“The Church right now has more fashion than passion, is more pathetic than prophetic, is more superficial than supernatural.”
― Leonard Ravenhill, Revival God’s Way
I believe that the Church is truly in trouble in the Western world.
It is not one organization or singular church but Christianity as a whole.
I do not want to sound like another alarmist or crackpot spewing lists to indicate an end of days, but I do want to cast some light into what many would deem the foundational crumbling of the Church. What are some indicators? What would some of the symptoms be of a dying and decaying church?
Here are a five indicators of a rotting church:
5. Professional Preachers
“You can have all the doctrines right, yet still not have the presence of God” -Leonard Ravenhill
We see the flashy, eloquent preacher on television and we demand that our churchs hire preachers like that…or we long to change how our “performance” at the pulpit is executed. I wonder if Jesus encountered flashy pharisees in His day? If He did Jesus certainly didn’t have many nice things to say about them. Rather, Jesus called those religious people who prayed outloud in the streets “actors” and “hyprocites”. We can have the most professional preachers in our pulpits, but if there is no substastantive message of conviction, salvation and holiness, it is all meaningless.
“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” 2 Timothy 4:3
Preachers, this is no excuse to go to the pulpit unprepared and unstudied, no! Instead, we must prepare harder, study more intently and lead with self-conviction and prayer! We dont’ need any more prosperity preachers. No more fluff and phoney messages with very little substance of the spiritual journey that we are all called to walk.
A Strong indicator of rot comes directly from those we have in our pulpits and those we choose to listen to on a weekly basis.
4. No Hunger For Scripture
With professional preachers, also comes a lack of hunger. Mind you, these are not always connected. I believe this is a stand-alone problem for many within our western world. If one were to journey to some of the poorest countries in the world, you would find a see hunger for scriptural truths and churches memorizes whole chapters of scripture…where is this hunger in the more prominent and prosperous countries? I believe there is a direct correlation between comfort and security and the shallowness of scriptural knowledge! Why rely on the scripture if every want, and all of life’s comforts are met (roughly speaking)?
This may sound negative, but I fear our western culture has become so soft of faith and scriptural knowledge that we are bound to enter another dark age – this time devoid of any of the truths and life lessons found in Scripture.
Is your church rotting? Ask yourself how much time is devoting throughout your week to the study and interpretation of scripture?
3. A Church That Is Prayerless & Building Bound
“A true church lives and moves and has its being in prayer” -Leonard Ravenhill
With the comforts of a western culture comes prayerlessness.
A church that prays together stays together – or so I’ve been told. How much emphasis is placed on prayer anymore? I am sure there are still some deeply prayerful places in this world. I know that I have experienced some of these moments, but I wonder if prayer has become an after thought in our services, in our weekly schedules, in our lives as congregants? Do you remember the old prayer meetings? Many of those have disappeared in our churches. They’ve been distilled down to just a five minute inclusion in our services or bible study…but should they be more prominent, more substantive? Do we still have worries and fears, sick and dying? Do we still have things that require corporate prayer?
Secondly, another indicator (a twofer for my Minnesotan friends) of a rotting church:
We become building bound – meaning that we expect our communities to come to us. We put up amazingly designed billboards, posters, flags and we wave them at the community…it’s like we are scattering bird seed in a trail hoping that people will follow it right up to our front doors. We have this grandeous idea that everything we do must be done in our buildings – what happened to evangelism? What happened to getting out into the streets? Do we still have a concern for the drunk down the street who is caught in a habitual addiction of stumbling out of the bar that they frequent? Do we still feel compassion for the family down the street that is dirt poor and cannot find a meal to eat in their cupboards? A Church who remains stuck in their building (no matter how beautiful it may be) is a dying church with little mission or outreach into the community they were birthed from.
2. A Loveless Congregation
Dare I say that perhaps this is cog in the chain reaction of not being community driven and lacking mission & compassion for others. Obviously no church ever desires to become loveless…but it can happen over time. I honestly hope that this evidence of a rotting church is the dying gasp before the doors are closed for good, and all I hope to accomplish by saying that is – we (the Church) needs to love each other more! This should be a siren call to the church to offer more compassion and selflessness amongst its congregants and its community.
If we lose the love of others, we have also lost the love of God – these two are inseparable! “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” 1 John 4:20
If this happens – we will have a rotting church on our hands!
1. Comfort & Apathy
Signs of a rotting church can be born out of the comforts that have become common place in the western world. We have no need of want. Our church buildings, many of them, are being built larger and larger. The church, and its congregants, become apathetic to the needs of the community (again because all things “ministry” take place inside not outside of the church walls). Apathy is a death knell to the church. If/when we reach this point of not caring for people – we might has well lock the doors and burn the scriptures because it is useless to a dead church.
These are strong words – because I feel at times we are deaf to the warnings such as this!
We cannot allow apathy to take root in our hearts. We cannot pretend all is well when suffering is taking place in our communities. We cannot rest until mercy and compassion becomes our life blood again! Sometimes our churches get so big that we start to treat it as a big corporate business and in so doing we unintentionally leave Christ out of our missional planning.
Are we striving to be or have professional preachers in our churches?
Is there still a deep hunger for Scripture in you and in your church?
What of Prayer? Do we consider supplication to be vital and intrinsic in who we are?
Have you prayed for God to give you His vision for people around you? If not begin to pray this prayer every day! When you do, may your love increase for others and any residue of apathy – may it flee from you!
Something more for the Church to ponder today – to God be the glory!