October 17, 2007

It’s No Wonder (III)

So far we've looked at the fact that most Christians don't have any meaningful vibrant relationships with lost people. We then explored the possibilities of the difference it would make in our world and in individual lives if that were not the case. Today I want to look at what I believe to be a direct result of Christians not engaging their neighbors, their world, or their culture. And that is: Is it any wonder that our churches are in the shape they are in today?

I mean seriously. To give you a flavor of what I'm talking about, you need to read this and this, look at these and digest them, and then really think through what some of these mean. After you've looked at all that, you'll have an anecdotal feel and a numerical feel for the paragraphs I'm about to share. The resources I point to are by no means comprehensive or necessarily linear. If you care enough to, you can get a feel for the state of things just by diving in a little bit online.

But the overwhelming conclusion you come to is that the American church, especially the more traditional corners, are in deep trouble. And almost every measure you could use to judge that will bear that statement out. And I've come to two inescapable conclusions as to why that is.

  1. The majority of "professing" Christians (I'm saying 85% plus) couldn't articulate Biblically what the Gospel is.
  2. Because they don't know it themselves, they're incapable of sharing it truly with lost un-churched people.

We wonder why we're so inept at evangelism in church today. It's because the majority of people in our pews aren't saved and don't know (and certainly aren't transformed by it) the Gospel themselves. They may know bits and pieces, but they don't understand who Jesus is. They're coming to church as some sort of psycho-therapy or emotional release, but they have no clue who the Biblical Jesus really is or what the Good News is all about. And if you think I'm full of bull on this one, I challenge you to get a group of the average ten people from your church together and simply pose this question and listen to the response you will get:

What is the Gospel?

You will be both amazed and disheartened at the answers you receive. I was. I did this at a large church that I attended and couldn't believe the answers I received. They sounded good. They may have been bits and pieces of the whole. But not one person in a group of fifteen people who had just completed the membership class for this church could articulate clearly what the Gospel was. And by the way, if you think the Gospel is "Jesus died on the cross for my sins", then you have missed it as well. You're a product of crusade or para-church evangelism which reduces the glorious Gospel to a formula for a "get out of hell free" card. I would argue that para-church ministries and crusade evangelism have done more harm to the cause of Jesus Christ in the last 30 years than they have helped. That's hard for me to say and may be hard for some to hear but I am believing more and more it is the absolute truth.

And so because our churches are full of people who don't know the good news, they certainly aren't going to be beacons of sharing that good news with anyone else. And worse, they are going to be me-centered for most of their church life. They will not look to give their life away or serve others. And consequently, they will never get to know other lost people. They've got their ticket to heaven punched and the rest of the world can screw-off because Christianity is all about me now. How unfortunate! How tragic! And now, because they don't know the Gospel, they can't be transformed by it. They will spend a life growing more and more focused on themselves and less focused on those around them. And the vicious cycle continues. The more they turn inward, the less they turn outward, and thus the cause of Jesus is hurt even more.

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