6 Things Today’s Church is Losing

6 Things Today's Church is LosingIf you know me, you know that I am not a fan of articles or blog posts that berate the Church and point out all of her flaws. Sometimes, as I am reading these writings from well known authors, it breaks my heart that the bulk of their time on earth has been spent associating themselves with a movement that they can’t help but belittle on a regualr basis. I have never understood it really. From time to time, I think there are people who want to just sell books or get the attention of nonbelievers and pull the whole “bait and switch” when they get them to agree. I suppose some could even accuse me of doing that same thing right now, but know that is not my intention.

The Church as God describes it in His scriptures is meant to be the bride of Christ. This title implies union. I can imagine that any time Christian’s with good intentions slander His bride, there is some heartbreak. So, that is one way to look  at the waves of negativity. It is wrong and if we are a cross-oriented people then one would think grace would season our talk. There are times, however, the body of Christ needs to huddle up and regroup. There are also times where we need to hear a challenging word and be moved to action. Not in a condescending way, but one that desires growth and stronger unity. The Bible is full of times where God needed to redirect and rebuke His own people. In fact, the Bible practically ends that way with the first third of the book of Revelation seeking to sternly guide the people of God. With that being said, as I look around and see the condition of His bride in current times, I have seen some things I think are becoming endangered in our Christian culture.

Here are 6 Things Today’s Church is Losing:

1. Desperation for the Gospel

I can’t help but think of the early church. The people were enamored by this new revelation. So much so, that they were willing to risk their lives simply to believe and proclaim. Certainly, there were plenty of times early Christians sinned against God, but the newness of the Gospel message swept them away. What about underdeveloped countries? We are hearing stories on a regular basis from missionaries all around the world giving testimonies of lives changed and churches planted, simply because the message of the cross was shared. Today, many people look at their faith as a hobby and the act of community worship as something they do when they have nothing else to do. Or even, something that fits well into their lives when everything is going well. Is this what Christ died for? The people, yes…but the apathetic attitude toward His body? I wonder if we have mentally conditioned ourselves to always look for the more exciting experience. Not sure what the answer is here. I think we need to pray for a huge awakening on this one.

2. Centrality of God’s work

Many people today can and do live a life full of busyness, good health, and plenty of money without God. They do great things, influence people, and leave powerful legacies without their Creator ever being acknowledged. This is because it is a very tempting idea to surround ourselves with security, resources, and knowledge so that the idea of God becomes unnecessary. Christians reading this blog today may think that I am describing sinners or people who do not believe in God, but I am actually describing Christ-followers. Unfortunately, for Christians, it is easy to lean toward a life that calls comfort “blessing” and the good that we do becomes the full expression of God’s word. Certainly, God wants us to be moved to action, but He also wants us to be moved to change and grow. His life and power will give us abundance. Not just temporal success.

3. Conflict Resolution

I will mention the early church again here, because it is pertinent. The fact is, back in the infancy of the Church, people did not leave their worship community because of hurt feelings, different political beliefs, music, preaching quality, lack of programming, stale communion wafers, uncomfortable seats, lack of air conditioning, not getting the part in the play, what someone commented on Facebook, the fact that the organ was moved two feet to the left, or the color of the carpet. People had the spirit in common and settled their conflict by arguing, finding common ground, and focusing on the mission once again. We have lost the art of healthy conflict resolution because we have taught ourselves that running away is better than growing. Let’s just grow up already. This doesn’t just involve church attendance but every edifying relationship.

4. A Hunger to be Less

No matter how humble we are as a body of believers, it is hard to resist making ourselves look great by displaying our spiritual wealth. We want to be the best Christian, going to the best church, reading the best books, and adhearing to the best doctrine…not so we can grow deeper, but so we can know and experience more than the next person. Christ calls us to a cross-like existence that compells us to abandon this mentality. The point of Christianity is to be the lowest, the servant, and those that wake up every morning hoping to die to self. In the immortal words of John the Baptist, “He must increase and I must decrease…” Enough said.

5. Prophetic Voice

The Church, in today’s culture, seems to want to have a voice of political power instead of prophecy. No, not the soothsaying definition that we are familiar with through fairy tales, but prophecy in the respect of God’s conveyed truth. The Church is meant to exist independent from the culture, understanding the culture, and speaking to the culture, not camouflaging itself within it waiting for the right moment to strike. Fellow believers…we live a life that is weird and doesn’t make much sense, and that is okay. This is nothing to apologize for, and nothing to run from. It is okay to be active in politics, and influential in business, but our goal should be to show others the nature of God through our lives.

