The last few years have revealed a lot about the condition of the church in America. The church has significant divisions over issues like critical race theory, the LGBTQ agenda, politics, and social justice versus Biblical justice.
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But last summer, when the U.S. Supreme Court made its bold decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the silence from the church on that historic ruling truly shocked me. I anticipated that pastors and churches would celebrate this great victory for the saving of so many innocent lives. I had seen plenty of public statements from faith leaders in support of other cultural subjects, but now their social media channels were on mute.
Many churches might explain their silence as being sensitive to those who have struggled with this decision, including the 30% of women in churches who have had abortions. But what about the lives that could be saved if churches were to talk about and disciple people on the sacredness of life, even life in the womb?
When the church refuses to talk about these critical cultural and moral issues, discipleship is exchanged for something more palatable to the culture. The church forgets its primary purposes of discipleship and evangelism.
Recently, I read a startling statistic: 51% of Christians say they don’t know what the Great Commission is. It’s found in Matthew 28:19-20, and it says: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
These are Jesus’ final instructions to us. Knowing God’s purpose for our lives changes our focus from making church a numbers game to remembering what God has called us to be.
When half of the people who consider themselves Christian do not know the purpose and objective of the primary assignment God has given us here on Earth, it’s a symptom of a bigger issue: Churches are not spending time teaching the foundational Scriptural truths central to our faith.
The church today has become too focused on presentation and crowd gathering. Worship services include massive LED screens, premium sound systems and stage props. All kinds of technology, time and talent are put into “showing” the church experience. That in and of itself isn’t the problem. These tools can be used powerfully to draw people to the church. My grandfather used the communication tools of his time to draw people to his events. But he never missed the opportunity to share the Gospel and the truths about how we should live.
The problem arises when we become too focused on production and not enough on God’s Word. Once people enter our church doors, they may hear about God and even begin a relationship with Jesus, but too often they don’t learn how to walk with God in a compromising culture.
We live in a time where persuasive, skilled communicators are often positioned as pastors. Some of them are more focused on drawing a crowd and keeping them than on teaching hard truths and discipling their people to stand apart from the culture. Many pastors focus on personal growth and self-help messages. They use their social media to drive their popularity, not to promote the clarifying and challenging truth of the Gospel. This is where so many of today’s pastors have gotten it backward. They water down hard topics because they want to keep their numbers up. They’ve got big staffs and big buildings to pay for. They can’t afford to offend.
It seems to me that the greatest stumbling block in the church today is over the second-greatest commandment, where Jesus told us to love our neighbors as ourselves. We have sacrificed the Gospel in the name of love as defined by the world. We have understood “loving” someone to mean not offending them. But if you love somebody—truly love them—you are going to tell them the truth that saves their soul. You will tell them that sin is keeping them away from a holy God who loves them. And when God’s Word is taught, when it is the priority, it gives people the tools they need to know how to handle the controversial situations we see today.
The church shows the beauty and compassion of the Gospel by how we care for others and by how we love each other. And the church tells the compelling message of the Gospel by speaking the truth, even when it’s hard, and by being willing to be a place of discipleship, not just showmanship. Will we face hard days when we tell as well as show? Yes. Our culture tries to shame and shut down those who refuse to go along with the current woke narrative. But we the church must not lose our focus on evangelism and discipleship. We have a treasure to share—the incredible gift of redemption and eternal life through Jesus Christ. ©2022 BGEA
The Scripture quotation is taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version.
This article was adapted from the podcast series “Elephant in the Room” on “Fearless With Cissie Graham Lynch.”
Photo: David Morrison/©2022 Samaritan’s Purse
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