We are losing the battle with our self-possessed, ‘do-as-you-please’ culture. Under the influence of a more and more secular, self-centered, ‘politically-correct’ world view, the disappearance of the traditional family, and the lack of in-depth teaching by parents and schools of the ‘why’s’ and ‘what’s’ of our Christian faith, we are losing our Bible-based convictions and values. Families who have been Christians for generations are torn apart by divorce, sexual immorality, greed, selfishness and so on. Over 70% of young people raised by Christian families and who have attended Christian churches and even schools lose their faith by the time they are twenty.
On top of that, confusion reigns! Recent surveys reveal that the average Christian has really no clue why he or she should be a Christian and what it means to be a Christian. Many fall for non-Biblical, false teachings like ‘health-and-wealth’ gospels and ‘we-just-need-to-love-Jesus-and-love-everybody’ Christianity. Churches – in general – only dare to teach ‘feel-good’ messages and parents are not around or do not make the time to talk to their children about their faith and how to live as a Christian. Contemporary Christians seem to think that they go to church to hear a positive message, feel better about themselves and socialize and have forgotten that the objective to meet on Sunday morning is to worship God!
It hurts me to say that your church is possibly falling victim to these trends as well. It might be are at risk of becoming – as more than 90% of all churches in America – a church like Laodicea, which is rebuked by Jesus Himself in Revelation 3:14-22 with the words:
“These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm-neither hot nor cold-I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.”
“Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
According to many Biblical scholars, the seven churches addressed by Christ in Revelation are prophetic for the seven ages from the apostolic age to the church of today. I tend to agree with this analysis as Christianity in America today fits the description of the Laodicean church remarkably well.
As a body of believers we do not only need to be aware of the risk of being a lukewarm church, we need to aggressively fight against it by choosing to be a Christ centered and Biblically committed church. What does that mean? I believe it practically means that a Christian church should be a healthy, vibrant, and active church that shares, nurtures, and teaches its doctrinal convictions. Each church should actively disciple and help mature its members and attract seekers and un-churched Christians. It should be a “lighthouse for Christ” that is characterized by:
1) Preaching and teaching of Biblically sound doctrine – The whole Bible is the inerrant Word of God, not only the part of Scripture we agree with and/or we like. We need to teach doctrine as well as obedience to all of God’s commands. We should not come to church just to feel good. We should not avoid messages that ‘might upset people’. Jesus Himself instructed the disciples in the Great Commission to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in ï»¿the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). We all need to be continuously thought the whole Bible so we can mature in our faith and become more like Christ.
2) Supporting, promoting and practicing discipleship – Being a Christian does not end when we leave church on Sunday. We all know that. But we also know how easy it is to be pulled into the secular world around us. Therefore we need a lot of focus on discipleship in the church as well as at home through Bible studies, prayer meetings, and accountability partnerships.
3) Leadership by God-fearing, Biblically-qualified men – Our churches need now and in the future men to lead the congregation with a Biblical worldview, selected using the requirements laid out in 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1 and 1 Peter 5 (and not because they might attract larger crowds and/or are more entertaining).
4) Practicing discipline – We all make mistakes, we’re all still sinners. People who commit to be members of a church willingly submit themselves to being accountable to the church leadership. There are people in every church that struggle, or even have given in to, sin. It is the responsibility of the leadership to address this sin and if it cannot be corrected, to remove the sinner. That is what the Bible teaches. That is what God commands again and again. If we allow habitual sin to go unchecked in the congregation, we all become used to it and we slide faster and faster towards immorality. Please do not forget that most of the New Testament consists of letters written by the apostles to Christians with the purpose of rebuking and correcting them!
It is time for all of us to wake up and start walking as Jesus did (1 John 2:6)!