Friday, July 31, 2020

No Quick Fix For Drop In Church Attendance

Through the  years in my travels with New Jerusalem Singers as well as in serving as pastor in various churches, there is one question that consistently arises from church members and pastors alike. That question is, 
"Why is it so difficult to get people to come to church?"

No matter where I go or who I talk to this same question recurs time and time again. In recent years we have seen a serious decline in church attendance. People from all age brackets are concerned with declining church attendance.

Now, I'm referring to church attendance, not church membership. There are many people on church membership rolls all across this country. However, most do not attend church on a consistent basis - they are just church members. What I'm referring to here is actual "walk through the door and sit in a pew" church attendance in an institutional church setting.

The decline in church attendance has been felt by all mainline denominations and is a widely recognized characteristic of churches all across this country. Surveys reveal that the decline in church attendance has been gradual over the last several decades. Most recently, reports have revealed many people are leaving institutional church settings for their own spiritual benefit. Many are thriving outside the box of the organized church. They haven't given up on God or even given up meeting with others. They have opted for a more "organic" form of relationship with God. 

While it's been a smaller churches (churches with attendance under 100) that have been hardest hit, the so-called "megachurches" have blossomed. In 2018 there were 1500 mega churches of 2000 or more in attendance according to the Hartford Institute For Religious Research. 

Why have these "megachurches" grown so much? Why is it people seem to flock to them? These churches typically offer exciting worship services and a host of choices and options when it comes to Christian education and ministries. It seems there is always something going on for every age group. People are active in church related activities. They invite their friends and family to come and worship with them. 

It would be a good lesson for us to realize that enthusiasm breeds enthusiasm. How excited are we about going to church? How do we relate our experiences at church to others? Is it positive? Is it negative? Many people today are looking for answers. They're looking for help. Our churches, today, should be spiritual centers for the elect, not social centers for the elite. We ought not set guidelines for folks to adhere to in order to be able to come to church. We must be willing to accept them just as they are. If there is any changing that needs to be done, let God take off the rough edges. He's quite capable of handling this task.

Let's take a look at church attendance from three different aspects. Let's look at church attendance from the perspective of the pastor, the church goer and the non-church goer. 

First of all, the pastor is in the "people business". His desire is to see the church grow not only in numbers but spiritually, as well, and for it to function as a body. He desires to reach out into the community and draw others into the local church. He further desires to see the congregation, that he has charge over, grow and become strong in the Lord. The more people who become strong in the Lord the greater impact the church can have for the cause of Christ. The pastor desires to edify the people and be available for them in times of need, trouble and sorrow. Being the pastor, it's important for him to see people come to church. 

Secondly, from the church goer's perspective, they are proud of their church and excited to be a part of the church. They are devoted to God, the church and in many cases their pastor. Many times they've invested much of their time, effort and abilities for the benefit of the church. They want everyone they know to come to church with them. 

Thirdly, from the non-church goer's perspective, going to church means getting up early on Sunday morning - the only day they can sleep in late. It means being late in getting to their favorite restaurant (especially if the preacher preaches too long), and perhaps not being home to see the kickoff of the Sunday afternoon football game or other sporting event. To the non-church goer, going to church in non-essential. They believe the church is full of hypocrites. They remember those who have fallen and use them for an excuse not to go to church. They complain about the pastor, they complain about the music, they complain about the activities of the church and if there's nothing to complain about they'll make something up if necessary. 

Pastors and church goers alike have asked me, "What's the answer. How can we get people to come to church?" I don't believe the answer is gimmicks. I don't believe the answer is scams. The answer is not necessarily programs. In fact, I'm not sure there is a "right" answer to this question. My advice is for us, as Christians, to live our lives in accordance with the Bible, be faithful in serving God, be a true witness of the grace of God, refrain from the attitude of condemnation that so many have and above all show love one for another as well as toward those who are outside the church. Jesus said in John 13:35, "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Love goes a long way in winning people to Jesus. 

Until next time...enjoy the journey!


