“Many churches are dead or dying these days. They aren’t reaching any new people with the hope of Christ and haven’t for a very long time."
"Their congregations are getting older and smaller every year. Though the people inside are often sincere and love their church, the church appears to offer nothing of value to the outsiders.”
These words of Brad Powell from his book, Change Your Church for Good, are both heartbreaking and convicting.
It is encouraging to hear from other sources that the church globally is expanding, and that lives are being transformed and impacted by the good news of the gospel – but to note that the Western Church, and in particular, the North American Church has far too many stagnant locations indicates a larger issue.
We could lament that culture has changed and that the church has lost influence that it once had. We could point a finger of blame in many directions.
Perhaps the church has rested on its laurels (what it once was and accomplished), and lost sight of her greatest ongoing priority - that being to present Jesus and His message of love, forgiveness and new life to a spiritually lost world.
Jesus Himself stated that He came to seek and to save the lost (which refers to all of us, by the way) and then told His followers to go into the world and make disciples (other followers). This was not to be enacted coercively, but through lives, words and actions of love (see John 13:35).
Powell adds from his book, “the church isn’t a building, a program, a tradition, a denomination, a pastor, a board, a committee, or any such thing. The church is people, the family of God.”
If this is true – and I would tend to agree – then it isn’t the building with a steeple on it that has lost sight of her greatest priority; it is the people that make up that local congregation.
Powell adds, “Any given church is simply a reflection of those who attend. Each church reflects those ideas and principles that the people who attend genuinely value and love.”
What should be those ideas and principles?
Traditions? Personal Choices? Cultural demands?
Perhaps, too often they are. And we end up reaping the results – an irrelevant church.
Pastor Bill Hybels is known for using this statement – “The church is the hope of the world.”
Some may scoff at that. Yet, if God be God, and He truly does care about you and I and the hurts and needs and pain in our life, and He desires a relationship – yes, a relationship – with us, then the church (people) that endeavours to love God with all their heart and love their neighbour at least as much as they love themselves, will offer the world a great hope.
Too often, this simply does not seem to be the case, at least in our part of the world.
Powell adds something to the statement of Hybels’, “The church is the hope of the world – when it’s working right.”
What determines if it is working right?
Again, we must go back to Jesus who said, “…everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man…”
Churches, or more pointedly, Christians who find themselves in stagnant or dying situations, need to know there is hope. Change can happen.
As we refocus on putting into practice the words of Jesus, we can discover (or rediscover) our purpose and become the hope of the world that Jesus called us to be.
Ken Banks is the pastor of the Wesleyan Church in Truro. Contact him at www.trurowesleyan.ca