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Emphasis: The Church

 

 

PLEASE NOTE: Today's reading is part of a mini-series on The Church. If you've already read the introduction to this mini-series, please begin here to read my response to the fourth question.


If you've not yet read the introduction, please read it first. The intro sets up the purpose for this mini-series and will help you to make sense of it all. Click here to go to that intro.

 


WHAT IS THE CHURCH?: PART 4

 

Question Four: Who is it reaching?

I've always loved Jesus' approach to people and ministry. He was so real, so down-to-earth. Most of His parables were straightforward, utilizing the common man's terms. He spoke in agrarian terms to farmers, ranchers, and country people. He used fishing terms for seafarers. He spoke their language. If the church is still His Body, I'm not sure the "mouth" is speaking in terms that today's listeners understand.

There seems to be a disconnect between the church and the world to the point that they're not understanding what we're saying, if we're saying anything. Sadly, many churches today aren't saying anything to their world. Notice I didn't write: "Sadly, many churches today have nothing to say to their world." The church has plenty to say! It has love and hope and joy and peace and salvation and… But it's choosing to hoard the good things of God; to stockpile His abundant riches.

 

But, oh, there are so many hurting people with their spiritual hearing aids on, straining to hear an encouraging word. Jesus said, "Do you not say, 'Four months more and then the harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest" (John 4:35). If the "mouth" of the Body is not speaking in terms the world can understand, then neither are the "eyes" of the Body seeing the fields ripe unto harvest.

Every church I've visited during this past year has had new members join; some more than others. So how do we approach this fourth question? The only way to fully grasp it is to make comparisons and to think about ratios and statistics. Let me explain.

The larger churches have had the highest number of people joining, but viewed as a percentage of their membership (the ratio of existing members to new members), it took an exponentially greater number of people to bring in those new members than it did for smaller churches with fewer numerical additions.

One church ran about 1,500 in worship and 12 people came forward to join, recommit, or make a decision for Christ. That means it took 125 members to reach 1 person. In another church of 75, there were four who joined, meaning it took 18 people to lead one person to Jesus (or church membership, whatever the case may be).

 

So what does that mean? That means there are a whole lot of church members doing nothing; and, consequently, a whole lot of people not being reached.

Let's take that a step farther. In the larger church, 10 of the 12 new members transferred from other churches. In the smaller church, all four new members transferred from another church, meaning that between the two churches, with a total attendance of 1,575, there were two reached for the Kingdom. I rejoice with every person reached for Jesus; however, these numbers show the dismal state of so many hundreds of churches today, reaching virtually no one for Christ.

Let me put that into perspective. If I multiply that times 1,000 identical situations all across America, we end up with 1,575,000 church members reaching 2,000 people for Christ. That computes to 788 people needed to reach 1 person for Christ.

George Barna, researcher and statistician for American churches, reports that most churches go years without baptizing anyone. And when they do, it's such a nominal figure that it's hardly worth reporting.

Alan Nelson wrote: "The longer a church has been in existence, the more its resources go toward its own preservation rather than toward outreach and evangelism. Our tendency is to design ministries that meet our own needs as opposed to the needs of those who have not yet entered the Kingdom."

Stephen Collins wrote: "In the brief span of just 30 seconds, 53 people die worldwide and 36 of them enter eternity without Christ. With more than one person per second going to Hell, Charles Spurgeon's words of urgency and concern need to resonate in our hearts: 'If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. If they will perish, let them perish with our arms around their knees. Let no one go there unwarned and unprayed for.'"5

 

The urgency is evidenced in our ever-spiraling society. Instead of following the Savior, people are blindly following charismatic, self-serving politicians wherever they choose to go. And, most often, they are poll-driven politicians who have few convictions and choose to lead wherever the popular political winds happen to be blowing. The direction at the moment is down a road painted with the broad brush of socialism. These are the natural tendencies of a leader, and a nation, that has turned its back on God and has succumbed to the numbing effects of drinking from the cistern of liberalism.

 

But some churches are growing. In fact, some are growing greatly. (Click here to see a list of the top 101 fastest growing churche of 2007 (2008 church info is still being compiled)). But my concern is that for every one church that is growing greatly, there are hundreds that are not.

 

Who is the church reaching? Who are you and I reaching? If we honestly answer, "no one," then is their blood on your hands and my hands? What are we going to do about it?

 

These are the kinds of facts that do one of two things: break our hearts and lead to action, or harden our hearts and lead to further inaction. I don't want a hardened heart; I choose to let the Spirit break my heart to the point that I continue reaching people for Jesus: reaching more deeply, reaching more broadly, reaching higher and lower; being what God called me to be. How?

 

The lyrics to the Casting Crowns song If We Are the Body are a start:


       It's crowded in worship today,
       As she slips in, Trying to fade into the faces
       The girls' teasing laughter is carrying farther than they know, Farther than they know

 

   CHORUS
       But if we are the Body, Why aren't His arms reaching,
       Why aren't His hands healing, Why aren't His words teaching
       And if we are the Body, Why aren't His feet going
       Why is His love not showing them there is a way

       There is a way A traveler is far away from home, He sheds his coat,
       And quietly sinks into the back row
       The weight of their judgmental glances tells him that his chances,
       Are better out on the road

 

   CHORUS
       But if we are the Body, Why aren't His arms reaching,
       Why aren't His hands healing, Why aren't His words teaching
       And if we are the Body, Why aren't His feet going
       Why is His love not showing them there is a way Jesus paid much too high a price
       For us to pick and choose who should come
       And we are the Body of Christ

 

   CHORUS
       But if we are the Body, Why aren't His arms reaching,
       Why aren't His hands healing, Why aren't His words teaching
       And if we are the Body, Why aren't His feet going
       Why is His love not showing them there is a way Jesus paid much too high a price6

 

Isn't that a great way to live? And if you and I recommit to being the Body of Christ to those around us, I know it'll spread; our enthusiasm for Jesus will be contagious, and the churches you and I attend will become churches that truly reach people for Jesus.

 

I'm excited about that! I hope you are, too.

 

(In reality, there are several reasons other than uninvolvement that determine the rate at which a church grows...or doesn't, though uninvolvement is a chief reason. Other reasons include apathy, prayerlessness, and the problems mentioned in the 7 churches in Revelation. Sometimes the people we are trying to reach, and with whom we've made contact, just don't respond. Each one of these need to be addressed individually in another devotional sometime. But the intent of this devotional has been to address one primary reason: the lack of involvement on the part of church members. It's a serious problem, though in all fairness to the churches that have worked hard with few results, there are other reasons equally grave. Perhaps God will lead us to look at those in the near future).

 

_______________
5Outreach, January/February 2008, p.14; Leadership, Winter 2008, p.102. From a sermon by Stephen Collins, "Part 3: Our Biggest Challenge" 1/14/2009)

6http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/If-We-Are-The-Body-lyrics-Casting-Crowns/617D1B30E33F493848256E9C000DB757


Copyright © 2009. Faith Matters by Dr. Ken Lovelace. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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