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Friday, July 24, 2020

Don't Be Reliant On A Pastor

Too often we become reliant on a pastor for our spiritual nourishment when in reality we should be the primary source of our spiritual nourishment. For example, most of us eat two or three times a day. We have no problem feeding ourselves. We should be doing the same spiritually. 

Why do we do this? We look to man for various reasons. Some of the reasons I have heard are he is trained so it's up to him to feed me, it's his calling, that's what we pay him for and I don't have time for that. Sound familiar?

Most likely the average Christian spends very little time nurturing their relationship with God. Relationships must be nurtured to be successful. Our relationship with God must be nurtured if we are to walk in the victory and power God intends for us to have. 

We miss out on an intimate relationship with God when we rely on a pastor to do everything for us. No wonder so many feel distant from God. They don't spend time developing their relationship with God. Just think about what you are missing out on. 

Think about it, we are reliant on the pastor for many things. For example, we are reliant on the pastor to read and study the Bible for us. We are reliant on the pastor to do the praying that needs to be done. We are reliant on the pastor to visit us when we want him to. We are reliant on the pastor to do the hospital visits. We are reliant on the pastor to invite others to church. If these God called preachers don't live up to our expectations then we gripe, complain, gossip about them to others and are ready to get rid of them and find one who will do what we want them to do when we want them to do it. Talk about unrealistic expectations!

Whatever happened to "the body ministering to the body"? This is a very biblical concept that seems to be forgotten today. I encourage you to check out the "one another" verses in the Bible. It will amaze you to find out what we, as Christians, should be doing.

There are 59 "One Anothers" in the New Testament. Drum roll please...and here they are...

1. “…Be at peace with each other.” (Mark 9:50) 
2. “…Wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14) 
3. “…Love one another…” (John 13:34) 
4. “…Love one another…” (John 13:34) 
5. “…Love one another…” (John 13:35) 
6. “…Love one another…” (John 15:12) 
7. “…Love one another” (John 15:17) 
8. “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love…” (Romans 12:10) 
9. “…Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:10) 
10. “Live in harmony with one another…” (Romans 12:16) 
11. “…Love one another…” (Romans 13:8) 12. “…Stop passing judgment on one another.” (Romans 14:13) 
13. “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you…” (Romans 15:7) 
14. “…Instruct one another.” (Romans 15:14) 
15. “Greet one another with a holy kiss…” (Romans 16:16) 
16. “…When you come together to eat, wait for each other.” (I Cor. 11:33) 
17. “…Have equal concern for each other.” (I Corinthians 12:25) 
18. “…Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (I Corinthians 16:20) 
19. “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (II Corinthians 13:12) 
20. “…Serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13) 
21. “If you keep on biting and devouring each other…you will be destroyed by each other.” (Galatians 5:15) 
22. “Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” (Galatians 5:26) 
23. “Carry each other’s burdens…” (Galatians 6:2) 
24. “…Be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2) 
25. “Be kind and compassionate to one another…” (Ephesians 4:32) 
26. “…Forgiving each other…” (Ephesians 4:32) 
27. “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” (Ephesians 5:19) 
28. “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21) 
29. “…In humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)
30. “Do not lie to each other…” (Colossians 3:9) 
31. “Bear with each other…” (Colossians 3:13) 
32. “…Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.” (Colossians 3:13) 
33. “Teach…[one another]” (Colossians 3:16) 
34. “…Admonish one another (Colossians 3:16) 
35. “…Make your love increase and overflow for each other.” (I Thessalonians 3:12) 
36. “…Love each other.” (I Thessalonians 4:9) 
37. “…Encourage each other…”(I Thessalonians 4:18) 
38. “…Encourage each other…” I Thessalonians 5:11) 
39. “…Build each other up…” (I Thessalonians 5:11) 
40. “Encourage one another daily…” Hebrews 3:13) 
41. “…Spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24) 
42. “…Encourage one another.” (Hebrews 10:25) 
43. “…Do not slander one another.” (James 4:11) 
44. “Don’t grumble against each other…” (James 5:9) 
45. “Confess your sins to each other…” (James 5:16) 
46. “…Pray for each other.” (James 5:16) 47. “…Love one another deeply, from the heart.” (I Peter 3:8) 
48. “…Live in harmony with one another…” (I Peter 3:8) 
49. “…Love each other deeply…” (I Peter 4:8) 
50. “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (I Peter 4:9) 
51. “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others…” (I Peter 4:10) 
52. “…Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another…”(I Peter 5:5) 
53. “Greet one another with a kiss of love.” (I Peter 5:14) 
54. “…Love one another.” (I John 3:11) 
55. “…Love one another.” (I John 3:23) 
56. “…Love one another.” (I John 4:7) 
57. “…Love one another.” (I John 4:11) 
58. “…Love one another.” (I John 4:12) 
59. “…Love one another.” (II John 5) 

