[Today's reading is part
of a mini-series I'm doing on the church. If you've
already read the introduction to this mini-series,
please begin here to read my response to the fifth
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].
IS THE CHURCH?: PART 5
Question Five: Does
the church today look like the church God wanted to
see in the 21st century?
The story is told of
a man who ran a rescue station by the sea. Anytime
a boat would capsize, he and his team would row out
in their rescue boats and save the passengers from
drowning. Because of the beaches, that particular
area was very beautiful and drew more and more boaters
over the years. With each passing year, the team of
rescuers grew larger and more and more people were
saved. There were many risky, daring, and memorable
rescues in all kinds of weather conditions.
Gradually, however, the
team grew old and weary. They began to find more enjoyment
in just sitting around and talking about rescuing
instead of actually being out there and rescuing boaters.
One day, one of the wealthy
rescuers convinced the team to build an all new, shiny
and impressive rescue station. All their time and
efforts went in to building it to the neglect of everything
else. When it was finished, they spent all of their
time in the new rescue station, sitting around the
fire, eating delicious meals, and reminiscing about
all the wonderful rescues they'd made over the years.
Plaques were given and received and hung on the walls;
trophies were mounted in beautiful cases. Everything
they did centered around that rescue station, and
no one ventured out into the elements to rescue the
perishing. All they did now was talk about how daring
they used to be and how wonderful they thought it
was to enjoy the rest they thought they'd earned.
When I consider this
fifth question: "Does the church today look like
the church God wanted to see in the 21st century?"
that's what I picture. The church started out as the
Body of Christ actively pursuing those drowning in
their sins and seeking to get them safely to the other
shore to be revived, helped, fed, clothed, and cared
for. But, over the centuries, it seems the church
at large has begun to sit around more and more, talking
about the good ol' days, and building one monument
to itself after another.
Today, I wonder if the
church of the 21st century looks little like it did
when it was built on the broken body and spilled blood
of Jesus; and less, still, than the church God had
hoped to see in this century?
Though we know from scripture
that the church will not fail, that the gates of hell
will not prevail against it, still, it seems to have
strayed over the centuries in four critical areas
that have greatly affected its effectiveness. And,
just as these detours have greatly crippled the church's
effectiveness, so each one reclaimed will lead the
church back closer to where God had hoped it would
be in the 21st century. The church has to:
Reclaim its Passion for its First Love - We've
heard this before. Nearly 2,000 years ago, Jesus criticized
one of the churches in Asia Minor for this very thing.
In Revelation 2:4, Jesus told the church in Ephesus,
"Yet I hold this against
you: You have forsaken your first love."
awful that must have been for Jesus! The Body of Christ
no longer loved the Christ of the Body. They had forsaken
Him and He let them know that it was a huge offense
that He took very seriously.
their problem was contagious because it has spread
far and wide to the point that many churches today
act as if loving Jesus first and foremost is an unrealistic
expectation. God wants us to be passionate, but are
we passionate about the wrong things? Are we more
passionate about political action, cool campaigns,
feel-good faith, and ear-tickling monologues than
we are about Jesus?
the church to be what God wants it to be in the 21st
century, we have to wonder if God would want many
of us to join in a chorus of repentance and then to
return to our First Love. In order to gain the spiritual
stamina and power to confront the other areas thwarting
the church's effectiveness, shouldn't we address this
so, then each one of us individually must return to
Jesus and surrender our wills to His, our desires
to His, and our control to His lordship. Such a move
on a large scale would certainly result in dramatically
moving the church in the right direction for the 21st
Reclaim its Passion for Prayer - Have you ever
noticed that when one of your relationships is strained,
you tend to avoid that person and no longer enjoy
talking with him or her? Similarly, when we lose our
passion for our First Love, we lose interest in prayer.
Oh, there might be the going-through-the-motions kinds
of praying, trying to keep up appearances; but that's
just mumbling, not communing.
