Church Apathy Circumspect - The Way it is and How it Should Be
by Les Dorman 6/18/2011 / Church Life
The spiritual knowledge and worship of today's Christians does not appear to be of any great concern to people today. I know God is in control and that the scrolls of time are being playing out just as He planned. I cannot claim any original thought on these problems and have in some cases shamelessly used other peoples' words to describe my concern. Frank discussions are out of favor these days. My hope is that the reader will consider these issues of church culture and send this open letter on to any and all who will benefit from it.
Critical analysis sometimes challenges our long held beliefs and prejudices. Man's ability to make and follow just, moral, governing rules of self-conduct has proven dismal at best. There is a justifiable place and procedure for exposing public sin. Exposure that brings soul-searching circumspection can be beneficial. We need Christ in us, and God's Holy Word for guidance.
Righteous indignation amounts to hypocrisy on our part and specific finger pointing often makes individuals defensive, forcing them to justify questionable actions. Judging the inner thoughts of other people or the motives of specific intuitions is futile. I could not get it right if I tried. Micah 6:8 Instructs believers as to our requirements. These requirements are to do justice, to love kindness, and walk humbly with your God. God will make His judgments correctly at His appointed time. Romans 14:10 reads, "But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we all shall stand before the judgment seat of God".
The best we can hope for is that we will see God's plan and be willing to initiate change within ourselves in order to give Him our obedience. At minimum this will provoke circumspection as to our personal walk with the Lord. This is not about any one pastor, governing board, congregation, or denomination; but it is about a troubling trend of some of our churches leading their flock in the wrong direction. The right direction can only be described as a straight and narrow path, continually walking humbly with your God.
Many churches are losing their vision and drifting away from the Bible's written precepts that should govern her, in exchange for a social agenda. Indifference to God's purpose begs the question: "Who are they serving, Christ or themselves"? Church members and governing boards that avoid the life saving gospel message and the spiritual needs of their flock have clearly lost their way. We should not forget what Jesus said in Matthew 9:13, "I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance". Many congregations see church membership growth as their main purpose. Getting people to transfer from one flock to another is not the same as reaching out in love to our unsaved neighbors. Increasing membership, revenues, and providing bigger and more diverse programs may sound great, but in fact may be misguided. Proverbs 29:18 Reads, "Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained". Both big and small churches can lose sight of Jesus by going down this road. It can also create a superficial, competitive attitude of consumer shopping as to which church provides the most social services and prestige. In 2 Corinthians 4:18 we read, "While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the thing which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal".
Christ's great commission is not optional. It is a command to go out in His name. Our part is to preach to the world around us. It specifically includes proclaiming repentance and remission of sin. (See Luke 24:47-48) We know from John 17:9 that God gives Christ his believers. It is God's part to determines who, where, when, and how many receive the message. By being unconcerned about the quality of our message we forfeit our witness and the power of the church to change lives. (See Acts 1:8)
In order to fill seats some misguided leaders, in my opinion, are avoiding subjects that may be distasteful to potential members. To put this problem bluntly, some questionable ministries are "gaming the system", substituting a house of prayer for a house of merchandise and selling cheap grace, (forgiveness without repentance and/or faith without works/obedience). (See James 2: 26) It is imperative that each believer question whether their local church has succumbed to this self-serving, omission business model that limits itself to sweet talk and "seeker friendly" dialog only. Jesus said in Luke 4:4 "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God".
All need to know that only the righteousness of Christ has the power to save. Today's feel good rationalization aides and abets Satan's first record lei. Genesis 3: 4 says "...Surely you shall not die". Flip Wilson the comedian poked fun and called it, "The Church of what's happening now". The church body that tries to be politically correct (as opposed to Biblically correct) has clearly lost its way. God's admonishments are the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Man's continual sin nature is real and should be told. If we think our righteousness will save us, is this not additional proof of our unworthiness of Christ's love and sacrifice? (Please see 1 John 1:8-9). Our generation and future generations will not be served well by avoiding the meat of God's Word. Today's church shepherds need to "wake up" and take the letter to Sardis in Revelation 3 to heart.
