Something is wrong in the Church today. I don't say that lightly, or as someone who thrives on criticizing everyone else so as to establish my own spiritual superiority, or as someone who is feeding on sour grapes because things aren't the way I would like them. I say it because of how many people I meet on a daily basis who are discouraged by traditional church and have chosen not to attend anymore.
Everywhere I turn, I hear people complaining about the same thing. This isn't something localized to a particular area or limited to a certain social strata or denomination -- I hear this from all sorts of people, many with impeccable spiritual credentials. Oftentimes I hear from pastors who have spent decades in ministry who are now questioning the vibrancy of the Church. Others are just kids off the streets, armed with little more than a spiritual hunger, who refuse to attend church, not because they don't believe, but because they are repelled by what they see.
No matter how you view this issue, no matter what position you have, no matter what church you belong to, you have to admit that something is wrong.
We are supposed to be the salt of the Earth, as something that gives flavor to make a meal taste good. But when we are not attracting the lost, but rather repelling them, then our salt has lost its savor. What makes it even worse is that we are even repelling the saved.
There are opposing extremes to this issue, true, but shouldn't the middle be closer to the truth? We see on one hand the churches that are so loose and "loving" that they excuse any sin or misconduct, including homosexuality and adultery in the church. On the other hand, there are those in their religious zeal have taken it upon themselves to proclaim their self-righteous judgments on every church around them. Somewhere they read that the Word of God is a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces, so they've traded in their fishing pole for a sledgehammer.
But in the middle, where we hope to find something that is more balanced, instead we find a modern church that is socially based, smooth and sensual, sophisticated, and presented like a Hollywood production so that it will appeal to the crowds who flock there. Listen, if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck, then it is most likely a duck, and not a church.
And what, may I ask, ever happened to the Gospel of power? If our churches are supposed to be so good, then why are so many people turned off by them? If the fire that is burning in our churches was from off the altar of God instead of a Wizard of Oz production, then I can guarantee you that hungry souls would be drawn by the Spirit of God, but instead, they are turning away. Something is wrong!
Where are the old-fashioned preachers who used to preach under the anointing of power, and relied not their stack of disheveled notes, but on the power of God to deliver the message? Our pastors today follow the social and marketing formulas they were taught in college and present a Gospel in a multi-media fashion with 7 bulleted points, a poem, and three jokes. Something is wrong!
What happened to the strong calls for repentance that brought thousands down to the altar to repent and ask Jesus Christ to save their souls? This is the litmus test for Christianity; it is the essence of the Cross; it is the Great Commission that Jesus commanded us with. If you are not winning souls, then you are a barren woman, and it is a shame unto you. Something is wrong!
Where did all the miracles go? Not the weak excuses of "if it is God's will ...", or a reliance on a "gradual healing" with a doctor's appointment in hand, but the instant manifestation of the power of God? Jesus said to heal the sick, and preach the Gospel. Was He just kidding? Did He really mean it? Yes, He meant it! If there is not a flowing of miracle healings in your church, then I'm sorry, something is wrong!
Where is the outpouring of the Holy Ghost? Do we even know what it means anymore to feel the presence of the Spirit of God descend on a service and fill up the room with holiness? Or do we just think that our party atmosphere of excitement when someone plays a cool song, or the excitement that we get when some charismatic speaker works the crowd is the Holy Ghost? It's been so long since we've seen the real thing that we don't even know what it is anymore. Something is wrong!
Something of deep substance is missing in our church today. But we've become so sophisticated and enamored with our social Gospel that we don't even realize that something is wrong. We are left like Gideon, threshing his wheat in secret by the winepress of God because our fields have been taken over by a worldly church. And we wonder out loud to the angel, "What happened to the miracles our fathers have told us about?"
Yeah, that's my question too. What happened?
When we lost our fear of God, we lost our power in God. And at that point, as it says in Isaiah 29, the Book became sealed unto us so that we no longer even grasp how far we have fallen. We read it, but we can't see past the surface of the page.
I believe in the four R's, the four steps to revival - Recognition, Repentance, Righteousness, and Revival. The first step to Revival is to realize that we don't have one, to recognize that something is desperately wrong with our churches, and that we have lost something precious in our pursuit of a super-sophisticated modern Church. We've lost it, and we need to get it back.
Only when we finally acknowledge our sin, can we begin the journey back to the place God has reserved for us.
" And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent."