By Judson Casjens
Recently, I read the following letter:
I was saved in 1973, and I have seen dramatic changes in Bible-believing churches over the past 44 years, and in the vast majority of cases, the changes have been for the worse.
Everywhere I go, I see churches getting weaker rather than stronger. I am talking about weaker in biblical preaching, weaker in clear reproof of sin and error, weaker in Bible knowledge, weaker in holiness, weaker in separation from the world, weaker in [true worship], weaker in discipleship, weaker in passion for Christ, weaker in evangelism, weaker in zeal for world missions. I see the weakness in pastors, in the old people, in the homes, and in the youth. [letter slightly edited]
So my question to those reading this is, is your church getting stronger or weaker?
And this question poses other questions, such as: what is the criteria by which one even begins to assess the strengths or weaknesses of the local church? This is the time of annual meetings, elections, and budgets. In typical fashion, the reports all strive to show increases in some fashion or form, more people, money, missionaries, and even projects completed, anything that might demonstrate progress over last year. Yet in all this, I would venture to say that few, if any, of the questions posed below are even brought up, much less discussed.
Part of the reason for this lies in the inability of most believers to recognize true spiritual fruit, maturity, what “grieving” the Spirit of God looks like, and how genuine love and growth in knowledge and discernment evidences itself. Yet the direction for each local church is clear; consider:
. . . and some as pastors and teachers, [WHY?] for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.—Ephesians 4:11-13 [And what does that look like?]
And there is a negative component to this as well for we read immediately following in verse 14:
As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.
Did you get the importance of this statement? If the first is taking place, in reality (i,e., “as a result”), the local believers (which in fact are the local church) evidence this by not being tossed about by the waves and winds of false teaching, and by the trickery, craftiness, and deceitful scheming of men. In other words, the very purpose of verses 11-13 is so that verse 14 doesn’t occur! Are we evaluating this in our meetings? How and by which methods will this determination be made? Isn’t this just as important as all the other categories, seeing it has fundamentally to do with evaluating the spiritual health of the church?
In the last year alone, I have personally heard (in a good church) those considered to be fine upstanding believers endorse and/or defend the Catholic Church, the writings of Paul Young (The Shack), and devotional books such as those by Sarah Young (Jesus Calling) and in all cases giving a bypass to each one’s erroneous teachings. This isn’t even getting into the entire contemplative mess along with ecumenism that has so infiltrated evangelicalism; nor are we considering here the inroads of other pagan philosophies.
By way of contrast, the apostle Paul, in his writings, always dealt with error and encroaching worldliness, but tragically these aren’t the sort of measures typically brought up in annual meetings. And so, we become content with increased numbers of various sorts, budgets, church attendance, Sunday School attendance, and numbers of missionaries supported along with plans for next year’s spending.
It isn’t that the other normal annual questions aren’t relevant; it’s that, by and large, they don’t address or in any way measure true biblical spiritual health. If we are going to measure spiritual health by larger numbers in giving and people, the Mormons, Catholics, and Muslims would seem to hold the keys.
(photo by bigstockphoto.com; used with permission)
Our churches are getting weaker because we split everyone apart by age (just like government schooling) and the younger ones don’t learn any wisdom from the older ones. This is done on purpose.
Glad I “happened” to come across your website.
Yes, we do: https://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=27394.
Mary Jane Daigle
Do you have any info on the author of “The Circle Maker” – Mark Batterson? I need to witness to a Facebook friend. Thank you.
Allen said: “The churches are almost gone, the day of the Lord is fast approaching. To be true to the teaching of the bible is to be a target even within the church.” I agree. There ARE faithful Christians, faithful pastors, faithful churches in America, but they definitely seem to be a minority these days — what the Bible calls a faithful remnant. When Elijah despaired because of evil Jezebel’s power, the Lord reminded him that there were thousands across the land who had not bowed the knee to Ba’al. I believe that is still true here, and reading others’ comments here (as well as the articles) is very encouraging. Lydia, when I said “viable alternative”, I meant something which gives glory to God. Since Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the church door at Wittenburg, Germany, on October 31, 1517, the celebration of that pivotal day makes for a good thing to truly celebrate. I know of a number of churches which do that each year.
I have seen our youth disappear and many of the members treat the Sunday service as optional(cruises, going to the cottage all summer, other events conflicting with going to church) no wonder the younger generation got the idea that what was taught wasn’t important. I do street evangelism every week with a few others, some that come to help quit after a few weeks or months. I teach about Israel and the rapture but those who are antisemitic stay away. I don’t believe there is any remedy but to be faithful ourselves, watching and waiting. The churches are almost gone, the day of the Lord is fast approaching. To be true to the teaching of the bible is to be a target even within the church.
Yes, this is typical. I have seen church leadership allowing their kids to dress up in Darth Vader costumes! Sometimes even for halloween! An angel is one thing, but an evil figure? They have pulled out all the stops, next thing they will have the blood running down the mouths on the masks…! They don’t even bat an eyelash. I am so tired too of seeing ‘biblical’ churches trying to appease the world! And offering an alternative to evil is not a good thing in the sense of halloween either, we already have an alternative, it is called fellowship with God. Once they have a substitute then it starts to look just like halloween and there it goes. To have a harvest festival in the middle of October, with no resemblance to halloween, that is good. There even is a biblical feast around that time for those who dig into these things. But there should not be anything around halloween because that is just saying ‘yes, you do need something like that around that time, so that you won’t be tempted to do that…’. This is where carrying our cross and self denial enters the picture. If we are following after the Lord and enjoying all that He has to offer, we won’t miss the things of the world and this is an important lesson that our children need to learn as well. ( :
Karen L, I have witnessed and experienced these things you mentioned. A church we were active in, which had taken a stand about Halloween (but did not offer a viable alternative on that night each year) began featuring Batman at VBS every summer. This was at about the time the movies came out, and when I expressed objections, the pastor’s wife said, “Oh, we’re not promoting that. We’re promoting Batman as he was in the ’60s on the TV show.” As if the children at VBS (many of whom were bussed in from non-Christian homes) would know anything about the ’60s Batman! But, really, what did that have to do with God’s Word? Nothing. Nothing at all. “Come out from among them and be ye separate” (2 Cor. 6) comes to my mind often. Many people don’t realize the Lord goes on to say there, “…and I will receive you as sons and daughters.” Being separate from the sinful world system is VERY important to the Lord. In James he tells us that if we love the world, we are His enemies. That is strong language! And we dare not water it down if we want to be truly faithful to Him.
