Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Decline of the Church Among Christians

I fear the importance of the church is in decline among Christians. As I was writing yesterday's post, I began to think about why there are so many people who want to call things that are not done as the agent of their local church ministry. I think that part of it has to do with people putting so little value on the church. Many people see the church as all Christians, even though the word that is translated as church in the Bible means "an assembly". This thinking, I believe, makes many people view the church much like what they view Wal-mart. People will typically go to the same Wal-mart every week or so. They may have special ties to the people who work there, but they understand that their local Wal-mart is owned by a much larger company based in Arkansas. If they happen to be running around town and see another Wal-mart, they might stop there instead. As far as they are concerned Wal-mart is Wal-mart. Every Wal-mart provides similar products and services. That's how many people view the church. They'll attend one church because it is closest or because they like the worship service, but if they find another church that has a children's program they like better, they'll start going there instead.

Think about this. There are people who are doing things they want to call ministry who have no real ties to a church. They're all writing their book or working in a parachurch organization and if they decide to drop out of one church and go to another they don't have to change anything about their "ministry". They're free to move from church to church as much as they want. They might find the church that has the most interesting series of sermons going on. They might become southern gospel groupies and follow their favorite group around. But they're still doing "ministry."

Some of you may question what is wrong with that. The primary thing that's wrong with that is that isn't the way Jesus designed the church to operate. The church isn't just an organization that provides services. A church is a body of believers who know each other and are accountable to each other. Because of that, when one member faulters, the others are there to pick him up.

Another thing is the issue of doctrine. In real ministry, the organization the person is a minister of has the authority to discipline that person. If that person, as an agent of the church, writes something that is inconsistent with the church's beliefs, the church has the authority to remove that writing and exercise discipline in other ways. When a novelist is writing independently from the church, that authority doesn't exist.

We need to get back to the understanding that the church (a local visible body of baptized believers) is central to our ministry. It's fine for us to go off an write novels an such, but that isn't ministry. Ministry requires us to work within our church. We need to be actively involved within our church. So much so that if we were to change churches that it would require us to change much in how we are serving the Lord.