Reversing the Church’s Decline (6)

Christians must accept that the de­cline in civilization is a theological failure first and foremost. The pulpits and the people need to repent and return to God’s word to answer their world­view questions: sovereignty, authority, law, sanctions, inheritance.[1]

Construction of a grand building requires faithful adherence to the architect’s plans. Depart from the designer’s plans in some way, and you can’t expect him to congratulate you and present you with a bottle of champagne.

I think that pretty much sums up where we are at today, in the church. As the prophet Haggai indicated to the Lord’s people,

You have sown much, but harvest little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; you drink, but there is not enough to become drunk; you put on clothing, but no one is warm enough; and he who earns, earns wages to put into a purse full of holes (Hag. 1:6).

We cannot expect substantial improvement in the church until we begin to change in many, many ways. Changes will take time, and they could be painful for some, because it requires that we drop off a lot of false ideas and traditions that we’ve held onto for generations, even centuries. What are some of these?

The church has to understand what it really is: an essential aspect of a healthy community. This is because the Bible makes it clear that the family, the church and civil government are all essential components of a healthy society.

For too long conservatives have emphasised the family as being the centrepiece of society. But what is the family without the church to belong to? When the church teaches Biblically about the family, the family will be properly established in the community. But no community has much future if it doesn’t understand the necessity of the church, and the church has to be functioning how God intended it to be. That means Christians have to be playing their part in the church.

I look forward to the day when every church in the land is filled to overflowing on Sunday. When ministers are confident, authoritative people, addressing the issues that are of great concern in the world, and of great influence in their community. These are all aspects of the promises of God.

“Where is that?” you say?

Now it will come about that in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it. And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us of His ways and that we may walk in His paths.” For the law shall go forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem (Isa.2:2-3).

From God’s perspective, the house of the Lord is the most important place in the world. In Old Testament times, the house of the Lord was in Jerusalem. But the establishment of the New Covenant through the blood of Jesus Christ, was preceded by the stripping from Old Covenant Israel of the kingdom of God. At the conclusion of His Parable of the Vineyard, Jesus predicted to the Jews that

…the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it. And He who falls on this stone will be broken in pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust (Mat.21:43-44).

So when Isaiah predicts that “the law shall go forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem,” he is not referring to geographical Jerusalem in Israel as we know it. He is speaking of the church, which is the city and people of God. Anyone looking for the Messiah apart from Jesus Christ is making a dreadful mistake, for as Peter explained on the day of Pentecost, “…God has made Him both Lord and Christ-this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36).

“The law going forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem,” is really referring to the church becoming the predominant community institution, teaching and influencing the nations of the world. And if “all the nations will stream to it,” it will mean the international setting aside of beliefs and doctrines contrary to scripture, and a wholehearted turning to the God of the Bible.

…the Christian’s victory is one of principle moving by degree to complete realization.[2]

This is both an exciting but challenging prospect that we have to prepare for. It means Christians must be prepared to be social and community leaders, who know what the Bible requires, and are willing to teach and implement it. It means the logical and systematic application of the scriptures to all of life: law, economics, education, government and care for the needy.

Of course this is grand and bold, and a quantum leap from where we are today. But that’s the nature of the gospel. It is all-encompassing, because that’s the nature of the kingdom of God. So, we have to be prepared to both lift our vision much higher, and also to deal wisely and practically with the nitty-gritty issues of life that confront individuals, families and whole communities.

This will be a big part of reversing the church’s decline. Ready to put your hand to the plough? You’ll be amazed at what this will mean.

Thus says the Lord, “Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is the house you could build for Me? And where is the place that I may rest?”(Isa.66:1).

 

[1] Joel McDurmon, “In the Midst of your Enemies,” 2013, p.77.

[2] Raymond Zorn, “Christ Triumphant,” 1997, p.118.