At one of the ‘better’ churches in our area (the pastor still preaches straight from the Bible, speaking the truth in love), the pastor has also unfortunately been promoting Sozo, a new counseling method popularized by Bethel Church of Redding, CA, which has been engaging in problematic practices for some time. That local church also promotes “word of faith” teachers. I attended a Bible study there with a friend, and one of the leading women of the church was actively involved in reading Jesus Calling every day. It is very sad and very concerning to see ‘strong’ Christians falling for these things.
I was saved in 1977 and have witnessed the same things. We had our AGM on Sunday! They did a slide presentation of all the activities throughout 2017 – lots of lovely folk-gathering activities, touching the community etc. I sat waiting to see the most important ‘activity’ and it didn’t happen! 🙁 our baptisms! I was so dismayed. The Lord showed me that all the other activities were down to man! AND all those activities could have been replicated by the world….the only activity that set us apart, which was a wonderful work of the Lord, was the baptisms. Sigh! But the Lord has us alive at this time for a reason. Let’s not give up hope that as days get darker we might have the privilege of ushering others into the Light of God’s Kingdom. Shalom.
As a bible teacher and worship leader I have been regularly attacked for insisting on teaching strong biblical doctrine. Fortunately our pastor does the same. Our church is located in a very well to do neighborhood where people do not seem to be interested in their spiritual needs. As a result attendance has dropped off tremendously. Long time members tend to be sympathetic to the world’s offerings and they desire a diet of feel good messages. Reminding them that our Lord Jesus Christ emphasized righteousness as the first thing to seek after which all the “things” will be added doesn’t go over well. Oh that the Holiness of God and His righteous requirements would be preached again in our pulpits.
Welcome to the Apostasy…most so-called churches do not have the Holy Spirit attending and their Lampstand has been removed. We got tired of looking for a Real one; so we have church at home. We listen to wonderful sermons online. We sing hymns, pray and have the Lord’s supper. I miss going to a fellowship “out there”, but the early church met in homes too! May we remain faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ and hold fast to His Holy Word…Look up, our redemption draws nigh!
I agree with what is written here. I myself, am very concerned about the lack of holiness, and the desire to be holy, in the church and in our lives. I have seen churches decorated for halloween: spiders, ghosts, mummys, bats, etc. Vacation Bible school using: Star Wars themes with huge card board figures, using “the force”, etc. What happened to using Bible criteria and figures for all things Biblical? Does our Holy God even recognize His Church and people? Come out from among them and be different has lost its meaning. Yet there is always hope with each generation to find God’s truth and live it!
I have been seeing this too. I was saved in 1988. I was blessed at the time to be in a small coastal town of southern CA with a good Calvary Chapel at that time. The church was actually a functioning church in every NT way! The Bible was preached, people had mid week studies with worship, and other meetings. People still engaged in worship with passion instead of looking at their ipads. (Uh, how I miss that!) The church did evangelism in the community, various forms of outreach, charity, and went on short term missions trips where the gospel was actually preached on the trip (in Russia right after the fall of the USSR), for a small church they supported several missionary families abroad, the pastor actually went over to one of the fellowship meetings at someone’s house to address an issue of sin (of an occultic nature, it was a lucky charm), sin was rebuked, exhortations were given and received, discernment was alive, the members were involved in the pro life movement and even adoption of some of these babies, the gifts were in operation, discipleship was active in the church, and they had an evangelism class and fellowship meetings like picnics throughout the year! People had a zeal for God, a passion to grow in and please the Lord, and an aura of holiness. Oh, and the ladies’ retreat actually was a retreat, not a workshop marathon series of sessions centered around someone other than the Lord! (Yes, it was great, but gone are the days!) Now all we see, even in supposedly ‘biblical’ churches is the ones dragging their feet, can’t wait to get home and turn on the game, can’t keep their eyes off the ipads, even if the sermon is error free and pretty good Biblically, no one dares call out the wolves, the heresies, the sins, the hot button topics of the day, no one warns, they all lay low. There is no involvement of the pastor with the flock. It’s just drop your money in the bag and see you next week. There are no evangelism teams. Short term missions trips are nothing more than construction crews for free, or you have to pay to work. No gospel at all. No one speaks of God outside of the sermon. No one brings up issues of persecution. You don’t dare attend any outside weekly meeting in a small group lest someone bring up one of the celebrity heretics and you have to give a gentle rebuke of warning! They use the NIV or the ESV or some other watered down version. No one knows their Bible or how to share the gospel. No one even knows what discernment is. Their lives are parades of carnality. Their obsession is their own personal kingdoms (family, house, cars, careers, sports, etc.). This is the same thing in general that I have seen in a series of ‘biblical’ churches! I could go on but you get the idea. And just the other day, to look at the state of the modern ‘visible’ church is like looking at a photo of sodom and gomorrah, only worse! It is a case for mourning and fasting.