Sermon for Sunday October 3rd, 2010
HOW TO FIX THEM! by
We ask ourselves why the local churches are not having that much effect on people nowadays, and then we come up with a list of biblical answers about how Satan is trying to destroy the church. He is. He always has. But the question is – HOW is he doing it?
I believe he is accomplishing his mission by getting us unfocused on what our real mission is! Let me give you a few examples of how he does it.
Look at what the churches are offering. You can browse through any newspaper that lists church activities and you will see the same thing, over and over again. Let’s begin today by asking ourselves;
1. WHAT IS TODAY’S CHURCH DOING?
We are called to share Christ. We can only do this by imitating Him in our own lives. But to do this, we must know Christ and not just know about Him. The only way to do that is by reading the Word of God, and not ignore the Word of God. Is that what our churches are teaching today – or not?
One church recently advertised in a newspaper that they offered an internet safety program on Sunday morning. They wanted to teach you how you and your family could be “safe from Satan” while using the internet.
Another church offered a “Photography and Prayer” service on Sunday morning. I can only assume that their intent was to teach you how to pray while snapping photos. It doesn’t make much sense to me how this would bring you closer to Jesus, or have a deeper understanding of God’s precepts.
One church was having the traditional fellowship luncheon service, where they “preach while they eat.” I know that Christians like to eat as much as anyone else, but there is a time and place for everything.
In school, students never eat lunch while sitting in class. It is next to impossible for a person to learn anything while they are busy focusing on eating food. So I do not understand why they would want to preach a sermon while their congregation is busy eating lunch.
Then, there is the ever-present “Gospel Sing Night.” Have you ever noticed how more people will show up for a time of singing than show up for a Bible study?
Did you know there is a church that celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Andy Griffith TV show recently? And they did this on Sunday morning.
One of the largest churches in America does not preach from the Bible. They put on plays that “show people how to cope with problems in life.” Many more churches have pastors who do not carry Bibles to church, and some churches claim they only want “happy Christians” so they do not talk about sin, hell, or the blood of Jesus.
I attended a Saturday conference for pastors in one church that touted the assembly as “Knowing How to Grow Your Church for the Lord.” The entire time was spent with one proud pastor explaining how he had taken his church from 100 members to over 10,000 members in less than 15 years.
At my daughter’s wedding, I found myself in a conversation with the lady who provided all the flowers. She belonged to a church that just won an award for being the fastest growing church in this area. She seemed to be very proud of that. I felt like asking her how many people were baptized into the body of Christ in that church, or how often they preach from the Bible. I know the pastor of that church, and the answer is an occasional baptism and rarely will he preach a message from the Bible. He does, however, give sermons that help people deal with the anxieties from life.
Churches today are too busy catering to their congregations by offering nothing but watered down sermons and fun activities. That is why today’s churches are becoming more and more ineffective.
It is no wonder that today’s churches are actually hurting people spiritually by keeping the truth of salvation from them! We have become the church of Laodicea! The next step will be that most of our churches will begin preaching false gospels, and sermons that try to get as much money from you as possible.
You hear preachers all the time saying you need to give a “seed” to their ministry and God will reward you back with many times that amount. What a crock!
LUKE 8:11 explains the parable of the seeds by saying that the “seed is the Word of God.” We are to sow a seed, but that means we are to give others the Word of God and then that will be rewarded by seeing souls saved!
Is this what Jesus wants Christians and churches to do? I hope He shows great mercy on us today, as we certainly need it.
The activities I mentioned a moment ago are not wrong to do. It is wrong, however, for a church to offer them in place of a sermon about Jesus Christ. The type of pastor we are talking about in the aforementioned churches are those who have lost the focus they had on God and replaced it with a focus on the world.
Oh, I forgot to mention that one church did offer an old-fashion preaching service. This one church seems to have gotten it right. We need to offer good old-fashioned services where our main focus is on Jesus Christ, not on us! Why would we want to talk about what we think, instead of talking about what God knows? Today’s churches talk a lot about their opinions, but forget that the only opinion that counts is God’s opinion.
This is the second type of pastor; one who remains true to his focus on God’s priorities. He will rarely see his church become large, but he will most definitely see his church become successful. Successful in the eyes of our Lord.
2. WHAT DOES GOD EXPECT FROM HIS CHURCH?
Jesus expects great things from His church. Probably the greatest of these is that we keep intently focused on Him and what He offers humanity, and that is salvation from our sin and eternal life in Heaven. After all, I would think that is far more important than using a service in church to explain how deal with rude people in a grocery store.
God’s Word says to train up a child in the way he should go and he will not depart from that training. Let me say this …. If you have children, it is your direct responsibility to raise them in the Word of God. The church should be doing the same.
Rather than offering children games to play during the adult service, it is mandatory that the church teach them about Jesus and what God wants from them! Many of the children have one or more parents that are unsaved, and this might be the only chance they have of hearing what will save them. Our churches should never pass on that opportunity by just offering games instead. Let the schools teach them how to act on the playground. Let the churches teach them about the Lord.
There is nothing more important than teaching a person what God says, whether it be a child or an adult.
PSALM 119:11 tells us why we need to know the Word of God.
“I have hidden your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You.”
PSALM 119:105 explains why we can follow and depend on God’s Word;
“Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”
These verses leave no questions about what God’s Word means to us. By being taught His Word, we can store them to our memories so they can help us in future times, and we can depend on His Word to show us the path we should follow.
Our churches need to start getting serious about what we are supposed to be doing! We are not to concentrate on growing so big that the church owns an entire community that surrounds the church building. There is a church in Colorado that owns about 30 acres. They have town homes on it, theaters, restaurants, and everything else a person could want, except for offering sermons that teach the meat of God’s Word. All they receive are messages that make them feel good about themselves.
I am sorry if I sound so stern today, but this has been building for quite some time. I had a preacher tell me once that they had grown so big that they could not afford to offer messages that offended anyone. I asked why, and he said that he needed all the people to keep coming so they could afford their big buildings they still owed on.
When I heard that, my spirit was shattered! And since then, I have paid attention to what the American church is doing nowadays. We have grown into con men, from people who offer feel good messages in exchange for your offerings, to people whose only message is for you to send them as much of your money as they can get, so God can replenish it many times over! Again, may God have mercy on us for what we are doing against His wishes.
The church is supposed to be a place where we come together to humble our hearts in true worship to Jesus Christ. To be thankful for every blessing we have received and to honor God by turning our backs on the sin of this world and take His salvation as a serious reality in our lives.
And the church is a place where we are to teach His Word. For how can we have a personal relationship with God if we do not know what He wants from us? The Word encourages us to love others enough to offer them God’s love and truth.
Church is not a place where we sit and wait for others to find us and come in. It is a place where we learn how to reach out to them and teach them about Jesus. It isn’t about getting the largest congregation in town, but about growing the number of believers in Jesus Christ.
MATTHEW 28:19-20 commands us,
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
Jesus didn’t sit at the city gates waiting for people to come to Him. He was constantly on the move looking everywhere for the lost, finding them and declaring salvation to them.
So, what does God expect from His church? He doesn’t care if we have fellowship dinners, but instead of gossiping while we eat, we should be encouraging one another by praising the name of Jesus while we eat.
3. HOW DO WE FIX OUR BROKEN CHURCHES?
Do you remember your very first love? You couldn’t keep your mind off that handsome little boy or cute little girl, could you? Your entire life was consumed by how you felt towards them. You ate, slept, and lived with nothing on your mind but them.
That is how we first started off being Christians; we couldn’t think of anything but Jesus, and the more we thought about Him, the more excited we got! But the relationship seems to have lost its passion.
Johnny Cash and his wife June had a song where one line said “nothing’s as cold as the ashes, once the fire is out.”
Today’s churches are teaching today’s Christians to live in the ashes. The end result is that few of us are still in love with our Savior as we once were. We prefer to be entertained rather than be taught. We end up just “going through the motions.”
So, how do we fix our broken churches?
Let’s start by reading and getting to know God’s Word.
Once we read His Word, we need to ponder what we have read; to think about what it means and how we might instill that meaning into our personal lives. If we straighten our personal lives out, our churches will soon follow our lead.
