Saturday Sermon: An appeal for serious church renewal
An Advocate article Oct. 27 concerning church decline touches on a concern of many thoughtful Christians, but little is ever done to correct it.
It seems that many churches have settled into a comfortable week-by-week routine that does little to make a difference in the world around us.
This is no anomaly - human nature is predictable. We seem to be happy to make our profession of faith and then be satisfied with mere church attendance.
The German theologian Bonhoeffer called this situation "cheap grace." Every church should be growing; growth is one of the signs of life.
The problem is quite simple: we're not getting our message out to the masses; we are not explaining our faith convincingly enough or with the urgency it demands, and we are taking the easy road by letting the professionals do our job.
What are we to do about this situation? First, we need to expect all Christians to see themselves as disciples of Christ. Being a disciple carries many obligations: evangelism, worship, giving, ministering to the community and an involved fellowship with one another. When a person is a disciple of Christ, he should have a thorough understanding of what Jesus taught and what Jesus expects of him or her.
It is important in changing this downward trend to encourage the congregation to get involved in making needed changes. Some are concerned but reluctant to speak up. A good way to do this is to hold retreats where attendees are revived, challenged, encouraged to discuss problems, share life experiences and brainstorm ideas to make needed changes.
Every church should examine itself regularly to see that its program is still consistent with New Testament teachings. How about using the Sunday school to train people to discover their ministry and to train lay ministers to preach, teach and minister throughout the area?
In regard to people changing churches, dropping out or joining a cult, I feel we are not making a good enough case for our Christian faith.
Christianity is a faith that makes sense, and we must do all we can to stimulate serious thought. Francis Schaeffer writes, "The spiritual battle, the loss of victory, is always in the thought world." I feel that when some people change religions, it is because of some bad experience or resentment.
Robert Ingersoll, a famous atheist of yesterday, rebelled against an overly repressive father, who by the way, was a preacher. It is an axiom of religion that there is only one true God. Believing in multiple gods goes back to pagan beliefs.
The stakes are high. If anyone believes there is even a chance of a life hereafter, he would be wise to spend much time investigating the existence of God and his plan for mankind.
More importantly, make sure his mind is not prejudiced by some subconscious feelings. We sometimes make judgements without being honest with ourselves.
Finally, if your church is not up to par, instead of leaving, make an effort to change it.
Raymond Smith is an area minister.