Wow! Thanks, everyone, for your participation in the weekend survey. We certainly had a wide range of responses. First, I want to commend everyone for being passionate about your point of view, but not becoming combative with those who held a different opinion. I had a particular purpose in mind for this survey, in two weeks I will be teaching a class on Church Development and I wanted some additional insights from you on the challenges with which the church must deal. You have certainly provided me with some good material with which to work.
The answers ran from increasing our fellowship, to speaking in tongues, to what we believe about the Gospel, to personal growth.
I would definitely agree that our presentation of the Gospel is extrememly important, but while it certainly has an impact on the church, I think bad soteriology (however one defines it) is probably a greater threat to the world (the lost) than it is to the church. There are definitely some questionable methods being used by churches, and often this leads to the “watered-down Gospel” that Bonnie mentioned, but I think the first casualty in this issue is the sinner with the impact on the church coming a little later.
Katie Russell mentioned a lack of understanding concerning tongues. Katie, as a cessationist, (sorry Steve, I had to say it :)) I would probably take a different perspective than you on the relevance of tongues today, but I will agree with you that an ignorance of the work of the Holy Spirit in the church has weakened many Christians and local churches.
Janice, as a good Southern Baptist, your suggestion of eating down by the river rang my bell!
There were several answers that varied in content, but were closely related in nature. I believe the problems of personal growth, ignorance of true doctrine and several others of this ilk are closely linked together. The church basically loses its true identity when these problems characterize it. Unfortunately, we see far too much of these things today.
An anonymous commentor gave us, what I believe, is the solution to the above problems, return to our first love. If worship of Jesus Christ is not at the very heart of all that we do as a church, we will definitely lose sight of who we are as the church, what we are supposed to be doing as a church, and the value of truth. Lack of focus will then lead to apathy. Lukewarmness will then lead to ineffective evangelism and discipleship. Older Christians will lose their passion for growing in the knowledge of God’s grace. As a result, newer Christians will not have examples of spiritual maturity to follow and the church will settle in a general malaise of mediocrity that is unable to either impact the world or please God.
Are we there yet?
Jonathan Moorhead mentioned lack of persecution as a problem. Perhaps that is what the church needs to purge it and cause us to reassess our condition. I was shocked to hear recently, that while we are praying for the relief of persecuted, Chinese Christians, those same believers are praying that God WILL send persecution to the churches of other places in the world where prosperity and methodology have replaced worship and truth.
I really appreciate each of you who shared your thoughts on this topic. If you have any additional thoughts on my analysis of the survey I would definitely be interested in hearing those as well.
EDITORIAL NOTE: Phil Johnson over at Pyromaniac has posted an old sermon of Charles Spurgeon’s that I think is relevant. You can read it here. Don Fields at World From Our Window has also asked a related question about why churches are losing their youth.