A “New Norm” Or A “New Low”?
Should churches be growing numerically, as well as spiritually? Is the absence of life the “new normal” for American congregations? Jesus cursed the fig tree that had only leaves, but no fruit. He talked about “fruit”, “more fruit”, and went on to say the Father is glorified when we bear “much fruit.”
So why are conversions rare in scores of Bible believing churches? We hear statements like, “You don’t have to be successful, but you do have to be faithful.” The subtle implication is that faithfulness equals fruitlessness. One Bible college professor taught his pastoral students not to expect more than 4 or 5 conversions per year. No doubt, some are in difficult places, but we should be EXPECTING and working for fruit.
Shepherds all across the country have adopted a defeated and defensive position. Instead of crying out to God for a fresh work of grace, many console themselves with the faulty notion that “fruitlessness” is the sure mark of fidelity.
It has gotten so bad that any congregation that is flourishing is suspected of deep compromise. How often do we hear, “The reason they have all those people attending is because they’re not preaching the truth!” There is no question that compromise is rife, but does faithfulness insure the absence of fruit? (By the way, what others may be doing wrong is no justification for an absence of life among us.)
A large percentage of churches will close their doors in the next 20 years. Congregations where everyone is over 60 years old should take stock and examine themselves. When churches become so ingrown that they no longer relate to the people around them, there needs to be corporate heart-searching from the top down. Healthy churches are not museums, geriatric wards, or home-school cell groups. They are birthing centers where all kinds and ages of people find help.
Going to seed on Sovereignty is no excuse for lack of fruit. Neither is fatalistic eschatology an excuse for the absence of new life. Extreme theological positions that “blame God” not only misrepresent His character, they discourage believers from getting “on mission” with Christ. We must stop reasoning from “sight” and “experience.” Never mind how things look in the natural, the Bible calls us to walk by faith. We must begin with the Word of God, and work our way forward by FAITH and obedience.
Someone said, “Unbelief always considers it too soon or too late for God to work. Faith always expects God to work NOW.”
Healthy churches grow by giving birth to new believers, not just attracting others with the same preferences. Branches which abide in the Vine will produce fruit.
Of course, the times have changed. And yes, there are “hard places.” But God is larger and stronger than sin, Satan, and a corrupt society. Our God is not “impotent,” He is OMNIPOTENT!
Let’s stop analyzing the culture and making excuses. Now is the time to lay the whole program at the foot of the cross and cry out to heaven for His blessing and guidance.
“Unbelief has a thousand reasons why God can’t or won’t or doesn’t bless me. But faith is full of reasons why He DOES and SHALL and CAN bless, even me,” said Paget Wilkes.