Reversing the Church’s Decline (1)

Any society which has explicitly or implicitly rejected the Ten Commandments is already in sharp decline. Reversing that decline will require radical action on the part of society’s most important institution, the Church. The Church must be stopped in its tracks, and go and find its Biblical foundations, all over again. That may take a generation or longer to accomplish, but otherwise we’ll just continue on the same old slippery slope to irrelevance, oblivion and judgment.

The Old Testament prophets didn’t have an easy task going to Israel with their message from God. From Moses onwards, there wasn’t a lot of love lost towards them, because they were perennially confronting a nation determined to head into sin, idolatry and depravity. And when Jesus came with His message from God concerning the kingdom of heaven and His command to repent, despite the thousands of miraculous public healings, the resurrections from the dead and events such as the feeding of the five thousand, Israel found a way to have Him tried, condemned and executed.

What does this tell us? It’s a fact of human nature that people (including religious people), really don’t like being confronted and challenged to change. They very commonly find some way to either ignore the messenger, rationalise his message, or just get rid of him.

We cannot ignore human nature, for only God through Jesus Christ can change that. What we have to do is what prophets have always done: confront people with the perennial messages of repentance and the ethics of the kingdom of God. God requires the ethical faithfulness of His people to His covenant, but the wages of sin is death. There will be a lot more pain, if we don’t change, now.

Change has to begin somewhere, and it certainly can’t be nebulous, or merely a matter of good intentions. Noah and his sons needed a lot more than good intentions over 120 years, to build the ark. I believe change in the Church will have to begin with four things:

1)      A recognition that the 6-day Creation is foundational to the Church’s belief.

2)      A re-discovery of the importance of God’s covenant with His people.

3)      A re-appraisal of God’s law, and the absolute necessity of its application today.

4)      A tremendous growth in believers in personal, family and church responsibility.

All of this will require communication, discussion/debate and time. But the longer we leave it, the worse the Church and the world around us will get. The fate of the world for better or worse, is inextricably tied up with the state of the Church, because Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth…” and “You are the light of the world…” (Mat.5:13-14).

The decline of the Church for hundreds of years now has been very serious. God helping us, it won’t be terminal. We’re like men on the deck of a burning ship in a vast ocean, with no ship in sight, no means of communications with the world, and no life-rafts. If we can’t put these doctrinal and theological fires out, we’ll go under. Thus we have a great imperative to get moving and working for dramatic but constructive change for the better.

Of course, there would be a huge proportion of people today in the Church who would respond saying, “What’s the problem?” That approximates the attitude of Lot’s sons-in-law, when he told them of the impending destruction of Sodom (Gen.19:14).

We have to confront the sin, the compromise and the failures of the Church over many generations, for it’s been God Who has been smiting His Church and bringing us to so many humiliations of late. We cannot expect Him to relent in this process, until we get busy effecting serious change and reform.

And if there are some who would say. “Look Andrew, the Lord Jesus would never do that, because He loves us so much, and He only does good to His people,” I need to remind them of what the Bible says:

Who gave Jacob up for spoil, and Israel up to plunderers? Was it not the Lord, against whom we have sinned, and in whose ways they were not willing to walk, and whose law they did not obey? So He poured out on him the heat of His anger and the fierceness of battle… (Isa.42:24-25).

And from the New Testament,

Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off (Ro.11:22).

Conclusion:

I’m fond of the saying attributed to the Chinese: Every great journey starts with a few small steps. If the Church will respond to God in repentance and obedience, and start the challenging but rewarding process of getting its house in order after so many years of decline, there is a hope and a future for us.

We would be foolish to leave this to those who are today’s leaders. The Reformation wasn’t begun by men who were part of the era’s status quo. Those who have led us into crisis, will be the last ones who know how to get us out of it. Thus there is a great individual responsibility on believers (as at all times), to take up the challenge of personal obedience and faithfulness to God.

Will each of us be a part of the problem or part of the solution?