the course of the last century both Church-goers and Church leaders lost sight of what a real spiritual win looks like (Judges 21:25). This has resulted in diminishing spiritual power in the lives of church-goers. The churches lack of spiritual power has left it incapable of transforming people and society. This has caused the culture to spiral downward in a whole bunch of weird and kind of horrifying ways.
The average church-goer has gone after all the spiritual goals (Jeremiah 2:5). For many the primary objective of the Christian life has become one of personal fulfillment. In the minds of the average Western church-goer God exists mostly to meet human needs and fulfill personal desires. God’s job is to make us happy and fix our problems. If God doesn’t give us what we want in a timely manner or in the way we want it we find a new spiritual model, hobby or cause that gives us more of what we think we need. Sometimes, this involves Christians making flowery proclamations on Twitter or Facebook stating they intend to spend some time “reimagining”, “reconstructing” or “reinventing” their faith. Those expressions are all just twenty-first century colloquialisms for willfully choosing to make up a new, more user-friendly God who will allow us to find personal fulfillment in whatever way we see fit. The “reimagined” or “reconstructed” God is always a bit more progressive and tolerant than the God of the Bible. The new God is always willing to put His (or Her) blessing on self-actualization that leads to selfishness, sexual sin and bitterness towards those who have caused us pain.
Christian leaders who lack an understanding of their purpose look to God primarily for a sense of achievement. This is similar to the desires of the average church-goer but the ultimate outcome is different. When leaders lack an understanding of their purpose God becomes a means to an end rather than the whole goal of the Christian life. Leaders who do not understand their biblical purpose seek kingdom building, but instead of building God’s Kingdom they build their own. These leaders end up working really hard to create a cool place for people to hear them speak. On the surface this can appear to be a good thing. But, the environments these leaders construct inevitably lack the power to bring Christians and non-Christians out of their sin and selfishness and into right relationship with God.
It’s a hot mess.
The answer to the problem is simple. However, that does not necessarily mean it will be easy to actualize the solution. In order to solve it we must change our perspectives on what God is for, what the church is for and what the outcome of Christianity is supposed to be. Changing perspectives on anything significant is tough because it involves a combination of humility, self-awareness and willingness to make hard changes. Most humans suck at all that stuff.
Mercifully, what is impossible for man is possible with God (Matthew 19:25-26, Luke 18:27). The Western church will regain its purpose and spiritual power when God’s people go back to the Bible and seek to understand what God really says about the mission of the Church.
The gospel message is the mission. Period. The average church-goers job is to tell the world how Jesus can transform a person and change the trajectory of their life (Matthew 28:18-20, 2nd Corinthians 5:17). This is why Ephesians six tells believers to “put on the shoes of the gospel of peace”. That directive is a statement of mission. It tells us we are here to take the gospel into every interaction we have and every situation we find ourselves. In order for the truth we tell to take root in people’s hearts we must live lives that reflect the goodness, kindness and moral purity of Jesus.
Christian leaders should be in the business of building and growing people spiritually, morally and in their gifting’s and abilities. Leaders must emphasize the importance of spiritual growth, emotional health and holiness in their teaching, preaching and interactions with church people. Leaders must encourage and teach their people to maximize their giftings in such a way they build up the church body. The goal of every Christian leader should be for every person in their body to be told “well done good and faithful servant” on judgment day by Jesus (Matthew 25:21). I suspect it will be a big part of the overall grade for leaders on judgment day (Revelation 20:11-13, James 3:1).
Everything we do as believers must be done in a spirit of humility. Church-goers must tell the world about Jesus p with an attitude of grace and love that shows the world that everything we say about our God is true. Church leaders must manage their lives and ministries in such a way that when church people become a natural reflection of the leaders in their lives it will be a beautiful thing (Romans 12:8).