6. Unity In the Body

There may be several congregations throughout the world but there is only one Church. Whatever your particular congregational brand may be, remember that our mission is shared and it will take all of us to fulfill it. I am so tired of people talking poorly about other communities of believers. Sure, we may not agree with their doctrinal slant, but even if they are driving people to Hell through their teachings, our treatment of them, and talk about them could drive the outsider looking in to Hell even faster. Just stop it. Pursue God and display love for Christ sake (see what I did there?). Preach the truth. Period. Healthy worship to God will draw people towards Him.

We are meant to make disciples, spread the gospel, and serve the world by the resourcing of the Spirit. Just do that. Let’s stick to the things that matter.

Don’t forget you are loved.

-Landon DeCrastos

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4 Ways The Church Has Misguided America

misguidedIf there is one thing I can’t stand it is pastors or theologians who spend most of the time bashing the church and telling us all the things we are doing wrong. On one hand, I understand that there needs to be a firm, prophetic voice that arises from time to time to get the bride of Christ back on track. This should not be news to anyone. There are some, however that are just plain (for a lack of a better word) grouchy about every square inch of what the church takes part in. Brothers and sisters, I hope you do not think this is me, and you realize that I love being a pastor, and wouldn’t trade my calling for anything. As many pastors, much smarter than me, have reiterated, “the Church is God’s plan to convey the Gospel to the world…there is no plan B.” So, I hope today’s post helps us to think, and perhaps stretch ourselves a little.

I have preached the cliche’ message over and over. You know, the message that the Church is supposed to influence the culture and not the other way around. This is true…unless we start to see things like laziness, fear, and insecurity as default postures of the Church. Then, our influence will naturally be human-driven instead of Spirit- empowered/ resourced. Ok Landon, get on with it…tell us why deserve Hell. Ohh….alright….

I think there are 4 evidences that we see in the Church that suggest we are misguiding America (or even the world):

1. More people are moving from church to church– There are many reasons why someone leaves a church and moves to another one. Many of these are completely understandable, and in some cases I would even advise this way. For instance, if a pastor is not preaching with scriptural integrity, or if there is a catastrophic immoral system that has taken over the church…then you need to run for the exit. There are many who leave because the church is not big enough, they don’t like the music, someone has hurt their feelings, or there is something “better” going on somewhere else. People are moving churches, in our culture, at a rapid pace. Here is the truth…we as pastors have conditioned the world to do this very thing. We rarely preach anything that is challenging for fear of offense, we try to tip-toe around conflict, and we abandon deep discipleship for a community carnival (hoping more butts will plop themselves in our seats). Church…stop blaming the world…we have trained them this way. We do this because we are afraid that God will not come through and draw people to Himself. We are also a little afraid to step outside of our beautiful walls to meet people where they are at. People are dying just beyond our reach while we are bickering about the color of the new carpet.

2. People think the church is all about money– Sometimes…the Church talks a lot about money. This subject is something that MUST be talked about by pastors. The problem is, we are training our congregation in a terrible way. We  convey that it is only important to talk about money when we really, really, really need it….OR…when the children’s department wants a new swingset…OR…(fill in the blank). Then, people start to sense that the church leadership is terribly afraid that they will run out of money to pay the bills, and money towards things like church planting, outreach, and that which can only be accomplished by the Holy Spirit is abandoned. Pastors…listen up for a minute. How are we supposed to ask our people to give sacrificially, when the Church is not extravagantly generous? Christians…now you listen up. Giving shows us that God can supply, and it gives us freedom. Just give. I don’t need a good argument for this…God wants you to, and wants to show you what He can do through this discipline. Do it.

3. Churches have abandoned simplicity– In our attempt to become bigger, better, and more attractive the Church has lost so much. When I started the process of planting a new church several years ago there was one question that other pastors would ask me. The prevalent question was, “what will set your church apart from others and make it unique.” Every time this was asked I had the same response, “I hope nothing.” Crazy, huh? Aren’t churches supposed to be competitive and offer something different, unique, and fantastic? Nope. The way I read scripture, we are supposed to lift up the name of Christ, and serve our communities with no guarantee of anyone coming to our worship services. Outreach is not a marketing scheme (a bait and switch tactic if you will) but a truly authentic way to connect with God through obedience. God will bring people to us, and of course marketing is not evil, but we are not trying to “attract” people with elaborateness or complexity. The time period in which we meet for worship is a celebration and a way to connect. I think we fall away from the simplicity of the message because we are scared that no one will listen unless the message is really sexy.

