In “Eyeballs, Logs and Specks”, I began with the thoughts of one of my colleagues. His comments are in response to the Presbyterian churches in our state hoping a new plan for evangelism will be a game changer.
Christ’s Church all over our nation finds itself in CRISIS MODE concerning ways to accomplish our GREAT COMMISSION. The biggest issues I have encountered in getting PCUSA to try new planning and initiatives in our mission as CHRIST’S CHURCH : First, apathy birthed in wealth and comfort; second, a great majority of Presbyterians I’ve encountered are afraid to speak openly and publicly about their relationship with Christ. I discern these folks have either settled for a knowledge of Christ as found in ritualistic religion or have not surrendered their hearts to God through Jesus Christ and thus have not personal, intimate relationship with Christ which gives them a passionate love for Christ that leads to excitement to share personally and simply their experience with Christ.
I think the question that haunts every pastor and church member who is sincere in their Christian faith is “why aren’t we growing?” Let me qualify. I’m referring to the Western church in general. There are other parts of Christ’s church in the world where the haunting question is “Where will we find Bibles and pastors for all these new believers?” And that is what I mean by “growing”. Why are we not seeing a significant number of new believers in our churches? My third caveat is I realize there are churches that do experience that blessing, but they are not common.
If God’s love is so encompassing, why is making disciples so difficult? Is something wrong with us, are we doing something wrong? The easy answer to that last question is “of course”.
All of this is what my friend is offering an answer for. Incidentally, I agree with him. Yes; I think for decades our churches have been filled with people wanting a touch of religion in their lives rather than living heart, soul, mind and strength for Jesus. I also think that in general, Christians in North America share our culture’s wealthy obsession with comfort, convenience, and security. I believe it is necessary to constantly be revising our methods for communicating the good news about Jesus. But my friend George gets to the essence of it all, it truly is a matter of the heart.
It isn’t just about the hearts of church people though. I’ve worked with many good folks who “get it” to the best of their ability; motivated, creative people who eventually give up because they do everything “right”, and don’t see any of their neighbors say “yes” to Jesus.
For ten years as a pastor I applied myself to learning the dynamics of a vital church, and the ways to help transform a church. Early on it was clear that studying “successful” churches for common denominators had an element of futility; if the bottom line is changing the hearts of believer and non-believer alike, the Holy Spirit has to be involved. I became aware of what God is doing in places like Iran, where devote Muslims are becoming disciples of Jesus in astronomical numbers, despite the Church’s weakness.
I still don’t have a good answer to it all. I know we will never see our churches grow unless the Holy Spirit is transforming the hearts of us church people while softening the hearts of our neighbors. For years I have devoutly prayed to see the Spirit transform churches and the non-Jesus-followers in our community. I have struggled to be as diligent as I could to place myself in the middle of what the Spirit is doing, and to do my part. But I have never been in a place where that convergence has happened. I don’t know what to do other than to continue that practice, even though it sounds like the definition of insanity (continuing to practice the same behavior over and over, expecting different results). I haven’t found The Answer. All I know is, no matter how well we analyze, how motivational our sermons are, or how entrepreneurial our outreach, until the Spirit fills the sails of it all until the rigging creaks, we will continue to ask these questions and seek solutions.
Perhaps the task is to keep the sails and rigging in the best condition we can, learn all we can about how to handle the sails, and equip as many as we can to be able bodied sailors so when the Wind comes, we’re ready.