My Top Concerns for the Local Church

Posted in christian thought, church reform by Nathan Creitz on April 8, 2009

peacefully-asleepI have a passion for the life of the local church. The purpose of ChurchETHOS is to redeem the prophetic and influential role of the church in American society. Ethos basically means the habits or character of a group or individual. It can also mean the sort of reputation one person or group has with another person or group. So, ChurchETHOS explores how we can restore habits and customs that conform to the Way, Truth, and Life of Jesus and develop a good relationship with those outside the church.

So here are a few of my top concerns for the local church:

1. Members are just going through the motions.
Many Christians spend only about one hour per week involved with their church. They go to a church building. They know when to stand or sit. They know when to sing or listen. Most importantly, they know when the “hour of power” is supposed to be over. And may it never be that the pastor ever forget.

2. Prayer is not effective.
Not that the prayer of a righteous person isn’t effective, or that God isn’t listening. Instead, most of our churches are infected with lazy Christians who have no vibrant relationship with God and think that prayer is just rubbing the lamp and the genie-god comes out and does everything we want it to do.

3. The local church isn’t led by the Spirit of God.
It’s not just the people in the church that concern me, it’s the leadership. Elders often think they are the decision makers and they lack the close connection with God necessary for the health of the church. Acts 14 gives a good example of the elders being led by the Spirit to act.

4. Preaching is talking.
Often the preaching elder doesn’t know how to exhort or rebuke or encourage. He doesn’t spend time discovering what God is saying to the Body through His word. Preaching becomes a series of talking points that lack persuasion or correction. Preaching isn’t prophetic anymore.

5. The American Dream is more important than the Kingdom of God.
For most people, life with Christ is crowded out by regular life. Working hard to be successful, to make money, to become more powerful, these are the reasons most members have for why they can’t invest more in God’s kingdom. They can’t imagine how their wants needs could possibly be provided for without working 60+ hours a week. Since prayer isn’t effective, surely God can’t be relied upon to fulfill His promises.

6. Serving and hospitality are no longer values.
Since the American Dream is such a powerful force, there’s little time left to help someone in need. We have our excuses: “Based on how they dress, if I give them money they’ll probably just spend it on alcohol or cigarettes.” “I can barely afford cable TV and the payments on my flat screen, much less give to the church.”

7. Making disciples is for the paid professionals
In fact, everything that needs to get done around the church is up to the pastor to do it. At the heart of this is the fact that members are no longer following Jesus. They don’t care about what He said. They don’t care about what He did. They don’t care that they are supposed to be following His example. Primarily what Jesus wants us to do is to love God, love people and make disciple-making disciples. There aren’t even a whole lot of paid professionals (pastors) that are fulfilling that commission.

These are just a few of the concerns I have for the church. What concerns you? What are your ideas for how to solve these problems?

Related Post:  What is the Purpose of the Church? ::  Subscribe ::

8 Responses

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  1. John said, on April 8, 2009 at 9.40 am

    I agree with every point. Why don’t you take the gloves off next time and let us have it.

  2. bigkafka said, on April 8, 2009 at 4.14 pm

    I really like the way you put it.
    But somehow, I wonder if you have an “order” in your top 7 here.
    I feel like (7) is the most critical one, followed by (6) — then (1), (2), (3) , (4) and (5) are just the effect of ‘cold love’ — which I feel is what God gives as a “reward” (negative reward) for (6) and (7)…

    Very good list.

  3. Nathan Creitz said, on April 10, 2009 at 11.11 am

    bigkafka – I don’t necessarily have an order except that they sort of go from broad to specific. The more specific they get, probably the more important they are. I would probably agree that the lack of disciple-making is my biggest concern.

  4. Lia said, on April 21, 2009 at 9.17 am

    I agree with these, for sure. However, I do think we need to be careful to not see these as just modern problems, or reminisce about long-gone days we weren’t even alive for. Every generation has their major stumbling blocks.

    Perhaps ours is our disconnection from everything outside of our own, small, life (disconnection from our community, our God, the earth he gave us, our own spirit etc). I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, and I think it may be one cause of these ‘cold’ hearts to God and the body, and our disinterest in community and people. I know it is for me.

  5. Don said, on April 23, 2009 at 8.39 am

    I agree with every point, Nathan. However, the way the economy is going I would have to say that a lot more people nowadays are focused on point #5. You can kind of see that in the way tithing has gone across the country. People are losing the faith in the fact that God WILL and DOES provide.

  6. apostle77 said, on April 26, 2009 at 9.07 pm

    Good points, may we wake up OH LORD

  7. Paul said, on May 14, 2009 at 9.32 am

    I have been considering lately, not as being of the highest importance per se, but important none-the-less that we have come to think that wealth is a “blessing”. This relates to your fifth point, but it occurred to me lately that even my pastor will put the sentences “We live in a country of blessing.” and “We live in a country of abundance.” together as if they were more or less synonymous. I don’t think he is a health and wealth preacher, but his language betrays him.

    I looked up that nowhere in the NT are the words blessing, blessed, or bless used to refer to material possessions except in some translations which render Rom 15:27 to say “material blessings” where the word blessings is introduced in translation (check me on that). Point being the NT doesn’t confuse the two.

    More than that, Jesus said blessed are the poor, do not store up treasures for yourselves on earth, and sell your possessions and give them to the poor and come and follow me. James went so far as to say the poor have high place in the Kingdom and the rich have low position there.

    My point is our language betrays us (when trying to justify how much money we make, we say, “well God has really blessed me”) and we don’t even realize it. I think that we don’t truly believe the NT that poverty is a blessing and riches more a curse.

    I will make one quick qualifying statement that Paul did say we should work to earn money that we might share with those in need. I would thus argue that the blessing here is the giving, not the having, and thus this is a blessing which money might afford (pun intended), but is not inherent to riches.

    • Nathan Creitz said, on May 16, 2009 at 10.44 am

      Paul – Good point about how our language betrays our belief that blessing is wealth and health. I’ve tried to say for years that what if the best thing for us is to go without? What if we need to experience desperation? What if we need to go without a meal? Would that be perceived by us as God removing his hand from us? Or would we see both the good and bad as blessings from God.

      I also appreciate your point that the blessing is the giving not the having. Receiving is also a blessing but only in lessons of humility and recognizing our dependence on God. Not everyone is “blessed” enough to be able to give. Like Paul, maybe our reminder to ourselves and to others is that we are content in whatever circumstance. If we have nothing and someone gives us bread, that is a blessing of humility and providence. If we have abundance and are able to give, that is the blessing of generosity. Nowhere, however, is there a blessing of indulgence and selfishness and greed and if our money and possessions drive us to those sorts of “virtues” then it would be a blessing indeed for God to take it all away.

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