It was my original intent to hold off on this for....well, I'm not sure how long I'd planned on waiting. This is one of those things I've been pondering for a loooong time and it's been one of those topics that's been plaguing my brain; I've even had a couple of people tell me I should start writing about it, that I had probably enough content to fill a book. Maybe I do...maybe that IS one of the things God expects of me...but, knowing myself, if I didn't just DO something about all the thoughts running through my head, I'd never even get started on it! THAT was what prompted the query about the modern threat to the Church.
What was the concensus? Well, you can read the comments here in addition to one on the Facebook link I did, but I gotta tell you--I saw exactly what I figured I'd see. Without putting a fine-tip-point on it, the answers all had to do with US. Everyone believes WE (the average Christians) are the problem. Do I disagree? Not even slightly. I believe wholeheartedly that we are the problem. If the Church IS people, then when it has problems, it's going to be the people making that Body up that cause the problems, right? Certainly the foundational elements of the Church that Jesus built aren't the problem, because He left us with perfection--a perfect plan, a perfect organizational pattern, and perfect (fully whole) instructions that did not require us to do anything other than read and obey. We don't need interpretation; we don't need man-made additions or revisions or traditions; God gave us everything we need when He revealed His perfect Word to the men who were inspired to write it all down for our learning. So why is the Church floundering amid a sea of false doctrine, opinions, and apathy?
A couple of weeks ago our Wednesday adult class began a study on Genesis. There is NO way we'll actually finish it, because we're now four weeks into the quarter and we just got the ark landed on Mt. Ararat last night. There's just too much meat in Genesis to 'snack' on! ANYway...one of the questions asked that very first night of class was, "What would we be missing if the Bible didn't contain the book of Genesis?" Have you ever pondered that thought? No creation, no flood, no nation of Israel, no Moses, no Joseph...there would be a lot of gaps! The conclusion we came to in that class that night was what got my brain-wheels turning again on this church-problem issue. You see, if there is not an adequate foundation, the rest of the Bible makes no sense. Without knowing the mind of God revealed to the patriarchs, we don't understand the nature of God and the disgust He has for disobedience--and the New Testament is senseless. Without Genesis, we can't understand sin. Without knowing God's initial plan for mankind, the REST of the story is pure nonsense. When you ignore His original intent, the rest goes haywire.
Look around you--what do you see in the church? HAYWIRE! Folks are neglecting huge portions of the Word of God because they don't know (or don't care) that God expects full and unyielding obedience from His people. People are putting aside God's Will and inserting their own--in doctrine, in practice, in worship, in their thoughts, in their deeds....self comes first to us, and that was the very first lesson humankind was supposed to learn back in Eden--that God expects obedience--our full hearts--regardless of what we thought, saw, interpreted, wanted, or reasoned.
Satan knows today, just as he knew back in Eden, which buttons to push to get mankind to question God's sovereignty, His truth, and His intent for us. And we are falling for it hook, line, and sinker just as Adam and Eve did! All he has to do with us, just like with the first woman and man, is change ONE word in a "thus saith the LORD", and he's got us. Satan probably penned the "God is my co-pilot" and "God said it, I believe it, that settles it" bumper stickers...because he KNEW all he had to do was add one teeny little thing to get us hooked into doubting God. What's that little thing? Self. Why isn't God our pilot? Why do we feel the need to be in the drivers' seat? Why do we have to "believe" it for a matter to be settled once God says it? Ladies and gentlemen, if God says it, that settles it, whether WE believe it or not!
So that was my big-revelation answer to the church problem? Self? Well yes, but not entirely. See, this has been a long time brewing in my head...but all the things I've pondered lead back to something...I'll get there. It may take another post or two, but I'll get there.
Actually, to make a really long story short, I believe that the biggest threat to the Church today is a lack of Biblical leadership. The biggest threat to Biblical leadership in my opinion? Self. (See, I can still connect the dots between my thoughts!) It's nothing new--Adam had a problem with being the leader God intended for him to be; Abraham shirked his leadership responsiblilities when it came down to his safety because of his relationship to Sarah; Moses didn't want the job God revealed to him at the burning bush, and even after he finally took it and saw just how powerful God coudl be through an obedient leader, he blew it when he inserted his own will--on a rock. A lack of leadership can make or break an organization, and while the bedrock of the Lord's Church is Jesus Christ Himself, He put in place a plan for on-the-ground leadership in the place of elders (the Biblical usage of pastor/bishop also refers to church elders); and a lack of sound leadership from these men can be the downfall of local churches and a huge detriment to the Church as a whole. Finally being part of a congreagation of the Lord's Body that HAS great leadership is what made it so vividly obvious what other [weaker] congregations were lacking. We (the church as a whole) have an ever-decreasing number of men who are qualified to lead as elders in the Church, and among those who are qualified there are even fewer who have the boldness to do the job God entrusted to them.
Think for a minute about a military unit at war (which we are); if a unit doesn't have a commander because there aren't any men who are qualified, or if a commander doesn't have the courage to stand against opposing forces and offer himself first as an example to those men who are to follow his lead and his direction...or if the direction he gives isn't cohesive with the battle plan, is the mission going to fail?
So why don't we have enough qualified (and willing) men to lead today's Church by the standard God gave us? There's your next question...