The recent release of a compilation of 5,000 non-propietary interviews conducted in 2010 by the Barna Group indicates the current state of the physical church. When speaking of Christ's church, I use the term "Body of Christ" for purposes here, "church" is a physical church with members and which may or may not adhere to biblical doctrine.
The study reveals what many Christians already knew and much has been written about these issues. It revealed that the "Christian Church" is theologically illiterate. The very basic truths of Christianity are unfamiliar to many members of various denominational congregations, particularly the younger members.
Revealing and troubling statistics indicate that growing numbers who make up these churches do not associate their faith and belief in God with all areas of their lives. They do not believe God should be the focal point of their lives. These Christians believe the Holy Spirit is a "symbol" of God's presence or power, not a living entity.
As these younger believers mature, one can easily see how this lack of knowledge will be perpetuated to others. This dumbing-down of the church is a tool of satan and has been very effective. These same believers to which the study refers are the same ones who accuse other Christians who put their faith first, who
are not afraid to integrate God into every aspect of their lives, to be the very center of their lives of being "intolerant" and we see a disturbing trend developing . Those "fundamentalist" Christians to which I just referred, are being singled out as "fanatic" Christians and the most disturbing part is that those pointing fingers claim to be followers of Jesus Christ. It reminds us of something Jesus said, "And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand:" Matthew 12:25
As these believers, who are theologically devoid of the basic tenants Jesus taught, have more and more influence over other members in churches, it is easy to see that a theological "free-for-all" will ensue and beliefs once held with reverence by these denominations will have ever-growing inconsistency with Bibilical teachings.
The Book of Hosea makes it clear what happens when a lack of knowledge occurs:
"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children." Hosea 4:6
From the very beginning, the Christian church has regarded sound doctrine to be of utmost importance and of primary concern to every believer. At a time when we have unsurpassed amounts of knowledge available to us, we see the declinein knowledge of God's Word. How can this be?The research confirmed what has been happening within these churches. Less outreach ministries are emphasized toward the unsaved and replacing this, the last recorded words of Jesus Christ to his followers, are programs related to "social justice," "environmentalism" and "religious tolerance."
Jesus said in Matthew 28:19 "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." This was not a request by our Lord, rather it instructed His disciples to whom He was directly addressing and also He was addressing those to come. That would be Christians through the ages. It would include our time, too.
Community service is emphasized. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with serving one's community, it should be done with the spirit of love that, as Christians, we should all strive to exhibit. Serving others and putting others before oneself out of a true spirit of love and not a feeling of obligation is much preferred and in line with the teachings of Jesus Christ. Most importantly, we are commanded to show the love of Christ. "Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." Matthew 22:37 When we love something dearly, we treasure it and protect it. Loving Jesus Christ and having a personal relationship with Him is not a "sacrifice" nor a burden for believers. It is an honor to serve the Son of God.
We are merely sojourners in this land. This is not our home and though we must be there, we are not to love the things of it. Our love of God must be sincere, not in word and tongue only. All our love is too little to bestow upon him, therefore all the powers of the soul must be engaged for Him, and carried out toward Him. To love our neighbour as ourselves, is the second great commandment. There is a self-love which is corrupt, and the root of the greatest sins, and it must be put off and mortified; but there is a self-love which is the rule of the greatest duty: we must have a due concern for the welfare of our own souls and bodies. And we must love our neighbour as truly and sincerely as we love ourselves; in many cases we must deny ourselves for the good of others.
Churches are undertaking ambitious building programs, as well. One might ask if a church congregation were studying their Bibles, shouldn't they be able to discern the times? Jesus' return is imminent and this could support a reason why many church leaders are not emphasizing prophecy or teaching the Bible. They want their congregations instead to support those building programs. If Jesus were expected anytime, what reason one would give to undertake these expensive expansion programs? Certainly those looking for Jesus wouldn't be interested in a building.
The value of a life serving and following Jesus Christ is being marginalized in today's society. One reason can be what is revealed by this study. Focus on balancing between Christianity and tolerance for other religions is changing the role many churches feel they are to play in today's society. Good works done for God's sake, through Jesus Christ, are noticed as marking the character of believers made holy by the Spirit of Christ, and as the effects of grace bestowed on those who do them. Instead of the emphasis on teaching the Gospel of
Jesus Christ, feeding the hungry and caring for the sick, churches are worried about politcial correctness and the possibility of offending someone who might not believe or agree.
This attitude has become all too common in society as well. At a time when we see the public perception for Christianity become more and more negative, the humanist attitude has gained control. Our children are no longer allowed to evenmention the word Jesus. Efforts to remove or forbid symbols even remotely affiliated with the Christian faith are being implemented. Even praying in the name of Jesus Christ is frowned upon. Any Christian would certainly pray in His name, it is a name held above all others. But, it doesn't seem that even a whimper is being heard by Christians in the public square that would ndicate they aren't offended, don't seem to mind and it doesn't really seem as if it makes a difference. Where is the outcry against these discriminations?
In contrast, accommodating people of other religions is the popular method of addressing "religion" in our country. At a time when people are leaving churches in vast numbers, Islam is growing ever more popular in the United States. Would that be the case if the church were teaching the Gospel of Christ? Many religions that may use the name of Christ but follow teachings other than those in God's Word, the Bible. These are considered "christian." Lack of knowledge of the Bible is the reason for this.
It is interesting to note that as the church declines in these days,many involved in the ministry of Jesus Christ there give reports that a revival is taking place in Israel. As God prepares to turn His complete attention to the Nation of Israel, today's churches are becoming less and less relevant in our society. The Church Age began the day of Pentecost and the decline of the Nation of Israel began. Now the roles are being reversed.
The Barna Study indicates in no uncertain terms that today's churches (with some exceptions) translate their role much differently than as was in times past. In these days of high unemployment, uncertainty and rising costs in day-to-day living churches should seize the opportunity to step in and be a source of love and support for those who desperately need it. Clearly this is a time when we can let our light shine forth in the darkness. Jesus emphasized spiritual health in His ministry but it is clear that He also displayed deep concern and compassion for the human condition.
"For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." Matthew 25:35-40
Judgment will come for all as we are told over and over in God's Word. The wicked and evil as well as the believers of Jesus Christ all dwell on this earth. It is becoming harder to distinguish one from the other at times. As believers, followers, disciples of Jesus Christ, we were purchased with a price. That price was a very high one but all who receive Jesus Christ as their Savior are sealed by the Holy Spirit and are redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ.
As surely as Israel was punished for worshipping false idols and for forsaking the Sabbath, the nations and people who have rejected the Son of God will feel the wrath of God Almighty. Those nations that have and do stand against Israel will pay a dear price for such a stand.
The Barna Study is a type of "report card" on the state of Christians today. "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;" 2 Tim 2:4-3
We also have another type of "report card" on the state of the church today and this report is from Jesus Christ, Himself.
"He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." Revelation 3:13-22
What type of Christian are you? Have you lost your first love? Jesus is calling, He is knocking at the door. Don't reject Him, let Him in.