Discouraged manBy Jennifer Rubino Champion
I go through each day heavy-hearted over the current state of our churches in America, especially right here in my own community.
Last year I visited a church in town where I was the only person with a bible in hand. I was so bewildered by the environment where no one held God’s word in their hands but instead was totally dependent on the words of the pastor himself. My bewilderment turned to shock when I witnessed the congregation cheering over how “they made it happen” and how “they did so many good things”. The Lord was never thanked for the works done; He was not glorified, the people were.
Another congregation sat in the pews as the pastor stood behind a pulpit and totally took the words of Christ out of context just to suit his own agenda. My mouth fell open as the thought went through my mind, “but that is not what Jesus meant when he said that!” No one seemed to notice and willingly went along with the message.
Not so long ago, I sat in a church where musicians on stage played a song with a curse word in it. They said it very loud and clear over and over in the chorus and to my amazement the crowd really got into it instead being bothered by the fact that cursing was being done in a worship setting inside a church.
Then there are other churches that are on the verge of closing up their doors for good because they simply refuse to change. They are so concerned over their committees, their budgets, their programs, and their control of each and every thing in the church that have lost their first love, Jesus Christ and what he would have them do.
Each week I hear of another pastor that has stepped down from the pulpit or of one that is considering it because they have just had it. They are tired of the bickering and pettiness. They don’t feel like they are making any difference for the kingdom anymore. The stress of ministry has taken a toll on them emotionally, physically and spiritually.
Then there are the sheer numbers of people that are no longer going to church because they have had it too with the all the congregational drama. Entire families just sit at home and sleep in, go to the lake and hang out, or watch television and veg out instead of loading up in the car and driving to church. Why? They just don’t see Christ in it anymore.
Today, on my lunch break I prayed about this current state of our churches. I poured my heart out to the Lord because I am at a point I do not know what to do anymore. My heart breaks for the empty parking lots, empty pews and most importantly for the empty souls. I begged him for guidance and encouragement because I am so discouraged.
Don’t get me wrong, there are LOTS of great churches that are following the Lord and doing things right but there are LOTS also that are really struggling right now. As I prayed about it, “Luke Chapter 2” popped in my head so I opened my bible and read it.
Here is what came out of it and I thank the Lord for guiding me there.
Luke Chapter 2 is about Jesus. We are told “Do not be afraid, I bring you good news that will cause joy for all the people. ” (v.10) This good news is Jesus Christ.
We are reminded that in heaven the angels are praising, ” Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace to those whom his favor rests.” (v.14)
There is confirmation that we are to be “Moved by the Spirit” (v.27) when we go “into the temple courts.” (v.27) like Simeon and we are to worship “night and day” (v. 37) like Anna instead of just treating it like a once a week chore.
Further goods news is given to us in verse 47, “Everyone who heard him (Jesus) was amazed at his understanding and his answers.” If people hear him, they will be amazed.
The real clincher to it all though is towards the end of the chapter in Verse 49 when Jesus says, “Why are you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”
Church isn’t just a building where people meet and socialize and get their weekly “fix”. It is a body of believers and that body should be focused on the One, Jesus Christ.
Before any committee is formed, any program is put in place, any leader is called, and any change is made the body should ask themselves the following:
1. Has God spoken about it already in his word, the Holy bible?
2. What if it got out that we made this decision?
3. What if every church did what we are doing?
4. Are the decisions we are making as a church spirit led or people led?
5. Could what we decide as a church cause people to stumble?
6. Have we as a church fasted and prayed about decisions?
7. Will our decision as a church keep us from growing?
8. Do our decisions as a church glorify God?
So, if you are going to church and yours is one where there is strife and struggle then I encourage you to pray today about it and ask the Lord for his guidance. If you do not go to church, I encourage to you think first about what a church is and isn’t and then visit some. Take your time and stay prayed up about where the Lord can use you and grow you.
“Walk as children of light…and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.”
Jennifer Rubino Champion is actively involved in prison and jail ministry in Central and West Alabama. She and her husband Patrick have five children and a fur baby, Maggie.