Let’s say God dropped you in the city of Sodom, one year before it was razed to the ground. He gave you the imperative to set up a church and be salt and light in that place of darkness. You could bring five Christian friends with you to help. What would you do?
Would there be a sense of urgency?
Now let’s say God places you in a different moment in time with the same imperative, to set up a church. In this culture, all of the moral underpinnings were being systematically destroyed. Gay marriage will soon be legal, as will recreational drugs. Crime is abundant, and tragedies are commonplace. Sexual depravity is everywhere. The government, which is elected by the people, is anti-Christian, and celebrates anything having to do with sin.
Although the church in this country is big, it’s coming apart at the seams. 75% of the youth leave the church by the time they’re 18. Some churches are ordaining gay pastors. The sexual depravity of the culture had infested and corrupted the church; at least 60% of men are addicted to porn, teens are hooked in record numbers, and marriages are falling right and left because of it. The divorce rate is just as high in the church as outside of it. Apathy is rampant. In spite of all this carnage, many churches aren’t talking about these issues in an effective manner. Some of them avoid anything negative entirely, and focus only on the positive subjects. It’s as if they’re living in another world.
What would you do?
I sometimes play with the idea of what I would do if God called me to start a church in today’s culture. In such a setting that we find ourselves in today, “Doing things the way they’ve been done before and/or are doing them now,” doesn’t seem to be the answer.
If I were to start a church today, I’d probably consider the following:
1. Bring back prayer to the church, big time. My pastor recently said that Satan laughs when we do Bible studies, but trembles when we pray. I wouldn’t just have Wednesday night prayer meetings; I’d devote 1/3 of the weekend service time to prayer. Prayer is where the power is. We live in desperate times, and desperate times call for desperate measures. We need to be on our knees, fighting in the Heavenly places for the souls that are being lost around us every day.
Although the U.S. Church is great at teaching (when God’s word is taught), with some of the best seminaries in the world, we’re losing our youth at an alarming rate. This alone ought to tell us that we need to make serious changes, including how we “do church.” Teaching isn’t enough. The early church focused heavily on prayer during their meeting times (Acts 1:14). We’re packed with knowledge, and yet the foundations are crumbling. Incorporating the power of prayer into our weekend services would fill the golden bowls of incense in Heaven (Revelations 5:8) and unleash the power that changes lives.
2. I’d challenge my congregation to be Christ followers, and avoid the seeker friendly, always-keep-it-positive mentality at all costs. I think God’s people are starving for a faith, a call, and a God who’s worth dying and sacrificing for. This doesn’t come about when we’re trying to protect everyone’s comfort zone or want every church service to end on a happy note to make us feel good. When the crowds got big, Jesus challenged them even more and thinned them out, not to be mean, but because He was interested in those who wanted Him, not the show.
3. I’d address all of the tough issues with my youth, including sex, drugs, and what their social media world is doing to them. I’d encourage them to be open and transparent with their struggles and sin. I’d have them spend plenty of time praying for each other, and encourage them to get invested in each other’s lives.
Our youth can see when we act like giddy ostriches who avoid the hard questions, and they’re dying for real answers to the pain and confusion in their life. When we don’t give to them they look elsewhere, which is what is happening at a rate of epidemic proportions.
4. I’d be in my congregation’s face about sexual sin in a big way. I’d tell them it will destroy their lives, and wouldn’t leave them with the slightest shred of false comfort or justification that they could walk out of there without choosing between God and lust. After provoking them to action, I’d offer them hope and a safe place to work out their struggles with sin. They’d hear a lot from me about grace and the cross.
5. I’d have a Seeking God Sunday, where the church doors would be closed one weekend a year to encourage everyone to go out and seek the Lord alone. Most people are too busy or distracted with iphones, social media, or just the daily grind, and their relationship with the Lord gets starved as a result. I’d encourage them to get away from everything and everyone for 24 hours and make God the only thing that matters during that time.
6. I’d have a bonfire event like they did in Acts 19 where Christians made public acts of renouncing their sin. It might not be a literal bonfire, but they could write out the things in their life that they trashed that were stumbling blocks (porn, romance novels, R-rated movies with overly evil or sexually charged content, even cable TV service) and then throw them in a bbq pit, or perhaps a big dumpster. Some might even to let go of cell phones or computers. The emphasis would be on challenging the congregation to deal firmly with anything that was between them and God.
7. I would ask the congregation to start praying for God’s vision of how He wanted to use our church. I wouldn’t want any focus on human goals, plans, programs, or vision, but would want my people to each seek the Lord hard themselves for what His plans and purpose was for their lives.
8. There would be an emphasis on community. Everyone would be encouraged to participate in small groups. In fact, I might even make it a requirement for the church. Isolated people are prone to apathy, discouragement, and falling easier into sin. We need the support of others; Sunday isn’t enough.
All of what’s above is taken from Scripture; none of it originates with me. We’re not only called to teach God’s word and worship, but to make His church a house of prayer (Matthew 21:13), seek His face, turn from sin, and stay out of isolation (2 Chronicles 7:14, Proverbs 28:13). Doing these things would be a radical change to how we “do church,” but today, we need radical.
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