Because we have no idea when Jesus will return, it is incumbent upon believers to do everything within our power to ensure the continued relevance of the Church in order to effectively share the Gospel.
But we are seeing the church become largely irrelevant in the lives of its children and grandchildren. Why is this happening?
There is a hint in the end-times description of 2 Timothy that gives us a clue as to why we are seeing so many leave the church – or never become a part of it in the first place.
“For men shall be lovers of their own selves”.
Pride has haunted man since Adam, and will continue to do so until God pulls the final curtain on our existence here on Earth. Left unchecked, pride leads to self-absorption. And it is self-absorption that has led to the decline of the church.
Consider all the ills of the modern church. Over the past 70 years, believers have come to accept a plethora of things that would previously have been anathema, all in the name of personal expedience: premarital sex, cohabitation, marijuana use, recreational alcohol consumption, pornography … the list goes on and on, with each item becoming more entrenched in the everyday lives of believers with each successive generation.
Our phenomenal decline into self-absorption has also dropped us into a whirlpool of desire for instant gratification. This is the root cause of our educational decline; today’s student sees no value in spending six hours a day learning verb conjugation and the War of 1812 because there is no immediate reward for doing so.
But before you shake your head at the failings of today’s students, take a moment to look in the mirror. We adults are just as much at fault. We fail to retain anything from Sunday sermons – if we go hear them at all. We fail to seek wisdom in God’s Word and to apply it to our daily lives. The inevitable result is that our character is lacking – and it shows in every aspect of our lives.
We show up late for work and leave early. We take a full eight hours to accomplish what could be done in two. We drive 75 in a 55, flip off drivers who cut us off, we “flaunt it if we’ve got it”, and we cut corners anywhere we can as long as it benefits us and we can be certain of not getting caught.
We’re no better at home, mostly because we are more certain we can get away with it there. We smoke, curse, drink, and watch soft porn in front of our children, then chastise them for doing the same. We rail against gay marriage but accept divorce as an unavoidable reality, and we shake our heads over abortion while sneaking around or at the very least flirting with the neighbor’s spouse.
So why do our young people see faith as irrelevant? Because from their perspective it’s been irrelevant to us. We’ve not practiced what we’ve preached, and they’ve been watching. We’ve constantly disrespected the faith that we’ve claimed, and they’ve noticed.
In short, they think we’re hypocrites. And to a great extent, they’re right. It’s no wonder they refuse to waste their time on a faith that teaches sacrifice in this life for reward in the next.
In fact, we should be surprised that any of them still remain at all.
The same is true of the rest of the world. They’ve been watching us all these years and they’ve seen us abandon our professed values when it suited us – while at the same time we’ve decried the lack of virtue in our leaders and in the social-entertainment icons our children idolize.
As a result, in a relatively short time we’ve lost – or more accurately, abandoned – much of the influence that the community of faith has held over society for the better part of the past millennium.
So how do we regain that influence? How does the Church – again, identified as the body of professing believers – how do we become relevant again?
The answer – like most – is found in Scripture. Continuing the passage from 2Timothy referenced earlier:
“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof; from such turn away.” (verse 5)
There are multiple modern applications for this verse, but the one pertinent to our discussion here is that many who profess Christianity today live in much the same way they would if they’d never heard the term. It’s an undeniable fact, proven in statistics which show that Christians are participating in drug abuse, criminal behavior, divorce, suicide, and most any other negative aspect of society at rates quickly approaching or equal to those of nonbelievers.
We are increasingly denying the power of God to change our lives, primarily because we are increasingly leaving Him out of our lives. Before the Church and our ideals can regain relevance in society, God must become more relevant to us – and it’s not God who needs to change; it’s us.
We will discuss that change more in the next installment.