When Moses talked with God, (Exodus 3:14) at the burning bush he asked God, What shall I tell them about you? God said to Moses, "...I AM has sent me to you". Today we would call that "brevity". Two vowels and one consonant describe the Creator of mankind and our universe. Note that He makes no apologies for being God and neither should we apologize for our exaltation of our redeemer Jesus Christ. His believers should boldly declare His majesty. The soft-peddling timidity of a feel-good gospel that is not blessed by the Holy Spirit will not add any new names to heaven's rolls.
By the grace of God a straight and narrow path through Jesus has been provided for us. It has been given freely to anyone that believes that Jesus is the Son of God and confesses Jesus as Lord. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that no one can come to the Father but by Jesus. There is no other way! The old and new testament is very clear. He is a jealous God and will not share His glory. Isaiah 43:11 states, "I even I, am the Lord, and besides Me there is no savior". Christ is the narrow gate, (as we know from Matthew 7:13-14). Good or bad choices can have lasting ramifications. Hebrews 4:11-13 instructs us to be diligent. We can distinguish the real from the counterfeit. There are still many good churches you can join. Christ said in Mathew 16:18, "I will build my church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it". Know that church people are not infallible and none of these churches will be perfect. We should resist the error of focusing on gifted but self-absorbed leaders that expect loyalty to themselves and their programs exclusively. (See Acts 14:15) This can happen when we lose sight of Christ and are not renewing our faith in daily prayer and Bible study. It is imperative that we show caution and know that some, but not all, churches have deteriorated into social clubs with religious banners out front. They limit themselves to only preaching comforting thoughts to the choir and the biblical precepts that are currently popular with the world. This is not a new problem, as noted in Matthew 15:8-9. In some cases the emerging churches are going a step further. They are adopting rebellious doctrines and procedures that oppose the clear and specific scriptural precepts in the guise of being relevant to our current, contemporary society. This rebellion can only be described as apostasy. As per John 21:15-17, Christ did not tell or intend for Peter to feed his sheep garbage! In 1 Samuel 15:22-23 we read rebellion and disobedience is idolatry, because we are putting ourselves and the pride of what seems right in our own eyes, before God.
Christ explained in Matthew 13:22, that the seed was sown among the thorns. This seed represents the man who hears the word and the worries of the world and the deceitfulness of riches chokes the word and it then becomes unfruitful. If we claim Jesus as Lord and oppose His precepts we are kidding ourselves. (1 John 2:4). You can see the decay today because Christians are content with, and trust in, man's reasoning without searching God's word. The Word is sharper than any two-edged sword and is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart, as per Hebrews 4:12. The result today is a rebellion from God's timeless truth that most churches once believed and proclaimed boldly. "The Lord is our Shepherd; His word is a light unto our path".
2 Timothy 2:15 says, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as workmen who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth". It is almost always the responsibility of church leaders to set the agenda. It is also our responsibility to speak up when that agenda is headed in the wrong direction. Those individuals that have pledged to set themselves apart as sub-shepherds of the flock have a greater responsibility to search the scriptures daily to avoid these types of misguided judgment. For your sake and for the ones that are looking up to you, you should stand for something more than just, "going along to get along" and unanimous votes. To those that are part of these prestigious church leadership committees, I would try to prick their conscious and remind them of their responsibility. Silent consent to peer pressure while approving popular but rebellious apostate actions is inexcusable. Judgment will not be a team event, we all will have to standalone and give an accounting.
What we call church, (the body of Christ) comes in many different types, sizes, colors, traditions and histories. There is one fact that is universally true and consistent with all the above. All Christians hope and identify with Jesus Christ. Please note that if we, or our churches, take our eyes off Jesus, we relinquish that identity. We cannot serve two
masters. Hypocrisy and rebellion will rush in and fill that void. 2 Corinthians 13:5 demands circumspection from us as to our convictions and loyalties. It reads, "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith examine yourselves. Or do you not recognize this about yourself that Jesus Christ is in you-unless indeed you fail the test"?