Jesus told the last of the seven churches that it had become lukewarm and that He found them so vile that He would vomit them out of His mouth. He said they had become that way because they had become rich and didn’t feel as if they really needed the church any longer and in so doing, they were wretched and didn’t even know it.
We are that church today. We are the church of Laodicea.
In REVELATION 3:20, it tells us that Jesus is standing there knocking on the door, waiting for us to open it and invite Him in. I think He has been knocking on the doors of some churches now so long that He has developed calluses on knuckles. All I can say is that I thank God He still loved the Laodicean church and He still loves us today, too.
We fix today’s churches by knowing God’s priorities.
God’s priority is not being entertained on Sunday mornings. His priority is our being taught from His Word. It is being encouraged in church to tell others about the loving grace God offers. It is becoming focused on His will, not our pleasure.
The pastors who have been truly called by Jesus to shepherd His flock and who are obedient to His Word in doing so, will have churches in tune with our Lord’s commands. Remember, we are only the body. He is the head.
And a church being successful does not have anything to do with the size of the congregation. I pastured a church that had 42 people in one year receive Jesus as Lord, and of them, 37 were baptized. During that same period of time, a local mega-church had only 14 people receive Jesus and of them, only 12 were baptized.
My question is this … which church was actually doing more to spread the Word of God? My point is this: Whether a church is successful depends more on how focused they are on doing God’s work, not on how large they become.
There is nothing wrong in itself with growing a church large in numbers - as long as the true focus is on Jesus and not on church growth or on how to keep the membership so we can keep their tithes and offerings coming in to pay for our luxurious churches.
Those pastors who focus mainly on growing their church in numbers while leaving them devoid of any biblical teaching will suffer a harsher judgment from the Lord for their lack of devotion to Jesus. Keep in mind that when I say they will be judged, am saying they will be judged on their works, not necessarily their salvation.
We have talked about two types of pastors; one who has lost their focus and replaced it with having a larger business rather than having a Godly church, and one who is properly focused on the Lord and tries to teach his congregation how to do the same.
But there is a third type of pastor. This is the man who is pastoring a local church, but is not called by God to do so. I think I know a pastor who fits that description. From birth, his parents had instilled in him that he was to become a pastor. He grew up literally being told that he had no alternative but to be a minister in a church.
This man was once the Youth Pastor for a church I pastored. I felt then, and I continue to feel, that the only calling he had to be a minister was from his mother and father, not from God. I am not trying to judge him, but I am revealing some of the fruits I saw of his labor.
As a youth pastor, he held Children’s Church. This would last approximately an hour, which was the length of our adult service on Sunday morning. During this time, he would read a passage of scripture to them. This would take about 5 minutes. He would then give a quick commentary on that passage (another 5 minutes) and for the remainder of the time he devoted it to nothing but games.
I had little to say in this matter, as his father was one of the elders, and in that church, the elders called all the shots, and the pastor had nothing to say about what went on in the church. The pastor was nothing but a man who had a job to deliver sermons. I finally quit my “job” and planted another church, using the example that Paul left us in -
“Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publically maligned the Way. So Paul left them.
"He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the Word of the Lord.”
That was the first recorded church split. And when I left that church, fourteen of the more serious members followed me and helped me plant CrossRoads Church; a church that was serious about keeping Jesus Christ the priority in the church and serious about the real purpose of the church, which is to learn and understand God’s Word.
Those who have not been truly called by God to pastor the flock, but do it anyway, are charlatans in my opinion. Oh, they might be successful in the world’s eyes, but they are failures in God’s eyes.
One such successful pastor was told by his mother to take his father’s place as pastor when the father died. He tried to get out of it, but the mother was very domineering and insisted.
He now has a church that numbers in the thousands of congregants, but to keep them happy, he says he will not preach on sin, hell, or the shed blood of Jesus. Now, who do you think views him as successful and who does not view him as successful?
We fix our broken churches by not attending churches like these and finding churches that preach and teach the Bible, in its entirety, excluding nothing.
I again apologize for my terse tone today, but it is high time that Christians and pastors begin speaking out against the shenanigans that seem to have infiltrated our churches and try to help bring the focus of our churches back to the Lord.
