Tag Archives: America

The State of the Church

The State of the Church

As 2014 begins, I have been considering what this year might hold for the Church. Is the church here in America, and around the world, in trouble? As a follower of Christ, do I need to worry about the state of the church? My simple response to this is the church here in America and around the world is alive and well. The church is not dying. Though the church might be facing difficulties and persecution and even death, it is not in trouble. A while back, I listened to a Louie Giglio message on the church and one thing he said that stuck with me is “God loves the church.” God is not disappointed in the church; God is not surprised by the church. God loves the church and gave His life for the church. I want to give two simple reasons why the church is not in trouble now or ever.

  1. We are not the foundation. If we believe the church is in trouble, then we have the wrong foundation holding up the church. Christians are not holding up the church. God is holding up the church. If we believe the church depends on us, then we have been mislead. In Matthew 16:18 when Jesus tells Peter “and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it”, Jesus is telling Peter nothing Satan does can or will overcome the church. Colossians 1:17-18 says “and He is before all things, and in Him ALL things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church.” The church holds together because Jesus is the foundation upon which the church is built. It is not built on our evangelistic campaigns or community outreach efforts or small groups or even missional communities. The church is built on Jesus and because of this the gates of hell cannot overcome it.
  2. We are not the main attraction. In recent years, I have seen a number of churches do various campaigns around the slogan “I ‘heart’ my church.” At the surface, this does not seem to have anything wrong with it because it gets people to take pride in their church. However, from an outsider’s perspective, this can give the wrong impression. To someone who does not follow Christ and has not grown up in church, this can cause them to think the church is all about the people. If, at any given gathering your church holds, people cannot walk away knowing Jesus is the center of everything you do, then we are simply showing them a false idol. If the music we sing does not lift up Jesus, then why are we doing it? People can go anywhere to listen to music where Jesus is not the central message; the church should be a place where the music is all about Jesus and what He did for us. If we were the main attraction, then the church would be in trouble.

I know these two reasons might sound simple but it’s because they are simple. It seems many churches have problems because they get confused on these two points. We forget the church is not built on us and we believe the people of a certain church are the main attraction. We take God out of the equation and make ourselves the center of attention. If we remember God is the foundation of the church and Jesus is the main attraction, then how we respond to various circumstances and situations in the church will be transformed by the Gospel.

I believe in many ways we get this feeling because we see so many changes in how Christians are treated here in America. We see our “freedoms” being taken away, or Christians being treated unfairly and in some ways, our voices being quieted. However, this is no reason to despair. This is simply a sign the church is being the church. All throughout the Bible, we see God’s people treated unfairly. We see in 2 Timothy 3:12 “all who desire to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” 1 Peter 4:12-14 says “do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share in Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” 1 John 3:13 also says “do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.”

According to these passages, we are to expect to be treated unfairly, to be persecuted. We are not to expect an easy life, we are to expect a life where the only freedom we experience is the freedom we have in our relationship with Christ. Christians reacting negatively when facing this persecution is not how Jesus told us to live. Jesus told us to expect trials and tests because in these, our faith will be perfected.

To conclude, I simply want to restate the church is not in trouble. The church never has been in trouble and the church never will be in trouble because we are not the foundation and we are not the main attraction. As we live according to these two ideas, our lives will make sense, no matter what we face and no matter how poorly and unfairly we are treated because of our faith.

I will leave you with John 16:33, in the words of Jesus:

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

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Everyday Church.

Everyday Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis

Do you believe the time is coming where the church in America is going to have to make some changes with how it attempts to reach non-believers with the Gospel? Do you believe the church in America can continue to wait for the world to come darken its doors? Do you believe that we might be missing something if that is our mindset? According to Everyday Church, 85 million Americans will never come to church. There are various reasons why they will never come to church but that is not the point. The point here is that if we continue to wait for the church to come to us, we will basically miss any opportunity to share the gospel with much of the population. With that mindset, Tim Chester and Steve Timmis approach the topic of how to really do church. With that said, this review is going to be brief but not because there is not much to include. The opposite is true in that there is so much truth within these pages, you will need to pick it up for yourself.

Everyday Church is basically an exposition of 1 Peter. Steve and Tim do an amazing job of breaking down the text and helping the reader understand it from the early church perspective and then applying it to our current culture. They make a point I believe many modern day American Christians would not necessarily agree with in that they say Christians today have been pushed to the margins. No longer are Christians sought after for wisdom and ideas. We are no longer at the center of the culture. We have been pushed to the edges and whenever we speak up, people want us to just go back to our buildings and leave them alone. They want us to stop “judging” them. The best defense Christians have for the faith is Christians truly living out their faith. If we are not living in such a way to make Christ look attractive, then why would the world want to believe? The authors present the book of 1 Peter as the perfect guide to help us rediscover the way to really impact the world with the Gospel and it is through our everyday lives, not our events. Events can make an impact, but it is our lives that truly draw people to desire a relationship with the Lord.

One of the ways they encourage us to live the gospel every day is to stop creating groups in the church to ask non-believing friends to join, but instead to join groups in your community already formed. They encourage us to put more importance on the everyday living than on just the big events. They are not saying avoid them, but if we are to make a lasting impression on our communities, we will need to step outside our walls and meet people where they are.

Read some of the following quotes taken from the book:

“Christians are like immigrants, foreigners, temporary residents, refugees. We do not belong. We do not have the rights of citizens. We are outsiders. We are living on the edge of the culture.”

“We need to do church and mission in the context of everyday life…We must think of church as a community of people who share life, ordinary life. “

Speaking of Christians in our culture today, “We may not often be persecuted, but we are marginalized.”

“We cannot claim to be faithfully proclaiming the gospel to the lost through our Sunday preaching when most of the lost do not attend church. We need to do mission outside church and church events.”

“We need to discover or recover the sense that if this year we are not imprisoned, then it has been a good year in which by the grace of God, we have gotten off lightly.”

“Love and passion and enthusiasm are infectious…You will never attract people to Jesus if you are not excited about Jesus. Enthusiasm creates interest. Passion breeds passion. Loving Jesus is the antidote to legalism.”

The last part of this book I want to touch on in this review is here in this culture today, we need to stop believing that missionaries only need to be sent overseas to preach the Gospel. With 85 million Americans who will never go to church, it is time to start living as missionaries in our own culture. We need to recover the idea that this world is not our home, we are just passing through, and our mission in our short time here is to share the Gospel with the world around us. It takes our lives…the lives that happen Monday through Saturday, not just the life we live on Sunday.

Tim Chester and Steve Timmis have hit a home run with Everyday Church. As I look back through it, there is something underlined or highlighted on almost every page. This book is a must read for anyone serving in the ministry. Tim and Steve both live in Europe and their insights into the church there are profound. It has been said that if you want to see where America is going culturally, look at Europe. Because of this, I believe what Tim and Steve have experienced in Europe and write about will be extremely profitable for us here in America. And as I already said, if you serve in ministry in any capacity, this book is one you need to pick up. Not only will it open your eyes, it could help change how you see and do church.

Thanks for taking the time to read this review. Comments are welcome.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Crossway in exchange for this review. Thanks for taking the time to read this review and feel free to leave comments or questions.