In the wonderful old hymn "Blessed Assurance" we sing the words "perfect submission". In this life we will not attain perfection in our surrender to the Lord. But we must try! Genesis 4:7 records God telling Cain, "If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door, and its desire is for you, but you must master it".
Have you heard the story about the two guys in Luke18: 9-14? They both were in the same religious system. The first guy seemed to be very self-assured, (righteous in his own eyes) when he prayed to God with a prideful arrogance. He thought he had nothing to worry about. He had a poor opinion of the second guy because of his lower social standing in the community. The second guy had the same opinion of himself as the first guy, "not good". In contrast, the second guy was praying to God in reverent fear and humility. He prayed, "Please forgive me, I am a sinner". The story ends with the second guy being forgiven. Sadly, the first guy went on his way, happily not knowing that he was in jeopardy. Also, the people within the religious community had no idea how God viewed the two men.
In the story both the first and second men were praying to God and both were sinners. For the sake of this discussion we could say there are only two types of people. Type one is a sinner, ether consciously or unconsciously unrepentant and therefore estranged from Christ. They may think they can explain to God that he or she was a good person during their life. The problem will come just after they, on bended knee, have confessed Jesus as Lord. Judgment will be issued. (See Philippians 2: 9-12) God's justice demands payment for a lifetime of sin in full, either from Christ's redemptive blood or from the rebellious, (type one) sinner in hell. Satan and hell will not be challenged for the soul of this person. Christ will not defend an individual with whom He does not have a personal relationship. John 3:18 Tells us clearly that we are totally lost without Christ.
The second type is in some ways very similar to the second guy in the story, in that he or she also has a sin nature. This person feels responsible and has a need for forgiveness. As sinners we need Christ's continual pleading of our case with the Father. (1 John 2:1-2) Satan is both a liar and a tempter. He then turns and becomes the chief prosecutor against us to the Father. We can imagine the intercession of Christ for the second guy or group, (type two) goes like this: Yes, the sins of this sinner are grievous, but I have paid his or her debt at the cross. Satan or hell has no claim on this sinner. Note: we are still responsible for our actions in this life.
It is called redemption because the debt has to be paid. If the debt is not paid by Christ's death on the cross then the unrepentant sinner, (type one) will be required to pay the full price in hell, for all eternity, after death. The terrible problem is that by not knowing or avoiding God's rules, the majority of people are betting their eternal life on a bad
assumption. Only the solitary individual that knows that he or she is in need of forgiveness can effectively pray, "What must I do to be saved"? God will answer! He is not willing that any should perish. (2 Peter 3:9).
People in the community, (similar to our story of the above two types) cannot correctly judge us by outward appearances. God sees the heart and knows who belongs to Him. There will be no excuses or exceptions. Jesus made it very clear that if we deny Christ in this world He will deny us before the angels, (Luke 12: 9). Our only hope is not in our own righteousness but in the righteousness of Christ and His grace. Most people have either not heard or believe the rules will not apply to them. This is the portion of the gospel story we are not effectively telling the world.
Have you heard or told someone these truths lately? How often are these life-saving rules of engagement with God preached, or alter calls even given today? Our dying world needs to know that being a good person or merely having a membership in the club is not enough. The key to heaven is in having a personal relationship with Christ.
We know how they worship God in a perfect world. That perfect world would be heaven. Revelation 5:12 says, "The saints sang a new song with a loud voice. Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and might and honor, and, glory, and, blessing". Note the absence of self and pride in worship. All the glory is going to the Lamb of God. Christians, like the second guy in story, know we fall short of perfection but hope for the communion spoken by Jesus. He indicated in John 17:22, "As You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be in Us."
