My husband and I attended our National Mission’s Symposium last week. The conference was sobering in that we were shown the stark reality of the state of our Baptist work. Memberships and baptisms are diminishing. Giving is down. Disciples are not being reproduced; therefore, churches are not being reproduced. And the work of the ministry has been relegated to a select few. It appears that for far too long there has been a pragmatic view of what the church is and has become. Unfortunately due to this, as a whole, we have moved from the New Testament model of the ekklesia to a more traditional approach of “church” that is less biblical but much more comfortable. In this move, the preeminence of Christ and His Word is disregarded. The preaching and teaching ministry becomes irrelevant. And emotions, feelings, and personal preferences are elevated over absolute truth.
While the decline in numbers is startling, too often it is the only focus. This can be very dangerous because it does lead to that pragmatic view. We become more intentional in doing what works than what is right. The success of a church should never be judged by numbers alone. There are many large churches that are weak and unhealthy. The characteristics of a weak congregation is one that is full of professing Christians who have a “form of godliness but deny the power thereof.” What power are they denying? They are denying the power of the Word of God to work in their life, (I Thessalonians 2:13). They are denying the power of Christ to crucify the old man, (Romans 6:6). They are denying the power of God to keep them from practicing a lifestyle of sin (I John 3:9). They are denying the power of the Holy Ghost to teach them spiritual things, (I Corinthians 2:10-13). This is evident by their lifestyle.
What should be done? We must first cast off the idea of easy-believism. The wide spread teaching of this false doctrine is a major cause for a great deal of the “lukewarmness” we see today (Revelations 3:16).
Then we need to recognize that it is God that adds to His church.
“And I say also ….I will build my church,” Matthew 16:18.
“ the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved,” Act 2:47.
“And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women,” Act 5:14.
“ and much people was added unto the Lord,” Act 11:24.
When the Word of God permeates the church and indwells in the hearts and minds of believers something amazing happens. Believers begin to live transformed lives and all of a sudden the world takes notice. However, when the world looks into a powerless church and sees no difference in them and their own life, the Word of God is blasphemed (Read Titus 2:1-10).
And it is imperative that we are mission minded. The mission is clear. We are to go, teach, baptize, and disciple (Matthew 28:19-20). There was a great focus on reaching out and making disciples at our Missions Symposium. I agree. We need to do this. But one of the greatest missed opportunities is often in our own homes. The only way we are going to have strong churches is to have strong families. The local assembly is a family of families. This discipleship falls to the Christian parents. We have an awesome responsibility to disciple our own children, one on one, training them in the ways of the Lord. So many times the attitude is that it is the churches duty to disciple our children. I know this because I have talked with many parents who when complaining about the lack of spirituality in their children say, “I brought them to church every time the doors were open.” Bringing children to church is not discipleship.
I love the fact that we are missionary focused. I’m thrilled that we are concerned with church plants and reproducing disciples. But I rarely see a focus on the families that make up a church. Where is the teaching to parents on how to teach their own children the Bible? Where is the teaching to fathers on how to spiritually lead their families? (When was the last time someone taught the father how to lead a time of worship with his family in what use to be called the family altar? Have we forgotten that we are to worship daily? Sunday is just the day we have set aside for corporate worship.) Where is the teaching to women on their biblical role in the family? It’s great that we have youth ministers that can reach our teens on their own level, but are we teaching them to turn their hearts to their fathers and mothers? If we want to have a strong, healthy, biblical church we need to have strong, healthy, biblical families.