I wrote much of the following article 20 years ago. How much more true is this today?
I just now understand some things that I couldn’t years ago. Then I remember trying to share my heart for holiness with some Christian friends. I’d preach strong raw messages in churches without ever smiling. It was like trying to drive an armored truck over a stick bridge. People accused me of being too hard and too heavy. Their bewildered look would be best described by the robot that appeared years ago on the show “Lost in Space” who would often say, “This does not compute!” But I voiced the robot’s other notorious cry, “Danger, danger!”
They didn’t really believe the state of affairs in the Church was that bad, or at least not as bad as I was saying. Of course, in my immaturity my approach was not the best. But what I didn’t understand back then was that it was really much worse. With hindsight it is obvious to see now how a careless and casual sowing in years gone by, has in many places, resulted in the reaping of some pretty rotten fruit. I think time and history have borne witness to this fact: In times of prosperity and well being, the general populace including the complacent Christian, will hardly believe warnings of impending danger. Similarly, trouble across the ocean seems so far away. We muse and rationalize saying, “It could never happen here.”
Take the example of the Titanic. Who would’ve believed the unsinkable to sink? The impending danger was infinitely greater than any of the passengers could’ve ever imagined. Even after it smashed into the infamous iceberg, some still disbelieved the mighty Titanic was really sinking. The unwise captain failed to heed sound judgment. Other captains from other passing ships also failed to respond to signal calls for help. The entire tragedy could’ve been avoided. All that was needed was a simple course correction.
In many ways, America, among the nations, has been like the mighty Titanic. For a long time now we’ve needed a serious course correction. Does God hold the Church accountable? When a nation sinks into the deep icy waters of decadent sin and immorality? When its own president and many leaders symbolize such? Are we accurate in our reasoning to say that an earlier course correction in the Church would’ve perhaps and maybe undoubtedly avoided the imminent danger our nation now faces? If captains of gospel ships we call churches and ministries would’ve heeded the warnings of scripture and lessons of history, course corrections could’ve been made.
Ah! But where were the trumpet voices of the prophets? Where were the sounds of alarm and war? Who was calling the Church to arms? Ah! But we were on the mighty Titanic and the Christian life for many was one big happy party! And what of our mighty trusted captains? Many were just happy to have us on board. Perhaps only a small remnant that were at the helm even detected that a real course correction was necessary.
In good times, fat hearts (the conscience) tend to become hardened and develop a false sense of immunity to anything that upsets their earthly security and cozy existence.
This hardness and insensitivity is usually sure proof of their idolatry. Israel was notorious for disbelieving and persecuting the prophets.
“But the Church is in revival now,” some would say. A few may be in revival, but can you count the ones that aren’t? A few are holy and passionately in love with Jesus, but can you count the ones that aren’t? A few are ready for hard times and the judgments of God upon the Church and the nation, but can you count the ones that aren’t?
SOMETHING HAS TO CHANGE
At critical points in history great course corrections have been called for. We call them revivals which God has ordained to reverse the process of moral decline and degradation. With great momentum, revivals can turn into mighty awakenings which change the course of history by altering the course of nations. The Church has always been one generation away from extinction. If not for these merciful and mighty moral course corrections, the Church would undoubtedly fade into oblivion. The next few years in America may determine her ultimate destiny. An awakening or anarchy (or both) will be her fate. One thing is for sure; something has to change.
I know that there are some who will staunchly come to America’s defense and question God’s displeasure with her. “After all,” they will say, “there are millions of Christians in this nation.” That is exactly my point. With these supposed millions of Christians, why I ask you have we not made a definite, resounding impact in turning our nation around. A strong Church will have a phenomenal affect on any nation. There are even some among us who still insist on calling America a “Christian nation. They are greatly deceived.
When Howard Stern and Jerry Springer share the most popular radio and TV talk show ratings in this country, no one can claim she is Christian (remember this is 1998). When in the midst of a sex scandal and lies, our President’s approval ratings go up (Bill Clinton at this writing) or stay up, no one can call her (America) Christian. When a righteous prosecutor is despised by his own nation’s people for upholding justice and enforcing the law, she is far from being a Christian nation. The line is blurred; justice is turned back, truth is fallen in the streets (Isa 59: 4, 14-15,) because the Church has not lifted up the standard. And when she has tried to she has failed, because the world does not respect her. A lack of character, wisdom, fire, and power has made us blend and bland. All we do different than the world is talk.
By now you ought to be able to tell that God has inflicted me with a disease. No, it’s not pessimism and skepticism. It’s divine dissatisfaction. In order for the Church to really arise I believe she needs to first be aroused. Before a war becomes physical it is always spiritual. Those who are casual in war time irk and disturb those who are vigilant. Indifference in life and death situations is all the enemy needs to advance. We need to regain the battle mentality and fighting spirit that is so depictive of the Christian life.
