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2 Timothy 1-5 1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. We are in seemingly trying times and although the church appears to be shrinking (in America) it is flourishing in other places on planet Earth. We must remember at all times that it is God working through his Word that adds numbers to the church. Bringing in "church growth" techniques, pledging alligence to being culturally relevant and importing marketing strategies from the business world is not how the church grows, these things fill seats in a building, they do not make Christians. Pastors have disregarded Christ's command to be shepherds and instead made themselves CEOs of their churches. The answer? Simple, do what the bible says, what the church has done for the last 2000 years: preach the Word even when it is not popular, baptize and make disciples, teaching all Christ has commanded and proclaiming the forgiveness of sins Christ secured for the whole world on the cross of Calvary.
From studying my Bible, following trends, reading devotionals and other Christian literature and from my own observations, there are major reasons for a decline in church attendance in general in North America and in Europe. One of the things is the concept of what the purpose for church and going to church is. I was talking with a young man about a year ago and he shared something he had overheard being mentioned to a new-comer to our community. The new comer was advised to pick a church and get involved in order to become accepted into the community and to make appropriate connections. He was told that it didn't matter if he believed what the church was teaching or not. Another client of mine had a visitor from Africa come to stay with them. The visitor went around our community and observed people. Our community is in the "Bible Belt" of our province but the conclusion he came to was that although most people might claim to be Christians, it was in name only. Matthew 25 talks about the sheep and the goats being separated at the last judgment and the comment was that many, many people in our community would be astounded that they would be part of the goat crowd. The world's way of doing things is all about getting people to become materialistic, self-reliant, and self-absorbed, seeing and demanding our rights regardless of others. Christ's way of doing things is the exact opposite. Whereas the world is all about looking out for number one - self, making sure we're on top and our needs and wants are met first, Christ's way of doing things is to look out for others and their wants.first and then our own. If we want to be great in God's kingdom, learn to be the servant of all. In Asia and Africa, where the world's fastest growing churches are to be found, people look to the welfare of others, putting them first. It also has to do with the definition of success of Western society and the "business" model used vs Christ's version of success and his "business" model. In Western society, the idea of success is in what we can achieve or get for ourselves. Success is in how well we can climb the corporate ladder. Christ's version of success is how many people we can help along the way. The Western "business" model has a business owner or corporation head at the top and all the people underneath that work to make the company successful with the person/corporation getting the greatest part of the profits. Christ's model is upside down - the "business owner's" idea of success is helping others be successful and teaching them to do the same thing. The first model could be called a pyramid model because the leader is at the top telling those below him what to do to help him get the most money. A pyramid is something that is a monument to and for the dead. Christ's model is more like a tree where the leader is at the bottom supporting the branches that are his workers. In order for the branches to grow, they have to learn how to sprout and support more leaves and branches. That's how they can be successful, by helping others become successful like them. Paul David Mann and Bob Burg explain this well in their book, "The Go GIver". Pastor Bruce Wilkinson in "The Dream Giver" and in "The Prayer of Jabez" also speak to this point. In areas where the church is growing, people are always looking for ways of helping others, building relationships, building others up. Western society isn't about that any more.
Worship time needs to be relevant. This is our God of the universe whom we are praising. Yet, people are chatting to each other, looking around, standing and not singing. Focus. Relax into God's love and respond. Don't just go through the motions. Genuine worship will bring people back.
Jesus knows the end from the beginning. He knew what was going to happen to those of faith and who kept His Word (may I suggest watching, "The Indestructible Book"?). He described the circumstances as like gold being purified. There are some who won't make the cut....they'll be poured off...leaving the gold. Jesus also talked about the narrow way...Matthew 7:14. Some will be deceived away.....to destruction. We are to be like Jacob and hang on...no matter how bad we've been...even against His wonderful Light! Tha's good news! Maranatha! God bless.
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