In 2 TIMOTHY 2:15, we are told to study the Word to show ourselves approved by God. When you take the accurate teaching of the Bible out of the church and replace it with easy listening messages that offend nobody, you end up with a country club that offends the Lord.
The Word of God will always be offensive to everybody at one point in time. We can sugar coat it all day long, but the moment we tell the unsaved that they will go to hell without Jesus as their Savior, it will offend them. It is called conviction, and that is one of the things the Holy Spirit does is to convict us of our sin.
Another thing Christians can do to fix our churches is to stop reading all the books about the Bible instead of reading the Bible itself. I know several Christians who do not read the Bible because it is “too hard to understand” so they depend on reading what others say about the Bible. This is nothing more than trusting someone else’s opinion to get you to Heaven. We must remember that the Bible is God’s Word and every other book is just one man’s opinion. Is that what you really want to trust to make sure you go to Heaven?
We will all meet Jesus before we are fully ready. We will either meet Him when we die, or when He comes back in the Rapture to call us up to Him. I cannot help but wonder, if the Rapture would come tomorrow, how many would be taken from the local church and how many would be left because they were not serious about their devotion to God and His Word.
I began this message by telling you about what other churches had advertised in the local newspapers. When I read those, I was appalled. It was very clear that many churches have strayed from the truth and have gone the way of the world. And this is causing many Christians to not have a clue as to the truth of God. The blind are leading the blind. And the sheep don’t even have a clue as to where the wolves in sheep’s clothing are leading them.
Is it any wonder why most people stay away from church so they can spend time in worldly pursuits? Is it any wonder that most churches put more focus on their buildings than the One who really owns those buildings?
Jesus told the Laodicean church that He stands at the door and knocks. He is waiting for someone to answer and invite Him in. Do we hear Him knocking, or are we so busy going through the motions that we hear nothing?
We are living in the final stage of church history. The next event on God’s calendar is when Jesus comes to collect the real believers and takes them to Heaven. That is called the Rapture. It does not matter if you believe it or not. Our opinions might keep us comfortable, but they do nothing to alter reality.
You can stand in the middle of the freeway blindfolded during rush hour traffic and claim all day long that you are safe. But the very moment you get run over, and you will get run over, you will become an instant believer in the stupidity of your actions.
You can stay away from church; refuse to read the Bible; go to these churches that make a mockery out of our Lord’s house; or anything else you want while you satisfy yourself that you are safe. But the very instant you meet Jesus, you will become an instant believer in the stupidity of your choices. Are you sure you want to take a chance doing that on so great an issue?
We can fix today’s church by standing up and speaking God’s Word. Right is right and wrong is wrong. The world says to let others do what they want and you can do what you want. God says that we should all do what He wants whether it is politically correct or not.
And if we do speak out with Jesus as our Shepherd and number one priority, we will fix today’s churches.
I would rather sit on my back porch all alone and worship Jesus by myself than to cover myself with the unholy stench of a church who worships going to church instead of worshiping Jesus as Christ.
Paul said we are to put on Christ. Let me give you a quick analogy of what that means.
A little boy was born with a horrible facial defect. He was so bad he made “ugly” look beautiful. He spent most of his youth by himself, hurting, and ashamed.
When he became a man, he decided to leave that town and go to a new town and get a new start in life. On his way there, he found a beautiful mask. He put it on and looked in a mirror. It looked like a normal face and you couldn’t tell it was a mask at all. And it made him look very handsome. It was very uncomfortable but he kept it on anyway.
In the new town, he made many friends and eventually fell in love. Everything was going fine until a wicked woman from his previous town saw him in the new town and decided to tell everyone what he was really like.
In front of everyone, she made him remove his mask. To her surprise, when he removed the mask, his face was very handsome. Over time, his face had actually conformed to the mask, changing what his face used to look like into what the mask made it look like now.
When we put on Christ, or become a devoted Christian, it may be a little uncomfortable in the beginning, but as the days roll on, we actually get transformed from what we were like, into what we have become – a reflection of Jesus Himself.
And when we begin to do this, we change our churches.