ARE WE LOSING OUR INFLUENCE?
Today’s reality indicates that as evangelical, Bible believing Christians – we’re losing our influence. Statistics indicate people are tuning out organized religion. There are more people leaving through the back doors of our churches than are coming in the front doors. The salt and light impact of believers has been greatly diminished. And to this - a recent poll showed that about half of all evangelical pastors have seriously contemplated quitting the ministry. Why is this happening?
The reasons are many but let’s touch down on some of the more obvious ones. What of the high-profile pastors that are getting caught up in sex scandals and sapping the moral authority also of others? Too regularly we hear about clergy involved in the misuse of funds or involved in other violations. So called “Christian” boarding schools in Canada are under siege by the public for their years of unfettered emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of children. Hundreds of unmarked graves of helpless first nations children have recently been discovered. The blood of these children, in many cases, is squarely on the hands of organized religion. And we wonder why the Church is losing its influence?
The Apostle Paul used an interesting metaphor to describe the Body of Christ – the Church. It’s the word “aroma.” He said “you are the aroma of Christ.” (II Cor. 2:16) Regretfully, in many sectors, that aroma is far from pleasant. And it has resulted in the diminished appeal of Christ’s Church to hosts of people still waiting to hear the Good News of Jesus.
Several years back the Barna Group released a study that indicated 85% of people not connected with the church in the USA still viewed Christianity favorably. Thirteen years later that number plummeted to 16% - with only 3% who had “a good impression of evangelicals.” The public are regularly bombarded by “anti-this and anti-that” messages from the evangelical community. So much so that most people have very little idea of what Christian evangelicals are “for.” In the process, it has left many wondering what’s so good about the “Good News” if it doesn’t work for the people who proclaim it.
In the New Testament there are 29 different ways the phrase “one another” is used. They include… Love one another. Forgive one another. Pray for one another. Bear one another’s burdens. Be devoted to one another. Regard one another as more important than yourself. Do not speak against one another. Do not judge one another. Be kind to one another. Speak the truth to one another. Build up one another. Comfort one another. Care for one another. Prod one another on to love and good deeds. You can’t help but wonder what would happen if we the Church, truly lived out these identifying “one another’s.” As “living epistles known and read of all men” (II Cor. 3:2) we need to be asking, “What does my life communicate? What are people seeing in me that would create a desire to know Jesus?”
Henri Nouwen was a respected priest and author from Toronto. Through his books and personal appearances, he spoke with relevancy into the lives of a broad cross-section of church people. When AIDS started impacting the world, Henri Nouwen flew to San Francisco and stayed for a week in an AIDS clinic visiting patients and trying to get a better understanding of the trauma that AIDS produced in people’s lives. It is said he returned to Toronto changed. From then on this was his prayer. “God, help me to see others not as my enemies or as ungodly but rather as thirsty people. And give me courage and compassion to offer your Living Water, which alone quenches deep thirst.” (Rev. 22:17)
Be blessed my friend.
The Barnabas Group / Loads of Love
II Corinthians 2:14-17; Ephesians 4:30-5:8; I Peter 1:13-16; 2:9; Matthew 5:13; Galatians 6:9