Thursday, September 15, 2022

A Gathering of Believers

Because we have changed the very nature of the church from a place where believers gather to be encouraged and strengthened to rather more of a professional evangelism center where the lost come to be found, it's no wonder that our churches are struggling. 

One of the most-cited reasons for a Christian leaving a church today is because they "aren't being fed." They aren't getting anything out of the programming. They aren't growing in their faith or learning anything new about God. They aren't being pushed, or even invited, to go deeper in their faith. 

And how could they be? If we think that the mission of the church is to seek and save the lost, then we have to keep preaching and teaching for those who don't know Jesus, for those who are walking into our doors for the first time that morning. So naturally, we aren't putting our resources on the encouragement and strengthening of those who are already disciples. 

Then, we have the gall to look at the faithful, to look at those disciples who have been walking with Christ for a long time already, to look at those who say that they aren't being fed...and to tell them that it's not the church's job to feed you; you're supposed to be doing your own Bible study, your own prayer, your own service. You're supposed to be engaging your own heart because you, my friend, are already a disciple, and you don't need the church to find Jesus. 

So...they leave. And why shouldn't they? We have told them that they are so spiritually mature that they don't need the church any more. 

No wonder our churches are struggling. 

The greater trouble, of course, is that these disciples then go out of the church, which they don't need any more, and they preach a gospel to the world - by word or just by living - that the Christian faith doesn't need the church. That you don't need the church to be a Christian. That the ultimate aim of the Christian life is to get to the point where you don't need to go to church. 

And if that's the case, it becomes harder still to get seekers to come. If disciples don't need church, why would seekers need it? 

Thus, we have become a nation of the "spiritual, but not religious," of the Christian-without-a-church. And it all started when we changed the very nature of the church as Jesus established it for us and decided instead to make it the place where the hard work of evangelism tries to happen instead of the encouragement and strengthening of the saints in the fellowship of one anothering. 

We went from a gathering of believers to an outpost of ministry, and we've taken Jesus out of the streets and put Him into the cathedrals and called the lost to come while the faithful wander in the world looking for a Christ they had, but lost, because they became disconnected from the very place that was supposed to weave them in. 

We've flipped the entire thing upside-down. 

The disciples are no longer leading the church; they're leaving it. The seekers are no longer finding Jesus in the places where they live; He lives in His own special place apart from the dust and the dirt of the real world. The Gospel is being preached in the pulpit, but not lived in our communities. We say to the thirsty, "Come," and we pour out just enough water to keep them coming back for more and then, when they tire of water, we tell them that food is up to them and that they're ready to go foraging. Then, what they find is a smorgasbord of what the world has to offer, only a very small bit of which is Jesus, and it's just too easy once the church has said that you don't need not want them. And if you, who believe in Jesus, don't want the church, then why should I, who am curious about Jesus, want it? 

No wonder our churches are struggling. 

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