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Friday, August 12, 2011

Is the Church on Life Support?

I am listening a lot more lately. I want to know the future of the Church. I see people giving it less and less value. It has gone from vital to something I attend if I don't have something better to do. It is like many of the people I once called best friends. My lack of contact belies the truth that they are no longer best friends. People are leaving the Church behind to live their lives void of church involvement.

So, I spend time at local shops listening to people talk to one another. (Yes, I know this is eavesdropping!) I don't want to interfere in their lives. I want to know what is important. I want to know the method which will help me get them the message that Jesus died for them. I have a mandate to do so.

I hear people talking about their day. I hear them talk about "now." I don't hear them talk of their planning for tomorrow. My message has been one which talks of the future. I am not hearing that as a concern.

This makes sense to me. We have a hard time getting people to sign up for events in advance. It makes planning very hard for us. It makes budgeting impossible. We have no idea how many people will participate in something until it happens. People aren't planning. They are arriving with the notion that they can show up when they please.

Isn't that what our society is doing? Don't people decide to eat out just moments before they do? Don't they often decide which movie to watch on the way to the theater or even at the ticket booth? Don't they flip through the tv channels to see if anything is on? Don't they expect to receive whatever service they want when they want it?

I continue to listen and have not come to conclusions. I believe Church is going to look very different in the next few years or those churches who remain unchanged or either in rural areas or they will be quickly dying.

I am also listening to God. I believe He is working. I believe He has a plan. I believe He will share it with me. I believe that the Church is not dead but there will be many churches that die.

Many churches are already on life support. They will continue to do what they have always done even though it isn't working. The church is one of the few organizations which will continue to pour resources into a dead program. Some programs need a DNR (Do Not Resusitate) order. It is the dead program that is killing the church. It is gangrene to the body. It must be amputated and the church must go through rehab.

Our church is going to make some radical changes in the next few weeks. The economy has forced us into those changes. Fortunately, it is giving us the opportunity to let some dead programs die. Otherwise, we would soon be on life support.

God has a plan. I am sure of it.

Isaiah 55:8-9 (ESV) 8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Jeremiah 31:17 (ESV) 17 There is hope for your future, declares the LORD, and your children shall come back to their own country.

1 comment:

Anthony Chia said...

I gather in countries like UK, and perhaps increasingly in the States, and generally in the developed countries, the phenomenon described concerning the local physical churches, is indeed growing in proportion. Although the local churches are NOT to be blamed entirely, it is NOT untrue that, perhaps, some of the local churches have failed to stay connected with members of congregation. In other words, the shepherds or under-shepherds have failed to notice that the sheep have begun to wander off too frequently out of the path of light.

It is neither my intention to hit at the local churches nor absolve the sheep of their own responsibility to refrain from wandering off the path of light, repeatedly, but we have to agree that part of the responsibility of the shepherds or under-shepherds is to care, comfort and re-strengthen the sheep, and they are NOT discharging that responsibility by NOT being connected with the sheep. The ill-consequence of such neglect shows up after period of time, sometimes, after a considerable lapse of time, and its ill-development is subtle, meanwhile; and when it becomes too obvious, usually damage is NOT easy to repair. That it has taken time to come to a deplorable state, it will take time to come back to a good state, unless there is increased intervention by the Almighty God.

I am NOT advocating that we make ourselves popular with the sheep, catering to what they like; that would NOT be shepherding at all. But we do need to be creative to coax the sheep (and we should look to God, or at least consult Him on this: creativity), to keep the sheep in the path.

Also, though we are NOT advocating the "be led by sight", we do need to know that there are reasons for God saying that signs and wonders and miracles would accompany the gospel. Perhaps, God already looked into the future, and one of the reasons for foretelling that signs and wonders and miracles would be included with the Great Commission assignment, is that it may be one of the things that testifies to men that God is still caring for Man, and that He is indeed the Almighty God, and so, Man should still look to Him to guide their lives, even in this high-tech society. Do we welcome signs and wonders and miracles to accompany our gospels?

We must also be aware that this high-tech society culture, with its many inventions of convenience that foster “godly pursuits can wait”, eg. to listen to podcast or watch video recording later, instead, can rob us of the opportune time with God.

I always tell people, that God created us and placed us in chronological time environment, we should flow in that chronological time (and I believe God deals with men, in chronological time, although He is able to look into the future). One of the problems of men is that he wants to beat time. This tendency must NOT be over-indulged; this, we are to remind ourselves, and we have responsibility to let the sheep know.

I believe God plans ahead but tweaks in real-time; He doesn't go back into time, and redo or catch-up. We too should be likewise. I am NOT saying that we cannot catch-up on a church service we missed or a good movie, using technology, but it is we have to ask ourselves, if we are always attempting to beat time, in our way of life, rather than doing the things ordinarily should be done in the time that they should be done. It is Heaven cannot wait, and NOT Heaven can wait!

Jesus talked about the good shepherd would leave 99 and go after 1 sheep that wandered off (Matt 18:12-13), is the church doing that, or is she just brushing it off, with saying that it is up to the sheep? Have we been engaging in too much thinking that church is answerable to men, instead of, to God? Who do we think, supports the church, men or God? If it is God, function according to His direction, please.

May we, church leaders, wake up from our slumber. Anthony Chia, high.expressions