The would-be writer in me surfaces from time to time when something is lying heavy on my heart. I am not the first to have these concerns; many have expressed them better than I will. I guess I just need to add my voice of concern. Like the little ole southern lady that came running out of her house swinging a broom at the union soldier on her door step. When ask by the union soldier what she thought she could accomplish with that broom, she replied, “I can at least show you whose side I am on.” There is a lot of that little ole lady in me too.
Today there are millions of Christians in China. In the past twenty years, organizations, missionaries, academics, and the Chinese government have all announced figures ranging from 13.5 million to 130 million (a figure surprisingly stated in a 2006 Xinhua news agency report, by Ye Xiaowen, the most senior official dealing with religious affairs in the Chinese government at the time). High concentrations of Christians are also reported in Muslim nations in Africa. The same can be said of India where persecution is rampant in some areas. There are also a variety of underground movements we have little knowledge about. Today some of the largest concentrations of Christians are in lands where Christianity is not even legal.
When you become a Christian in these nations you put your life on the line. These people became Christ followers without church buildings, convenience or even a copy of the Bible in most cases. In fact they would give a year’s salary just to have a part of the Scriptures. The message of Jesus continues to spread like wild fire in the most unlikely places, without the things we have come to depend on and believe are “necessary” for us to function as a church. In America many of these conveniences have been given a higher priority than the things scripture speak of as the most important and essential to pleasing God. Often the first thing to go when there is a financial crunch is funding for missions, outreach and the poor. Our investments in tangibles -brick and mortar take priority over spiritual obligations.
At the same time this worldwide growth is taking place Christianity in the America is losing followers in significant numbers. Churches are closing their doors in large numbers. Symptoms of the problem are everywhere.
- Parents are more concerned that their children play sports than learn about Jesus and they are sending a powerful message by their priorities to their children, a message that will have a major impact on the next generation.
- Christian have so financially obligated themselves that there is little or nothing left over for the things of God. Given our priorities it would seem that it is more important to impress our neighbors than our God.
- There is little or no emphasis in the home for children to become messengers of the Gospel to the world. Even when the desire is lit by a Christian University often the greatest opponent the children may face will be their parents.
I could describe this spiritual decline in a number of ways; the frog in the kettle, the wandering sheep, etc. Spiritual decline comes slowly almost unnoticed until it is too late. It is the real slippery sloop. I can’t help but think we must be able to see this decline to one degree or another. How could we find ourselves so far for the major theme of Bible?
All sorts of questions come to mind but the one that gives me the most concern is simply this. Will Christians have the intestinal fortitude to change? Must we, like the people of God throughout Scripture and history, loose what we have for the scales to fall from our eyes? Must the people of God fall to stand? Will it once again take suffering loss to bring us to repentance and back to God? Is it true with us, as it is so often with our kids, that some lessons just have to be learned the hard way?
I know I know this all sounds like more doom and gloom. Someone may say, “Don’t you believe God is in control”? And my reply? “Yes, and that is why I am concerned.”
Jesus said, ““‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” Rev. 3:15-22. (Emphasis mine)
I really believe that Jesus meant those words! There is no middle ground. In his book, “Not a Fan”, Kyle Idleman accurately describes the church of our day.
“My concern is that many of our churches in America have gone from being sanctuaries to becoming stadiums. And every week all the fans come to the stadium where they cheer for Jesus but have no interest in truly following him. The biggest threat to the church today is fans who call themselves Christians but aren’t actually interested in following Christ. They want to be close enough to Jesus to get all the benefits, but not so close that it requires anything from them….Many fans mistakenly identify themselves as followers by using cultural comparisons. They look at the commitment level of others around them and feel like their relationship with Jesus is solid. Essentially they grade their relationship with Jesus on the curve, and as long as they are more spiritual than the next guy, they figure everything is fine.”
The sad reality is the price of our refusal to change will be paid by our children and grandchildren. The failure to set an example of living for Jesus for our children leaves them totally unprepared and vulnerable to all the world will offer them. That world is becoming more and more hostile and anti-Christian every day.
Jesus said that all of hell’s power cannot overcome the Church that He built. (Matt. 16:18). The truth of this statement is being evidenced all over the world today where the church is flourishing in spite of dire persecution. Yet here in the land of the free and the home of the brave it becomes more difficult daily to tell the difference between professing Christians and everybody else.
So what is the solution? Jesus gave the solution to the Laodicean church. His words to the wayward church at Ephesus are also applicable, “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.” Rev. 2:4, 5.
Until the love issue is settled there will be no real repentance and change. A very wise man told me one time there are two items that will speak volumes about our love for God; your calendar and your check book. Until those items reflect a heart that is deeply in love with God nothing much will change. That is until we fall.