4. Churches have abandoned the analogy of war– Sometimes we forget that the Christian life is less about avoiding Hell and more about attacking it. Attacking it with passion and intensity. We see this principle explained so many times in the Bible, but we ignore it because it makes us uncomfortable. Death, bloodshed, and a spiritual conflict are the point…Jesus didn’t save us by befriending everyone and networking to the best of His ability. He died. Brutally, I might add. Now, don’t get me wrong. We cannot neglect the more seemingly tame side of the Christian life…the one that desires that all life would be preserved and that good morality would flourish. I just hear so much preaching that centers around warm fuzzies and everyone getting along instead of pointing out the true battle before us.

Like mentioned in the first section of this post, the Church is the bride of Christ, and the last thing we need to do is whip it senselessly with knowledge of its flaws. I just think that we could be more…we could do more. We have a vital message to convey and I just don’t want anything to cloud it up. The world needs us to stay faithful.

Stay hungry. Stay faithful. Stay His.

-Landon DeCrastos

And, the Saved?

But what you ask of earth? Earth, I think, will not be found by anyone to be in the end a very distinct place. I think earth, if chosen instead of Heaven, will turn out to have been, all along, only a region in Hell: and earth, if put second to Heaven, to have been from the beginning a part of Heaven itself.

“‘That is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, ‘No future bliss can make up for it,’ not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory. And of some sinful pleasure they say ‘Let me have but this and I’ll take the consequences’: little dreaming how damnation will spread back and back into their past and contaminate the pleasure of sin. Both processes begin even before death. The good man’s past begins to change so that his forgiven sins and remembered sorrows take on the quality of Heaven: the bad man’s past already conforms to his badness and is filled only with dreariness. And that is why, at the end of all things, when the sun rises here and the twilight turns to blackness down there, the Blessed will say ‘We have never lived anywhere except Heaven,’ and the Lost, ‘We were always in Hell.’ And both will speak truly.’

‘Is that not very hard Sir?’

‘I mean, that is the real sense of what they will say. In the actual language of the Lost, the words will be different, no doubt. One will say he has always served his country right or wrong; and another that he has sacrificed everything to his Art; and some that they’ve never been taken in, and some that, thank God, they’ve always looked after Number One, and nearly all, that, at least they’ve been true to themselves.’

‘And the Saved?’

‘Ah, the Saved… what happens to them is best described as the opposite of a mirage. What seemed, when they entered it, to be the vale of misery turns out, when they look back, to have been a well; and where present experience saw only salt deserts, memory truthfully records that the pools were full of water.’” -Excerpt from C.S. Lewis’- The Great Divorce

An Excerpt from C.S. Lewis’ “Great Divorce”

But what you ask of earth? Earth, I think, will not be found by anyone to be in the end a very distinct place. I think earth, if chosen instead of Heaven, will turn out to have been, all along, only a region in Hell: and earth, if put second to Heaven, to have been from the beginning a part of Heaven itself.

“‘That is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, ‘No future bliss can make up for it,’ not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory. And of some sinful pleasure they say ‘Let me have but this and I’ll take the consequences’: little dreaming how damnation will spread back and back into their past and contaminate the pleasure of sin. Both processes begin even before death. The good man’s past begins to change so that his forgiven sins and remembered sorrows take on the quality of Heaven: the bad man’s past already conforms to his badness and is filled only with dreariness. And that is why, at the end of all things, when the sun rises here and the twilight turns to blackness down there, the Blessed will say ‘We have never lived anywhere except Heaven,’ and the Lost, ‘We were always in Hell.’ And both will speak truly.’

‘Is that not very hard Sir?’

‘I mean, that is the real sense of what they will say. In the actual language of the Lost, the words will be different, no doubt. One will say he has always served his country right or wrong; and another that he has sacrificed everything to his Art; and some that they’ve never been taken in, and some that, thank God, they’ve always looked after Number One, and nearly all, that, at least they’ve been true to themselves.’

‘And the Saved?’

‘Ah, the Saved… what happens to them is best described as the opposite of a mirage. What seemed, when they entered it, to be the vale of misery turns out, when they look back, to have been a well; and where present experience saw only salt deserts, memory truthfully records that the pools were full of water.’”

-C.S. Lewis “Great Divorce”