This is going to be a lengthy blog. Don’t read it unless you have time to read it to the end – it’s worth it, trust me. And before you start, check you heart. I am not aiming this at any particular person or congregation. I am sharing the thoughts in my head; the things I ponder. If you relate to it, and you happen to feel guilty afterwards, discuss it with God, don’t attack me and label me as judgmental. That is not the aim of this blog.
I am sure you have also noticed the dwindling church membership of our days. Existing church members are not faithful in attending the meetings and new members are few and far between. I know of many congregations in my area that have fewer and fewer people attending the Sunday services. Our congregation is no exception. Two years ago the Sunday morning service was packed. Now the attendance is pathetic to say the least. I don’t even want to talk about the Wednesday night prayer meeting. For weeks I have been brewing on this issue, looking for the answers to the question of why this is happening. Surely something is wrong. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I certainly found a few through consistent prayer on the issue, meditating the problem and finally through something that happened yesterday. What happened yesterday is not important, what I got out of it is. So I will share with you the things God revealed to me through the encounter. The broad definition of the problem is what I call Spiritual Arrogance. The pharisee disease.
Christians are no longer willing to help people, whether they are in the congregation or not. There are people in church congregations that find themselves in dire financial circumstances. Does the church help? No. Instead they get told to start attending the services. Attendance is the prerequisite before the church will assist them with food or whatever else they need. Whether they have transportation means or not, whether they have fuel money or not, they first have to attend church services before the church will lend a helping hand. When the beggar comes and asks for food, we first want to discuss his alcohol breath, the stench that drifts in with him and the fact that he doesn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus. And when he gets angry with us and swears at us, we send him out of the church property, still hungry. Did Jesus command any person to first follow Him diligently before He was willing to help him / her? I can’t remember anything like that in scripture.
Christians are no longer willing to be shepherds. Yes Pastors and Reverends are supposed to be shepherds of their congregations, but each one of us fulfills the role of the shepherd to fellow Christians who need a shepherd. Pastors are not the only ones to blame here. We all are. We are unwilling to walk a road with those battling with personal issues; if they don’t follow our advise after two counselling sessions, we turn our backs and walk away. We are unwilling to walk a road with somebody who battles to overcome a specific sin; we just label them as persistent in their sin and walk away. We are unwilling to walk a road with somebody who stays sick even after we have prayed for him / her – we label them as weak in their faith and we walk away. We are unwilling to walk a road with somebody who doesn’t grasp a spiritual concept after the first sermon; we label them as unwilling to change and walk away. That is not what a true shepherd would have done. A shepherd keeps going after the lost little sheep, regardless of how many times they get lost. He never gives up. What if God gave up on us the way we give up on people? What would have happened if God labelled us and walked away?
Christians preach too much and do to little. We can really learn from the Muslims you know. Yes that’s right. We can learn from the Muslims. How do they convert people to their faith? They befriend those who battle, they help them through, they give them a lifeline when there is nothing else to hold on to. They do what Jesus did! What do we do? We judge them. We preach to them right after we have met them. And we leave them high and dry because they are not coming to church. People first need to see Jesus in our eyes. People first need to see from us what unconditional love and acceptance look like; only then will they be willing to accept it from a Jesus they do not know or have long forgotten. But what do we show them? Spiritual Arrogance.
Christians are not involved in our communities anymore. We expect the community to come to us, to our church, to our congregation. Do we go out into the community? Oh no! That is so out of our comfort zone. We host fun and entertaining events in our churches and smile because of the good attendance. The Sunday thereafter, none of those who came to the entertainment are in church. We need to get back to basics people. We need to visit the old age homes again and spend time with people long forgotten by their children. We need to visit old age homes and comfort the children who mourn after the loss of their parent who stayed there. We need to get back into the hospitals and talk to the lonely ones without necessarily preaching to them. Yes we can offer prayer but it is really necessary to condemn and force the sinner’s prayer at the same time?
Christians are no longer accountable to each other. And this is specifically true for church leadership on all levels. Pride and arrogance are sneaky buggers. They creep up on you without you noticing. Leaders in churches easily get to a point where they think they know it all, they have arrived. They are no longer accountable to anyone else. To be accountable to somebody is healthy. It is good to have a spiritual mentor who could check your heart now and then. It is dangerous to be the leader, judging and correcting all the followers and there is nobody checking you. Unfortunately the charismatic age made this problem worse. There are a lot of stand-alone churches with leadership lacking any accountability. Yes, our man-made systems are seldom flawless and there are often a lot of frustrations in church systems, but loose canons are more dangerous than systems.
Our churches are empty because the genuine love of the Lord has long gone. Standing in the church every Sunday are just spiritually arrogant pharisees. From the pulpit right through to the last pew – if there are people in the last pew…