Thursday, May 29, 2014

Dangerous Men, Dangerous Churches

by Pastor Ron Bridge of Rehoboth Baptist Church

When pastors get together the conversation often turns to the subject of church membership. It did so during one of the panel discussions at the New England Conference on Expository Preaching that I attended earlier this week. One question pastors frequently ask is: “Why is it that many members are not in regular attendance at the worship services of the church?” The frequency with which this question arises could be seen in the reaction of those on the panel. One shook his head while looking at his feet, another put his head in his hands and another looked wistfully at the ceiling – all before they looked at each other hoping that someone would have a fresh response. One of them did. But, before I tell you what he said we need to rehearse the usual response one hears to the question. By usual response, I mean that which is regularly heard from conservative ministers. Here they are:
- People are just not as committed today. They do not like to be constrained by the rules of membership. The proof of this is that people do not join any organization (religious or secular) in the numbers that they used to. We live in a culture that puts stress on individual freedoms and the rules of church membership are seen as restrictive. 
- People have been brought up in a culture that tells them to put self first. Anything that gets in the way of what one really wants to do takes second or third place, and that includes church. 
- People are just too busy – they have too many other things to do. 
- People are tired of the same old fashioned approach to church. Hence they flock to larger, trendy churches for a more uplifting experience. Experience is what counts more than commitment. People can “hide” in large churches and avoid the demands of membership. Indeed, many of the large churches do not have formal membership so if you miss a week or two, nobody notices.
Conservative pastors are likely to agree that no amount of encouragement, or chastisement, will make much difference if a person's heart is apathetic toward God. Apathy, otherwise known as backsliding, is a particular and systemic problem in the modern church. So, what was the fresh response? The reason for irregular attendance is that many Christians no longer fear God. Referencing Acts 5:1-13 (the account of Ananias and Sapphira), the panel member said: “It used to be that people were afraid to go to church, church was a dangerous place. If you went and lied – you died (Acts 5:11,13).”

It seems to me that many of our churches are no longer dangerous. For example: few churches practice discipline and pastors that attempt to do so are seen as unfeeling and unloving. As a result, there is no fear – no danger - of sinning because the church is unlikely to do anything about it. Steve Lawson recently said “preachers should be dangerous men.” Adrian Rogers put it this way: “The problem with many preachers today is that nobody wants to kill them.” The same could be said of churches in the USA – nobody wants to kill us.

It is different in other parts of the world where preachers and churches are under attack. They are so because they are dangerous – they are dangerous to the powers that be, they are dangerous to family members and neighbors. They are dangerous and they grow. People flock to them despite the threat of persecution because they fear God more than they fear men (Mat. 10:28). The pastors of those churches don't need to ask the question: Why is it that many do not attend the worship service? The answer being that the members are too afraid of God not to attend – walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit they were multiplied (Acts 9:31). 

No comments:

Post a Comment