I find the study of the New Testament church, as documented in the book of Acts, to be one of the most fascinating studies that I have encountered as a minister. As one who has followed the calling like so many before, I find that being in the ministry and tracing the origins and actions of the Church of Jesus Christ to be a responsibility, even an obligation, of all who call themselves ministers. The study of the Church, though at times exhilarating because of the power of its inception, also leaves me disheartened to see the difference between who we were and what we’ve become.
In place of a church that scripture says was “added to” daily and where the people lived in a state of expectancy, we have changed to the Church of the Next Big Thing. For years I have heard of this outpouring and that outpouring and how so many Christians flock to experience the newest moment, yet I don’t hear the cries of our forefathers in the voice of the modern church. Instead of lives converted to Christ, we hear the voices of the Saved caught up in an experiential existence that sadly does not reflect New Testament church life, the fruit of which is a church shrinking in size and power.
How many of you are tired of the latest teaching trend being promoted in your church pulpit that promises newer and greater places in God but yet you look around and the ones whose lives so desperately need change resist our God? Is it possible that we have gotten so far from the power and simplicity of the Gospel and have become consumed with trend chasing that we are standing at a crossroads moment where the church is gasping for breath and we don’t even know it? I wonder what Paul, Silas, Peter or John would say if they walked into many of our churches today and heard what we are preaching and calling the Gospel.
I admit to a deep sense of concern for the church. We are not a might army – no matter how many times we gather into large arenas, singing and shouting our songs of worship and listening to one more sermon that gets us shouting – yet leaving us unable to remember a thing about it a week later. The days of us holding church services, where all we do is discuss with each other about how good the service was, must end and we must return to the cry of those whose work we now possess… “Give us souls, Lord, lest we die!”
In my concern I also see hope. Many of the young generation of ministers rising to the surface seem to be finding a voice that has been long missing. Instead of rallying the people to fight it out at the polling place they are calling the people to prayer. Instead of dancing around the altar and patting each other on the back they are sending their people into the streets to find the hurting to give them hope and a hand. In place of preaching the latest message of the moment they are returning to the message of the ages… “Jesus saves and He wants to help you.”
The Bible warns of a separation in the last day. Wheat would be separated from chaff. The good would be pulled from the worthless. The farmer will tell you that wheat and chaff grow together and it’s not until harvest time that you can tell the difference between them and only then are able to be separated. It may be a bold assertion but I believe that day is upon us. God is pulling His people into His passions and the trend chasers are falling away. Remember that putting God over the door doesn’t mean that God will be found in the house.
It‘s time for the modern church to look back to our past and find the answers for our future. The Gospel has been preached and died for over 2000 years. Today is a day of visitation. God won’t be found in the voices of those calling the church to another trendy doctrine. He will be found in the cries of those who understand His passion for a lost and dying world.