But how can we fight if we don’t believe enough in the cause for which we are fighting. Fun, food, and fellowship is the only brand of Christianity some believers have ever known. There is even a subtle cloud of self deception floating around out there that says; “I really want to do something for God, but I don’t know how.” Or how about this one: “You know my family and my work come first. And my children are in football league now.” Or, “There‘s just no time in my schedule.” On and on we make our excuses. But the real problem is our love is not strong enough. A drug addict will find a way to get his drug. Strong love will find a way to reach its needy subjects. Jesus was moved with compassion (Mat 9:36).
SOME CHURCHES NEED TO REINVENT THEMSELVES
Some churches need to reinvent themselves. Never have I seen less evangelism and less effective discipleship than in the churches who pride themselves in being a New Testament church. We have among us many doctors of doctrine but few preachers of power. We have much monotone but little fire. We have many equippers but so few evangelists. We many teachers but few true fathers. We have many meetings where we laugh, but so few where we cry. Whatever happened to having faith for lost souls which works by love? Real faith has humans as the object of its love.
More fun, more food, and more fellowship is not what many of us need right now, unless of course, it is somehow linked to winning the lost. We don’t need fads that come and go. We need fruit that remains. More teaching will only help the doer and not the hearer. More fire, more focus, and more fruit are what we need.
Many churches need a course correction. Please allow the grace of God in me to speak to you right now. Here are a few proposals I would like to make to leaders, ministers, and all saints:
1. Don’t get good at what you’re not supposed to be doing.
Too many of us are a hundred miles wide and one inch deep. We do a lot of things good but not many excellently. It’s time to do some serious evaluation. How many new converts are being added to the kingdom? Who are you currently believing, praying, fasting, travailing for, and lovingly witnessing to? How many people are really being discipled and not just taught? Who are you currently discipling?
Here is the course many must now take if they are to see more fire and more fruit. Convert more church events into opportunities for evangelism. Convert more doctrine into discipleship. Teach them to observe what Jesus taught (Mat 28:19). Go back to the gospels. Constantly evaluate everything you do by the great commission; evangelism and discipleship.
2. Water seeds, not weeds.
Weeds are things that don’t work or don’t matter. We’ve all heard the saying. “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” Don’t let activity and schedule determine your strategy. Don’t immerse yourself into things that rob you of your time with God and with your disciples. Guard your rest, energy, and creativity. Weeds are things God never told you to do which rob you of rest, erase your energy, and kill your creativity. On the other hand, seeds are things which are stamped with eternity. They focus more on people rather than programs. Get rid of everything that hinders true kingdom increase.
3. Develop a passion for prayer and for souls.
This should’ve been listed first. You won’t do much without passion. If you’re not burning up with a vision for souls you will affect very few people dramatically and permanently. This is the real reason why men falter and fail. Instead of burning up, they’re burning out. Instead of getting fired up, they’re getting tired out. Instead of moving on and moving up, they’re moving down and moving out.
Find things which ignite and feed your passion for prayer and lost souls. Read a good biography of a man of God who helped many find Christ. Read good books on holiness, prayer, and revival. Feed constantly on the gospels and the book of Acts. Read the Bible on your knees, and ask God to break your heart with the things that break the heart of Jesus. Go find somebody in pain and bring healing to them. Find the hurting and encourage them. Seek out the last, the least, and the lost and make their day. It’s in the going as in “go ye” that your passion will always be preserved. The way you keep it is by giving it out.
4. Don’t separate but incorporate soul winning into church events.
Pastors, cater some of your services just for the lost. I think it would help many churches to have an extra special salvation Sunday once a month, or at least once a quarter. Teach your people constantly to love the lost and to reach them. Within the confines of their own personality, encourage every believer, young and old, to befriend sinners and win them to Christ. Instead of posting up a barometer to gauge building fund giving, put one up to gauge the number of souls won to Christ. Encourage and disciple believers by precept and example in the art of intercession and travail, and winning the lost. Make the lost your special guests at church functions such as picnics, holiday events like Easter and Christmas, and men’s and women’s night out. This is the real reason why we have fun, food, and fellowship.
5. Lastly, scout out a good evangelist who can help you.
Find one whom you know and can trust that is not just interested in promoting his ministry or getting an offering, but who really has a passion and a faith for seeing lost souls saved. Personally, I can recommend several good ones. Remember also, that winning the lost is not the only function of the evangelist. Contrary to modern church thought, the primary function of every evangelist is to produce other evangelists and a spirit of evangelism in the church.
We are past the half way point of 2019. The mighty Titanic, symbolic of our nation, is sinking quickly. Let us save as many as we can who are drowning in these turbulent icy waters. Soon the devil may make it a crime to do so.
May God bless you with a broken heart for the lost, and may He give you true kingdom increase.
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