Psalm 73 was written because the Psalmist was grieved at the flaunting of pride and prosperity by the ungodly and wicked people around him. He was trying to understand how God permitted such arrogance and lofty mouths against heaven. We are told the Psalmist found peace of mind in the sanctuary of God. The flagrant indifference of some churches and the disparity between the way it is and how it should be is absurd and shameful. When we enter our sanctuary of God, (the reverent meditations of our heart) in total surrender to Him we also can find peace. We sometimes ask the paradoxical question, "Which comes first faith, or works/obedience"? The Psalmist found the answer by putting all his trust in God and decided to declare all of God's works for the rest of his days. Faith and works/obedience simultaneously are our source of peace and our true acts of submission and worship.
God knows our heart. Sinful rationalization comes easy. Soul-searching is not so easy. By prayer and searching the word we can know where our allegiance belongs. As sojourners we need to praise His name always, seeing not temporal things as the world does, but at the unseen eternal things of God. Our society appears to be morally deteriorating around us because man is contently trying to make God fit our self-serving imaginary design and purpose. From John 3:16 we know that God created this world to care for and have fellowship with man. Isaiah 1:18 welcomes, us into a merciful fellowship with our Creator when we surrender to the fact that He is the potter and we are the clay. He alone is in control, not men or nations.
In Ezekiel 33 we are instructed to be watchmen. Our duties are stated very clearly. If we see the sword, (enemy) coming and do not sound the alarm the blood will be on our head. If the people hear the alarm and do not take the warning the blood will be on their heads. Romans14: 10-13 also warns us not to judge a brother. Standing firm with Christ without having contempt for our brothers is our straight and narrow path.
This apathy and apostasy that I have described is a great enemy of the church. (See 2 Thessalonians 2:3). It seems right to suggest that the church be diligent in informing all about the truth of Gods salvation plan, boldly and without apologies. The church should encourage all to study and pray in God's word and to have a conduct of reverent fear, submission, and praise from all its members. Matthew 7:20 tells, us that we can see and evaluate the fruit that drops from the tree. In this case, weigh our toleration of apathy, both in ourselves, and our churches. It is not for us to judge a fellow servant but rather conduct ourselves in a manner pleasing to the Master. I mourn the deterioration of our conviction. We should not silently consent to this sin. The blood will be on our heads if we keep quiet during this falling away of our churches. Hopefully God will not see this as being contemptuous of our brothers, but as being a loving witness of these truths, declaring God's glory.
To whom and to where our loyalty rests is the real question. Will we be loyal to an unseen Christ or to the society of people we see quite often? Do you also see this as a problem? We can be part of the solution by humbly approaching a person in church leadership with love and say, "friend I am concerned about this issue". To glorify God in heaven Christ said in Matthew 5:16, "Let your light shine before men". It is our responsibility and our cross to bear. (See Luke 14:27) By focusing in on biblical issues and not on personality issues the Lord will be glorified. Another way is to take the lead and witness to others, telling of God's salvation plan boldly. The depravity of man, repentance of sin, judgment, and our need to live in reverent fear of God may not be received as readily as today's popular, lukewarm, feel-good capitulation theology. But our world needs to know that where there is, "No fear" there is "No grace".
By focusing on Jesus in truth and spirit we clear the deck of any personal malice of intent and any hint of righteous indignation. In the all too near future the lights will be turned out. We will have to go home alone to our Father. On bended knee we all will confess Christ as Lord and have to stand in judgment, giving an account, (Matthew 12:36-37) for a lifetime of good and bad actions. A Holy and just God knows our heart better than we do. I fear it is better for all of us to humble ourselves and submit to Jesus here and now before our death. (See John 3:36) Heaven or hell weighs in the balance, in this our personal commitment to Jesus and our daily rededication to Him. For my part I see the enemy. Church apathy is here with us now and apostasy is crouching at the door. Am I alone in this conviction? Where are the watchmen? I do not hear anyone sounding the alarm or see very many people that are concerned.