*From Carl F. George, Prepare Your Church for the Future (Tarrytown: Revell, 1991), 129-131.

We should look outward instead of inward. Its not about "me" and what someone else can do for meIt's a body ministry - where we minister one to another. 

Let's be a New Testament church! The church is not confined to a building. Let's think outside the box. How can we minister and reach others? Let's get involved in "one anothering".

Let's be the church God ordained us to be!

Until next time...enjoy the journey!


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Friday, July 17, 2020

Only Lukewarm Christians Wait For Favorable Circumstances

Writing from Ephesus, Paul the apostle, tells the Corinthians that his intended visit with them would be delayed due to a great opportunity for witnessing to many of the oppressors of the church who were coming to Ephesus for the purpose of celebrating Pentecost (1 Corinthians 16:5-9). Once again, Paul's faith would be tried in the fires of adversity. 

Sometimes I believe that we, as Christians, expect God to give us the world on a silver platter. We don't believe we ought to suffer or have any difficulties while in this world. 

Paul in the above mentioned passage of Scripture found great opportunity amidst much opposition. If we sit around and wait for "favorable" conditions for sharing the gospel we will never leave our homes. After all, when has the world ever been favorable for spreading the gospel? Jesus was opposed on every hand. Isaiah 53:5 tells us, "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon Him..." The Lord Jesus didn't have an easy time while here on earth. Why should we expect to? He told His disciples, "In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." The church was born in adversity and has endured difficulties throughout its existence. Going through the fires of adversity has purified the church and made it stronger and more resilient.

Adversity is not a hindrance if we are truly committed to God. Antagonism didn't stop Nehemiah's wall from being rebuilt (Nehemiah 6:1-15). Hate didn't stop a woman from witnessing (Luke 7:37). There has been and will always be those who desire to hinder the work of God. The work of the Lord will go on! The work will go on with or without us. God won't wait forever on us. 

Someone told me once that he was going to wait on the Lord concerning a particular situation in his life. My response to him was, "It's okay to wait on the Lord, but don't wait too long because He's liable to pass you by while you're still waiting."

What prompts the child of God to go out and endure some of the hardships we encounter in this world? Paul, the apostle, sums it up very well in 1 Corinthians 5:14, 
"The love of Christ constraineth us." Because of our love for Jesus and what He means to us in our lives, we step on out in His Spirit and do that which He not only commanded, but expects us to do. No matter what we face in this life, we are more than conquerors because of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:35-39).

Like Paul's, our faith must pass the many tests that it will be put through. Our faith must pass the test of time, the test of opposition, even from loved ones. Our faith must pass the test of love as well as the test of choice. The tests of repentance and physical afflictions must be successfully passed, as well. 

The church is not an asylum for moral cowards. It's not a place for wimps. It's not somewhere to hide. The church is for those who are laying up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20). The church is for those who are laying hold of eternal life (1 Timothy 6:12). The church is for finding righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost (Romans 14:17).

Only the "lukewarm" seek favorable circumstances. 

Monday, July 13, 2020

Condemnation, Hypocricy & Diversity

I'm troubled by the spirit of condemnation that is so prevalent among churches and Christians all over this country. 

