7 'DEADLY SINS' OF THE CHURCH:
As mentioned in the
introduction of this series,
many churches of Christ have visibly left the "ancient paths" of Biblical practice.
And one of the most obvious areas of our downfall is the pervasive absence of zeal—zeal based on knowledge, that is.
In other words, complacency has enveloped far too many modern churches.
We have become slothful (see above video), habitual, uninspired—doing what we do often for traditional reasons rather than because it's best.
This is clearly no formula for church growth or building strong families. And it means, more profoundly, that Christ has slipped
away from being the true Lord of our lives. For if He were, we would be obeying Him. We would be zealous.
In this way (and others to be disclosed later in this series), I fear that many churches—and Christians—no longer
mirror the faithful churches of the Bible in form and function.
But the question is: What must we do to change?
One of the most noticeable trends away from the ancient path of Christ's will is complacency.
In other words, many are simply lukewarm, unzealous, or uncommitted.
I believe complacency in our churches has reached utterly pandemic proportions.
And, dear Brother or Sister, I hope you realize that "walking in complacency" is NOT
"walking in God's ancient path." (Revelation 3:15-16; Romans 12:11; Acts 2:46; etc)
Perhaps you're saying to yourself: "This is an individual sin, how can you say this relates to the church as a whole?"
The answer is: Because this spiritual sickness has reached such vast proportions that it long ago enveloped the leadership
of many modern churches. And when leadership is infected, it indeed becomes a corporate problem.
Why? Because leadership complacency trickles down to practically every corporate function of a congregation.
In that sense, complacency HAS become a congregational "digression" away from the ancient paths.
But hardly anyone seems to be concerned. Just as was the case with eventually-destroyed physical Israel, so it is today:
"We have closed our eyes, ears, hearts, and minds" to reality (Isaiah 6). From church leader to the newest convert, many
churches have been utterly overwhelmed by this dangerous spiritual virus.
How is it that we, who have had the precious blood of Christ cleanse our sins, now take
such a mediocre approach to those things related to Christ and His cause?
From the public teaching, to getting business decisions accomplished, to actually forming a plan for reaching the lost, to arranging the services
with men qualified for their assigned functions, to (on a personal level) mutual encouragement in Christ, desire to study the Bible,
spirit-mindedness, etc, etc, etc—in almost every area
of corporate church function and Christian interaction, complacency has become the norm.
Why aren't we putting our best foot forward in the cause of our Lord?
Why aren't we putting forth the same effort in our church activities as we do in our personal activities and businesses?
God sees our effort, and God will not be mocked. Complacency has eternal implications.
A culture of mediocrity has now become the tradition. And this is not "walking in the ancient paths."
"Being zealous" should not be confused with habitual assembly
Some of the most complacent people I've known were people who would never think of forsaking a Sunday morning assembly.
They literally would "compass land and sea" to make sure they were present. They would brave blizzards, thunderstorms, tornado warnings—even
abandon kin in the hospital for worship.
But expect these same people to get involved in Bible studies, do a better job in their
sermons, or participate in "behind the scenes" work of the church—and you will be disappointed.
Often, I fear that "zeal for Christ" in the minds of many is being determined to never miss a Sunday communion. Where did that definition
come from? I assure you, not from God. This concept is a traditional norm of our churches. The command to assemble (Hebrews 10:25) and commune
(1 Corinthians 11) have been elevated above almost every other command/instruction of God: such as the commands to sincerely love,
encourage one another,
use (but not abuse) our talents, greet each other upon sight, know each other by name, strive to be a true spiritual family,
grow in meaningful knowledge, spur fellow Christians on to good deeds and spiritual thinking, proactively raise our children in Christ (not merely
bring them to church), etc.
Oh, and one more—the command to be zealous.
What practically everyone knows is that habitual assembly and weekly communion are clearly the will of God. But how did assembly and
communion somehow supplant many others? Such is a dangerous sign of being traditional, Pharisaical.
Instead, God wants Christians to be "on fire" for doing His complete will. He wants us to be genuinely enthused. Seeking to please Christ.
Always trying to put our best foot
forward in whatever we do for Him, be it reaching to the lost, following through on church decisions, teaching the people of God publicly,
encouraging the people of God individually, showing hospitality to EVERY member of our congregation, visiting the sick to provide
spiritual encouragement, keeping our Biblical teachings unchanged,
drawing the line on traditions that supersede what's best for Christ and His people, raising our children in Christ, etc, etc, etc.
Two steps to defeating complacency
If "zealous" is not honestly how others would describe your service to Christ, then chances are you're suffering from an
incredibly dangerous spiritual condition that WILL cost you eternally if you don't change it.
Jesus gave the lukewarm congregation of Laodicea two simple steps to changing their condition:
(1) Admission of their situation ("repentance"), and, (2) Sincere change of behavior ("be zealous").
