Recently I took an informal survey of some of the eleven churches in the town where I live. With a population of around 2500 plus another 5000 in motels, hotels and RV parks during the summer this town has a need for churches. This town has no ‘mega’ churches just the typical 50 to 200 seat capacity churches found anywhere in small town USA. So why aren’t they full or over 50% capacity?
I decided to ask a few people I know who can be best described as ‘church hoppers’, those who are in search of the truth from the pulpit.
They described each of the churches they had tried, what they liked and what that church lacked. I surveyed them separately so as not to influence any words or descriptions. Here is what I found. They used basically the same words as each other to describe individual churches.
“Repeated sermons, chaos during the service, great worship service, but too much like a concert, there was that ‘scandal’, no leadership, always changing pastors, he only preaches a happy message, no hard truth.”
I also asked the group why they attended a church for a few months then moved on, I received three distinct responses “they started preaching the truth and people became uncomfortable and then the church changed” or “the church was not life giving, there is no unity” or finally “they are in the business of church not the ministry of church”
And there it was, even with all of the minor problems that could be overcome the real reason, No Truth being preached from the pulpit, congregations being coddled.
Was it also a doctrinal position or perhaps a desire for more than a sermon from a filing cabinet that the minister pulled out to ‘fit’ the occasion. Pastor burnout could be a definite possibility, after years of preaching a man can become tired, I understand that.
After contemplating the answers I received I decided to survey those I knew who proclaimed to be Christians yet attended no church.
The same answer was given by everyone who was honest with me, “those people are hypocrites, I will never go back to that church”
When I asked why not try another church the answer was split, “they are all the same” or “not my denomination or doctrine”
I recently read a survey that stated, “seventy percent of all church goers (not just christians) in the United Kingdom who had stopped attending would NEVER go back not even for a wedding or a funeral”
Incredible as that seems that same sentiment is here in the Churches in the USA.
Why? II Timothy 4:2-5 describes the day in which the Body finds itself in today.
V3) …”for the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine: but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
This does not just apply to church goers but church leaders. Church leaders set themselves up kingdoms, not all, but in general. Fewer churches are growing because of fruits and more are growing in relation to their catering to what the crowd wants to hear.
Seems many see church as a whole, as small groups and not as the body of Christ. Where is the unity, where is the gathering together for fellowship, where are the ‘Christian Soldiers marching as to war’?
In this town, which is typical America, there are eleven small groups called churches. There are leaders and members of churches in this town who won’t attend a simple non-denominational prayer for the community, because “it isn’t being held inside ‘our’ church”
Many are afraid to gather together, to overcome their differences and understand there should be no difference if you believe that Jesus Christ, born of a virgin, free of sin, suffered and died for our sins, rose from the grave defeating death and sits at the right hand of the Father.
So if we, as sinners, confess with our mouth and believe with all our hearts that God raised Him from the dead, then we shall be saved. (Romans 10:9-13)
Beyond that simple promise it is all doctrine. It is not the Baptist way, the Assembly way, the Methodist, Lutheran way, ETC. it is His way. We are to conform to the Word, not the Word conforming to us, it has never and will never change. Yet Christianity today has become faith only in what we feel comfortable with. Our ‘Harmless Customs’ as described by the early church have been far too long accepted and the division grows wider.
You and you alone are responsible for you and you alone. In other words, we are told in
II Timothy 2:15 “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth”
Show yourself . . . .
Approved unto . . . .
Rightly dividing the word of . . . .
What is the truth? The truth is the Word of God. Period. Now how you understand that word is up to you. The Father knows what is in your heart, He knows your level of understanding, but how long do you think He can abide your foolishness, your lack of study, your lack of searching for more of Him?
Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness; . . . .”
Doctrine separates us. But doctrine is what we base our belief system on. Why do we want to risk our entire belief of what Christ wants from us on a ‘tradition’ that we have grown up with, what somebody else has told us and not base it on study and prayer. In communication with the Giver of Eternal Life, the One who paid the price, a personal one on one relationship with our Savior?
I’m not saying to disregard your Pastors preaching, I’m saying study the verses he is giving you, understand them fully, do your own study. Pray for guidance, ask questions. There is not a Pastor worth his calling that will refuse your fervent searching for truth and not make himself or a learned church staff member available to guide you.
The price for our salvation was paid for us and once we understand that we are sinners, unable to earn or buy our everlasting place with the Father, that it can only be attained though Jesus Christ and our confession of faith in Him, then we can begin our walk, our communication, our joy and our understanding of what ‘our’ personal doctrinal faith is.
If it must be given a name, a denominational name, call it . . .
My Faith, My Doctrine, My Belief. A personal walk with Christ is just that, yours and yours alone.