No matter where we go it seems that there is always someone looking down his or her nose at someone else. There are always people who, in their own minds at least, are more righteous than the individuals around them. In most cases, however, this turns out to be self-righteousness as opposed to true righteousness. 

The mentality of these individuals is that if you don't agree with their way of thinking all the way down the line, then you are wrong all the way down the line. The intolerance level of these self-righteous people is extremely high. They are quick to be judgmental if you don't look the way they think you ought to look, believe exactly what they believe or behave in a manner that is acceptable to them. It matters not to them what the Bible may say about a particular issue or situation. What matters to them is what they think.

I'm not referring to issues the Scriptures specifically address. I'm talking about things the Bible does not specifically address. I'm talking about things the Bible does not specifically mention. In most cases, these are relatively unimportant issues that people become indignant about. They tend to emphasize the less important things while neglecting the all important things. How sad the church has come to this!

Oftentimes, we become hypocritical about the whole situation. We tend to see the faults and problems of others but somehow we manage to never see our own shortcomings. Jesus makes mention of this in Matthew 7:1-5. In verse 5 Jesus said, "Hypocrite! First take the beam of wood out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother's eye." Pretty strong words, huh?

It seems this problem with the spirit of condemnation is not a new thing. Jesus encountered it when He was here on earth. Upon reading the Bible I find that the scribes, pharisees, saducees and hypocrites were the  self righteous people of Jesus' day. Perhaps we have more in common with the religious people of Jesus' day than we care to admit! 

If we are not careful, we'll become like the self-righteous pharisee who proclaimed to God in prayer, "God, I thank you that I'm not like other people...or even this tax collector" (Luke 18:9-14). The tax collector, on the other hand, expressing grief and remorse concerning his condition cried, "God have mercy on me, a sinner". 

If there is one thing I've discovered over the years, it's that the Body of Christ is large enough for many diverse opinions and people. I believe all those who have believed on and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord fit into the Body and have a vital function. The fact is, we all need each other in order for the body to function properly. 

It's easy for us to peer down our noses at people who look or behave a bit different than we do. You know, just because they are a bit different in appearance or behavior than we are doesn't make them more right or wrong. If they are covered by the blood of Jesus that makes them my brother and sister in the Lord. After all, isn't that what really matters?

Until next time...enjoy the journey!


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Friday, July 3, 2020


Have you ever asked, "Why?" Why this? Why me? Why now?

Why do all these bad things happen to me? Maybe you feel like the people in the Hee Haw skit who sang the song that said in part, "if it weren't for bad luck I'd have no luck at all. Gloom, despair and agony on me". 

Maybe things are at a point in your life you feel God has turned His back on you. You have thought or said, "God must hate me".  Perhaps you think you must be a really bad person for all these bad things to happen to you. Rest assured God loves you unconditionally. 

Oftentimes the bad things we encounter has nothing to do with whether or not we are bad people. Life happens. Things happen sometimes we have no control over. Bad things happen. It's part of life. 

We must learn to accept the good with the bad. It reminds me of a song Ray Stevens wrote and sang many years ago titled, "Making The Best Of A Bad Situation". You see we all face bad things during the course of our life. How we respond to these bad things will determine our outlook and in many cases our outcome. 

Perhaps instead of asking "Why?" we should ask "Why not?" Why should we expect not to have tough times? You see, in reality, we grow from going through the difficult times. It's in the valley - the tough times - we have the greatest opportunities to grow. We grow as a person emotionally as well as spiritually. 

Too often we blame God for the bad times in our lives. He gets a bad rap. We sometimes also blame others. We should look deep within ourselves. We can generally take necessary steps to change the course of our journey if only we look within. 

I encourage you to look for the good in the midst of the bad. Quit feeling sorry for yourself. The journey is full of bumps, potholes, hills and valleys. Let's respond in such a way as to grow and become closer to God as we walk this journey. 

Until next time...enjoy the journey!


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