God has called us to
commune with Him through deep, intimate, abiding prayer.
Prayer is to the Christian soul what breathing is
to the physical body. Prayer is just as necessary
for maintaining spiritual life as breathing is for
maintaining physical life.
Jim Cymbala began at
the Brooklyn Tabernacle as an ill-equipped, under-educated,
time-strapped preacher. He also led a second congregation
in New Jersey. The Brooklyn church members had no
money to pay him. They only had a ramshackle building,
and barely enough attendance to bother with weekly
Today, the Tabernacle
hosts around 6,000 spirit-filled worshipers. The difference
came when Jim, in a moment of desperation, set aside
his planned message and called the church to pray.
The weekly prayer meeting, not the Sunday worship
service, became the focal point of the Brooklyn Tabernacle.
Jim's belief that "God can't resist those who
humbly and honestly admit how desperately they need
him" guides his work. It is prayer, not preaching,
that brings revival.
Part of reclaiming our
passion for our First Love is recommitting to prayer.
You can't have a passion for one without having a
passion for the other; they are two sides of the same
So how's your prayer
time? If the church is to be what God needs it to
be for the 21st century, we must return to Kingdom-moving,
earth-shaking prayer. In the days leading up to Pentecost,
the church prayed ten days and preached ten minutes
and 3,000 were saved. These days, we pray ten minutes
and preach ten days and are fortunate if 3 are saved.
It's no wonder the church is ineffective.
Many churches today no
longer take prayer seriously. Giving a minute or two
to prayer in Bible study, worship, or at prayer meetings
is not indicative of serious praying. It has to be
daily; it has to be sacrificial; it has to be from
a pure heart, seeking first His Kingdom and His righteousness.
That's the kind of praying to which God is calling
Reclaim its Passion for Souls - Vince Lombardi
used to remind his team of the importance of keeping
the main thing the main thing. For the church, the
main thing is leading people to Jesus. But it doesn't
always do this well.
church has, in many respects, become the rescue station
where the members sit around remembering the good
ol' days. We complain of being tired, of having "done
our time," of needing a break or a rest. We're
all tired, but what's that got to do with anything?
We can rest when we get to heaven. In the meantime,
we must work while it's still day, we must get back
"out to sea" and rescue the perishing, care
for the dying, and lead people to the only One who
can heal body, soul, and spirit.
Reclaim its Focus - According to Jesus' Great
Commission, our focus has to continue to be His focus:
making disciples, not entertaining the saints.
Do you know how you can
tell what your church's focus is? Listen to the announcements;
pay attention to what everyone's talking about. In
many churches, you'll hear about committee meetings,
potluck dinners, and entertaining activities. These
things are necessary, important, and good...unless
that's all you hear about. In order to reclaim its
focus, we should also hear about discipleship seminars
(teaching members how to disciple someone), prayer
workshops (providing helps for intercession), and
evangelism training (including how to know when the
Spirit is leading us to share Jesus or to refrain
from sharing Jesus).
order for the church to be what God wanted it to be
in the 21st century, it's got to get back to the basics.
Making disciples is critically important to the survival
of the church. If no one is teaching the saints to
be biblically based, scripturally sound, or doctrinally
pure, then what will the church leave the next generation
of believers? I think we are seeing the answer to
that all around us.
were not called to be entertainment directors, they
were called to be disciple-makers. But too often the
membership demands to be entertained and people will
church-hop until they find the most entertaining church
and then stay there until something "better"
comes along. How can the church change in this area?
It must both reclaim, and readjust, its focus.
The church of the 21st
century desperately needs an infusion of life, of
grace, of purpose, and of focus. I don't know about
you, but to me the church is worth fighting for. I
commit to doing whatever God asks and expects of me
in order to be one of any number of catalysts needed
to lead His church to be revived and to be on fire
for the Lord Jesus. I pray that you'll join me!
© 2009. Faith Matters by Dr. Ken Lovelace. All rights