Being a history teacher for the past 16 years, you can imagine that I have taught my share about various hostage crisis situations that have occurred over the course of history. From the Iran hostage crisis to the Munch massacre- the world is not short of stories of people being held against their will (and that was just the 70’s). As I have been pondering things that have bothered me in a variety of places- the world, our country, schools, and even church, it got me thinking about the Christianity that I see us practicing today. In far too many ways, the gospel that we are sending out is a far cry from the Gospel of Jesus Christ written plainly in God’s Holy Word. And if it is a variation (perhaps even an American variation) then are we not holding the Gospel hostage? I want to take a few weeks and explore this. My hope is that we can look at this and our lives and make the much needed adjustments in the way we present the Gospel. The purpose is to cause self-examination in Christians (and I mean ALL of us) and to perhaps introduce those who do not know Christ, to the Savior we are supposed to be presenting the lost- a Savior, who through both truth and grace loves us enough to willingly sacrifice Himself for you and for me. I hope that you will embark on this journey with me as we try to take back the Gospel.
The first thing I want to explore in this series is taking back our churches. One of the things that I have heard as a Pastor over the last year or so is that Christianity is losing members- that somehow, the number of people identifying themselves as believers is dropping by dramatic proportions. Let me clear this little falsehood up. First of all, Christianity is not losing members. People are not suddenly becoming unbelievers in Christ. The truth of the matter is that those people were never true believers to begin with. Fifty years ago, even up through the turn of the century, people identified themselves as Christian for one of three reasons: 1) They accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and have tried to live a life that both represents and follows Him. 2) It was socially advantageous to be identified as a Christian because the vast majority of America identified themselves as Christian. And 3) They identified themselves as such because they were American and despite what anyone will try to argue, the country was founded on Christian values and concepts. People can argue this all they want, but as both a pastor and a historian, I can say without a shadow of a doubt we were founded based on Christianity. We simply forget that we were founded by Christians who were sinners just like we are (see Thomas Jefferson as an example). So, if this is the case, why is the church in such a sharp decline? I mean this recent exodus of people from church isn’t a loss, it’s an opportunity. When I teach World Religions in my history classes, we are given the demographic that Christianity is the largest religion with 2 billion followers- 2 BILLION!! There may be 2 billion people who identify their religion as Christianity, but I can almost assure you that there are not 2 billion people who follow Christ. Yet, our churches are no longer packed. In fact, more and more are making drastic budget changes, cutting staff or going to bi-vocational pastors, or even worse- closing their doors all together. In the last 15 years we have been given a massive harvest of people that we now know need the Gospel of Jesus Christ and we are failing to reach them.
It is time that we take our churches back. We took a hit as the church and immediately circled the wagons because the Christian culture of the last 50 years was no longer the norm. We raised the drawbridge in order to save ourselves instead of launching massive campaigns to reach the people we were commissioned to reach. No longer are the hurting and lost coming to us. We need to let go of the idea that the church is a building with walls and pews- WE are the church and we all live in communities that are starving for the Gospel, they just don’t know it. It is imperative that we get out and take Jesus with us. It is time that we give up what the church used to be. Jesus met sinners where they were and took His mercy and grace with Him. If Jesus is the model of our Faith, if we are supposed to follow Him, we need to let go of what we think is how church is supposed to happen and take Jesus Christ to the world and our communities. There is a great song by Casting Crowns called, What This World Needs. In this song, there is a spoken part of the lyrics that really speaks to this situation:
People aren’t confused by the gospel
They’re confused by us
Jesus is the only way to God
But we are not the only way to Jesus
This world doesn’t need my tie, my hoodie
My denomination or my translation of the Bible
They just need Jesus
We can be passionate about what we believe
But we can’t strap ourselves to the gospel
‘Cause we’re slowing it down
Jesus is going to save the world
But maybe the best thing we can do
Is just get out of the way
We need to stop strapping our buildings, our bulletins, our self edifying services, or our culture to the Gospel as well. Anything happening in our churches that fall short of giving God our total praise, honor, and glory is not the reason we gather and it certainly won’t be the cause of leading people to Christ. Jesus IS going to save the world, it is just a matter of if we have the good sense to stop strapping our own ideas and practices to the Gospel and instead become a part of the miraculous work that WILL be accomplished through the power of the blood of Jesus Christ. It is time we take our churches back and made them the body of Christ reaching out to a lost and dying world, while serving as a lighthouse guiding people to Christ. I’ll see you next week.
In Christ Alone,
Rev. Bro. Coach