We live in unprecedented times. I understand that phrase is a cliche in seasons of crisis, but its overuse doesn’t negate the fact that our days are unique in the span of history. This is a matter of biblical fact when we consider our culture in light of what Jesus said in Matthew 24:4-14. Knowing that God’s wrath is coming and over one hundred fifty thousand people go into eternity daily should compel Christians to prioritize sharing the gospel. Instead, we have endemic spiritual apathy among believers and inward-oriented churches. This is a clarion call to Christians and churches everywhere to wake up and realize this is no time for business as usual.
Many ‘Christians’ are going through life as though this world will continue on as it always has. One look around at the absolute moral collapse and societal abyss we face should force believers into the world to compel lost souls to come to saving faith in Jesus. Instead, many self-identifying Christians are virtually indistinguishable from the world except for church attendance and religious-sounding platitudes.
Many churches are becoming bustling spiritual oases where people are encouraged to plug in and do life together. This pattern is played out week after week by many people who are more enamored by churches, movements, and programs than they are with Jesus. One Sunday morning, I watched a pastor interview a lady on stage in front of thousands of people, some of whom certainly had to be unsaved. He asked her the following question, “Tell us how you came to find…?” and then named the church! He spoke the church’s name when I was almost certain he would have named Jesus. This was heart-wrenching to hear and must have grieved the Holy Spirit. It was a lost opportunity to lift up the name of Jesus instead of our own agenda.
This is a scenario I’ve noticed with increasing frequency, and I know I’m not alone in this. Many Christians quickly tell people about how great their church is but not their Savior. They are eager to tell others about the programs and activities their church offers but neglect to tell them Jesus forgives and offers eternal life. People use spiritual-sounding platitudes about outreach, multiplying, and finding community, but most won’t go out into the surrounding community to reach people with the gospel, Matthew 15:8.
Our churches are so intrinsically inward-focused that the people getting involved in so-called ministry don’t even notice the focus has been taken off of Jesus and replaced with religious activity. We have parking lot carnivals, community events, and service projects, and we call it evangelism or outreach. We have flattering welcome signs, free gifts, and a polished image to woo the world and ingratiate ourselves to them instead of lovingly warning them about the wrath to come.
The late singer-songwriter Keith Green used to call the religious-sounding talk and activities believers engage in “Christianese.” This dear brother was grieved by the shallowness of our witness to the world and the inward-focused self-absorption that defined many so-called “Christian leaders” and churches, and that was over forty years ago. Philippians 2:2-4. Not much has changed in the interim except that the “Christianese culture” has only increased. Ask people in your church to gather to hear a nationally known Christian leader; every seat will be filled. Ask them to meet for evangelism; you are generally met with blank stares, excuses, or disinterest. Often (not always), church staff are cloistered professionals who are busy playing church instead of recognizing that ministry isn’t just what happens on Sunday mornings. Philippians 1:15-18.
It’s been said that every church has a culture. If that’s the case, doesn’t it beg the question: Do I have an outward-focused culture that makes much of Jesus, or do we make much of ourselves?
Here’s what A.W. Tozer said about religious activity devoid of the Spirit:
That pure love for God and men, which expresses itself in a burning desire to advance God’s glory and leads to poured-out devotion to the temporal and eternal welfare of our fellow men, is certainly approved of God, but the nervous, squirrel-cage activity of self-centered and ambitious religious leaders is just as certainly offensive to Him and will prove at last to have been injurious to the souls of countless millions of human beings. – A.W. Tozer
Have we been so collectively swayed by the church growth gurus, vision casters, and directional teams that we’ve taken our eyes off the great commission? Looking at conditions in much of modern Christianity, the answer is yes. These conditions aren’t all-encompassing, as there are numerous local churches and believers that comprise the global body of Christ, a true remnant that prioritizes evangelism and discipleship over self-promotion and congratulation. I’m not anti-local church; on the contrary, I love the church and have a passion for contending for the faith and exhorting fellow ministers to make much of Jesus, not ourselves. Jude 1:3.
So, what is the solution to such a pervasive problem embedded in the fabric of many of today’s churches? The answer comes from the Bible and the very words of Jesus when He commands us to go in Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:15, and Acts 1:8. An integral part of discipling people, equipping the Saints, and feeding the flock takes place as we go out and compel people to come to Jesus, Luke 14:23. This leads to authentic Spirit-led church growth and multiplication. Acts 2:47.
Meetings, mission statements, and empty talk can’t replicate what happens when the Holy Spirit is at work in people who are serious about loving in word and deed. What would happen if we swap the frenzy of religious activity for actual discipleship and evangelism? What would happen if, instead of member-swapping with other churches, we actually go out and preach the gospel to the lost? What would happen if we start telling people about how great Jesus is instead of how much we love our church? How we answer these questions says much about the authenticity of our faith.
Dear friends, we know that this world and most of its people are in a freefall toward destruction. It’s a fact that most of them will never walk into a church to hear the gospel, but we can bring it to them! Romans 10:14-15. Let’s heed the call of Jesus to go because He is coming soon, and this is no time for business as usual.
All for Him,
“Another sleepy Sunday, safe within the walls
Outside a dying world in desperation calls
But no one hears the cries or knows what they’re about
The doors are locked within, or is it from, without…”
Petra – Rose Colored Stained Glass Windows