Consider our Lord's alarming words to this half-hearted church:
"I know your deeds—that you are neither cold nor hot...So, because you are lukewarm...I will spit you out of My mouth.
As you can see, Christ DETESTS complacency. Such is NOT walking in His will. And such WILL cost us our souls if we
remain complacent about our complacency.
...Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be zealous, and repent.
He who overcomes, I will grant him the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I overcame and sat
down with my Father on His throne."
Therefore, if this describes us, then we must understand the danger we're in.
And then we MUST repent. We must acknowledge our situation before God—rather than excuse it
as physical Israel did.
Then, we must pray to God for a zealous heart, one that is based on knowledge. Zeal without knowledge is incredibly dangerous, and it is
present, I fear, among some leaders within the churches of Christ.
Our zeal must NOT be in defense of "church of Christ" traditions and traditional teachings. It must be sincerely based on the Bible alone.
The Bible must be our only Guide, and if we can't use the Bible to back our zealous cause, we should understand that zeal
without knowledge is deadly, and self-deceiving.
A few specific suggestions about overcoming complacency
Here are a few suggestions for modern churches:
If we are public teachers, let's be sure we know our topics, do our homework, and never cease to improve our ability to edify.
A brother must be qualified
to be a teacher, or he should not be teaching (meaning, have the capacity to truly edify, not just talk; this is a talent).
The exceptions are the development of young men and the use of non-qualified teachers due to the lack of alternatives (much more on all this
hopefully in a later article).
If we're involved in business meeting decisions: let's be sure we complete tasks assigned to us promptly. Make sure every decision is based
on what's best for Christ, not us or our traditions or comfort zones.
Also, if we don't have a sincerely developed congregational plan to
reach the lost of our communities, we must get to work. We have failed in our responsibilities.
We also need to think about how to spiritually edify
our members outside the assembly as well (I have found Bible studies useful).
If we think just having fellow-Christians appear at the
public worship is adequately feeding them, we are sadly mistaken. And if you don't believe me, test their knowledge and you will
see if you've succeeded. As leaders, it's our responsibility to see that the flock is truly fed and nourished, deeply rooted
in the accurate knowledge of God's word. I fear that many leaders will be held accountable for this neglect.
If a brother's job is to arrange the services, he should make sure qualified individuals (if available) are in those roles. The Bible has made it
abundantly clear that we are a
Body, and each member does not necessarily have the same talent and function.
It's a leadership responsibility to fill roles with those who are qualified for those roles. Failure to do this is failure
to "walk in the ancient path" (again, see exceptions above). The work of the church
has never been designed by God to be a democracy. This misunderstanding has caused many a good service to be utterly ruined by inadequate
teaching and poor song leading.
We must be sure to make a sincere effort to mutually encourage ALL our brothers and sisters in Christ.
That is every Christian's responsibility,
on a personal level. This doesn't mean simply shaking hands with people after church. We should also go out of our way to show
hospitality to every Christian who is willing. That's how we
get to know one another and become true family. And, I believe we should strive to know everyone in our congregation
by name (or as many as we reasonably can).
John commanded one Christian to greet his fellow Christians by name (3 John 14; see also John 10:3).
This simple tool obviously helps create a friendly, family environment.
By the way, greeting is what one does when first seeing someone, not when leaving his presence.
Jesus implied that we are to greet even our enemies; why then do many Christians these days not even greet their fellow Christians in small
assemblies? No wonder outsiders often find some of our churches uninviting and distant.
If we really consider members of our Christian family to be brothers and sisters, we should sincerely act like family.
Brothers and sisters know each others' names, and greet each other upon sight as well.
Desire to study the Bible with anyone in your church. If you have knowledge, share it. Private teaching is very important
to a church's growth.
Sadly, it is almost totally lacking in some churches. Let people know you will study with them. If you don't feel you have knowledge,
then make yourself available to be taught privately as well. You'll learn much more this way. Then you can learn—as the
Bible commands—be a teacher yourself (Hebrews 5:12-14). Every Christian must grow into this role, men and women alike.
Be spiritually-minded. If we aren't, we are not among God's children (Romans 8).
People can quickly tell if we are spiritually-minded by what we like to talk about ("out of the overflow of your heart the mouth speaks").
We cannot hide it.
Being spiritually-minded means thinking and meditating on the word of God very often. If we do that, we will also want to talk about what
we are often meditating on.
We will love Bible discussions and Bible studies, not avoid them.
Also, we should encourage spiritual-mindedness in others by oft-discussing matters of the spirit with our Brothers and Sisters.
Encouraging one another spiritually is a command for all God's people.
This is just a short list, I plan to go into other areas later.
Please examine the list above. Is God asking too much of us to do these things? I know He is not!
So, let's get busy and get back to the Bible in our practices. We CAN do this. And, we MUST do this.