Second Half: More on the Western Church Crisis

I was wrong when I said, in my last post, that I was probably overstating the case when I guessed that 9 out of 10 American churches were failing in their Kingdom calling. The truth is, it's actually 10 out of 10. Every church, including even the earliest faith communities, falls short of God's expectations of complete conformity to His will—but this is not unique to any particular church at any particular time or place. On the other hand, to say that churches are "failing" undoubtedly implies to some that they are utterly failing. That would certainly be a preposterous (not to mention arrogant!) claim to make, and I never intended it. These two points in tension should do two things inside of each Christian, and especially each Christian leader or minister.

First, it should help them to see that those who speak prophetically for change are not renegades. This will help those with a prophetic calling to avoid developing a "Messiah complex" in which they see themselves as rebels with a cause (which leads to a combative spirit). It should also help their churches not to take such rebukes personally. All of God's children receive rebuke as a sign of His love, and He typically uses human servants to do this.

Second, it should kindle a perpetual "holy discontent" that keeps us always examining our hearts and actions in light of the Word and the conviction of the Spirit, and growing in faithfulness to our gloriously high calling.

In these two senses, then, my heart burns for a more faithful Church. I'm not so naive as to think that the "crisis" that the Western Church is facing is unique or unprecedented. As many a wise pastor has said, "Everyone either has experienced trials, is in one now, or is headed into one." The same can be said for the Church in any given time and place. The war that Satan and his legions wage against the Church never ceases, though his strategy changes. Fortunate for us, he has a limited playbook, and we have the ultimate Scouting Report (the Bible) from the ultimate Scout (God) to help us to defend against Satan's offense and break down his defense with our offense. Still, he is a formidable foe, and if we are lackadaisical and undisciplined, we are bound to get whooped. We have to be constantly "in the game," playing both offense and defense, and God gives us coaches (prophetic leaders) to spur us on, to correct us when we are wrong, and to train us for victory. But of course the coaches, in our case, are also members of the team, in need of coaching themselves.

I believe this is a word of critical import to the whole church, for all of us fall into one of these two roles (leader and follower). Both have significant responsibilities, and often we switch roles. None of us is above correction, and none is too "low" to give it. We are to "submit to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Eph 5:21). I pray that this is a word of encouragement, as well as a challenge to you. In the spirit of semper reformanda, may we always press on toward our lofty calling in Christ.