Above picture taken by Forrest Wander.
3 If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, 4 he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. 6 But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. 7 For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. 8 If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. 9 But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. ~ 1 Timothy 6:3-10
Due to the path, upon which, our country is set, some maybe wondering where the church is headed. At first I believed the outcome would not be good. HOWEVER (be encouraged) GOD HAS A PLAN. Be of good cheer! Be filled with the joy of the Lord and do not, I repeat, do not be stressed by the news or the appearance of things. GOD HAS EVERYTHING UNDER CONTROL, 5 words you need to repeat many times a day.
I have been praying, preaching, teaching, for revival for 30 years. I have hundreds of books on Revival. Which is nothing compared to Winkie Pratney who has over 11,000 books on the subject! I, by no means, consider myself an authority on the subject. But there is a common theme in every revival, it is found in 2 Chronicles 7:14, …people…humble themselves and pray… That is the key.
I believe the church is about to go through some hard times which will result in some hard but very good changes. Jesus’s call to the church at Laodicea was to return to their first love and first works. We need to return to the basics, which we have lost some where in the basement of the mega church we have built.
MEGA CHURCHES…A THING OF THE PAST
Right now if you do a search on foreclosed churches you will find many long lists from all over the country. I believe this is because we have tried to run the church like a business. If you look at ministers from the past starting about 150 years ago you will find that many spent the majority of their offerings not on self but on missions both locally and abroad. This is no longer the case, on average, less than 10% of offerings make it outside the church. And most of the time there is a special collection for these causes. Church accounts service salaries and expenditures.
My wife and I have attended a couple of large churches, but not large enough to attain the mega church label. There are some serious problems in the mega churches. One big problem is they are a place where people can attend without ever becoming engaged with the congregation. You can come and go without any commitment, no interaction, no fellowship. So it becomes the appeasement of conscience which creates a false feeling of assurance. If you are not committed and serving, you are just wasting time. Church is not about singing a few songs and listening to a sermon. Church is far more about fellowship and teaching, and one on one is one of the best ways to teach. Most of what I have learned has come from one on one engagements with elders in the church.
A good friend of mine that I worked with in Atlanta attend one of the mega churches there in north Atlanta. He left because, according to him, there was a real problem with adultery in the place.
Another problem is they are feeding grounds for the narcissistic. Those who love the attention usually end up in the front of the congregation in one form or another.
Combine the narcissistic with the people who want to fade into the background and you have fertile ground for the self life to blossom. Death to self does not exist.
Add on top of that the fact that most ministers in these places are constantly working to keep the numbers up. So the message of the cross gets lost and you end up with a message of health, wealth, and prosperity. No cross in that. Then you start hearing messages about how God does not want you to suffer. Really. Tell me how you make Joseph, Job, or Jeremiah fit into that teaching? How does the death of Jesus fit into that picture? God put every one of these and many more in a direct path with suffering. The message that the flesh can be appeased must go. Our single purpose is to glorify God, that almost always comes through suffering.
Many of the mega churches have started some form of small group program. As the finances fail in these monoliths, the small groups will begin to grow. I believe churches will move back into the homes where they belong. Financially big building and big programs will not be affordable nor maintainable. People cannot give what they do not have, it is that simple.
The past couple of decades have been a period of great prosperity, that time has ended and I believe we shall not see it again in my life time. This period of great prosperity has allowed the powerless church to build and appease. That is not what God wants from His church. The life of self-denial and sacrifice has faded way into the back ground, God is going to push back to the forefront.
Start looking for home churches to start showing up on your radar.
PROGRAMS WILL BE REPLACED WITH PRAYER MEETINGS
I did several sermons years ago on the “power of the program”. Programs are what men do when they don’t have the power of the Holy Ghost. If your program is done will enough it can even bring a false type of revival. But in the end the word always falls apart and a new program must be introduced or we revise and revive the old program.
We are coming into a time when men will fall on their faces and cry out to God. We have come to the end of our hoarded resources. We are very close to having nothing left but prayer. Programs cannot replace the power of the Holy Ghost. When men lose all of their hoarded resources they fall in the only direction they have left which is towards God.
When I was a small child, our church used to have lots of prayer meetings. We even had all night prayer meetings. As the church grew and prospered the prayer meetings began to fade away. Wednesday night prayer meeting became just another service during the week. But me and a hand full of young men, about 5 or 6 of us, found our way into the woods there in the mountains of West Virginia and prayed. And we prayed for hours. We hungered for the life found in prayer. The greatest meetings I have been in where God did the most and changed men’s lives and people were healed, have been prayer meetings.
These meetings were unorchestrated, the only plan was the place where we would meet. People gathered and waited upon God in silence until they felt the movement of the Holy Ghost to pray. I have seen great miracles in these meetings. This concept has been lost on the post modern church, we need a plan and that plan usually involves some form of entertainment.
God wants a praying people not a programmed people. Programs will never bring us into the life of walking in the Holy Ghost.
COMPLEXITY WILL BE REPLACED WITH SIMPLICITY
Our complex lives and church life are about to take a turn towards simplicity. Technology will still be around but I don’t think it will be heavily involved simply because we will not be able to afford it. The more complex something is the more money it requires to run it. We are bankrupt, we will not be able to afford complexity any more.
If you read through the Bible you will see a pattern with God, it is the pattern of simplicity. God uses the simple and over looked people and things to effect change. Look at the great victories God did for the children of Israel, they marched around Jericho for 7 days then made a great noise and the walls fell. Gideon and 300 men blew trumpets, smashed jars of clay, and the enemy literally destroyed each other. God even had them dig ditches, how simple is that. They dug ditches and God filled them with water and when the sun rose the enemy saw the ditches filled with blood not water and ran in fear.
God is complex, and beyond our comprehension. But God deals with men in simplicity.
RETHINKING CHURCH LIFE
I think Watchman Nee wrote some of the most definitive works on church life, what it is and what it is not. Below are links to on-line versions of his books. I encourage you to read them. It will help you understand how God wants his church structured and how we work within that structure.