Copyright © September, 2009
From all accounts, fewer and fewer people in the aggregate are going to church each year – including, and maybe especially, to “Bible believing” churches. According to Dr. Larry Crabb, he, along with many of his peers, would rather go to his favorite local coffee shop and read a newspaper than go to church on Sundays. Why? Through the chapters of his new book, Real Church, Dr. Crabb reveals his secret that he doesn’t want to go to church anymore, and discusses the different reasons people go to church and why he should go to church. Then he describes four characteristics that he believes the “real church” would have.
Permit me to ask some contemplative questions directed to born-again believers. Do you go to what claims to be a “Bible believing” church? If so, does your church leave deep parts of you dormant, unawakened, and untouched? Do you find your church’s familiarly, the predictabilty of pattern and content boring, superficially exciting at best, where emotions sometimes get stirred that get unstirred by the time you reach your car? If you are hungry for spiritual formation, does your church or the churches you have attended just focus on solving particular social or emotional problems rather than members’ spiritual problems? Can you describe your church as little more than a “self-help” club? Are all services and classes geared toward the preaching of salvation and/or solving individual and family problems – in other words, is your church (or Bible college or seminary) no more than a spirtual kindergarten and, perhaps, grade school? Once you have mastered spiritual kindergarten and grade school, do you desire to go on to spiritual middle school, then to high school, and finally to a spiritual institution of higher learning? Does your church stop at kindergarten or grade school? Can you find a spiritual and Bible based middle school, high school, and/or institution of higher learning? Have you studied God’s Word enough to know if your church teaches and practices the whole Word of God? Do you want your church to teach and practice the whole Word of God, or do you desire only one of the Americanized and/or Bible college or seminary versions of the Word of God which leave out or pervert many doctrines such as the doctrines of persecution, walking in the spirit, spiritual warfare, church, government, and separation of church and state, etc.? If you do go to church, do you want to go to church because you love church, or because of some inadequate reason such as “it is the right thing to do”? Are you disappointed, frustrated, and concerned with church? Do you want to know what kind of church God envisioned – in other words, do you want to know and understand the biblical doctrine of the church – for example do you know the biblical definition, organization, and purposes of a church, that the church is analogized as the bride and wife of Christ who is the likened unto the bridegroom and husband of the church, that “Christ loved the church and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5.25), that Christ wants to be the only head of His church and churches (see, e.g. Ephesians 5.23 and Colossians 1.18), and how a church acquires another head in addition to Christ, thereby grieving the Savior?
If you have turned away from going to church, maybe that is because most churches have “a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof ” (see 2 Timothy 4.3). Without a doubt, this is a time of heresy and apostasy in most churches in America. 2 Timothy 2 deals with the path of a good Christian soldier (and everyone who is saved has been enlisted in God’s spiritual army; many have gone AWOL) in time of apostasy. Have you put on the whole armor of God (see Ephesians 6.10-18)?
2 Timothy 3 predicts the coming apostasy and the believer’s resource – the Scriptures.
2 Timothy 4 describes a faithful servant and his faithful Lord. The faithful servant is commanded: “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2)(emphasis mine). “All” means “all.” Many pastors and Christians – including most pastors and Christians in “Bible believing” churches – do not preach and teach “all” biblical doctrines because there are many who will “not endure sound doctrine” and will “heap to themselves teachers, having iching ears” (2 Timothy 4.3). And, after all, should some of those humanistic members leave, the religious organization could not pay for many perceived necessities such as legitimate biblical ministries (in the case of some churches) as well as buildings, programs, salaries, retirement benefits for their “clergy,” salaries for employees, etc.
In short, religious modernism (humanism) which caters to the “happiness of man” rather than the “glory of God” (biblical) has captured, to varying degrees, most American churches, including many or most “Bible believing” churches as well as the mega-churches and many smaller churches whose pastors and leaders have flocked to seminars given by mega-church leaders and copied their humanistic, as opposed to biblical, techniques. These churches “have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof” to a greater or lesser degree. As to spiritual matters, people in those churches are “ever learning, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (see 2 Timothy 3.7).
Religious modernism failed, with a few exceptions, when it first hit America in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; but it has again raised its ugly head and is now succeeding. Religious modernism destroyed the churches in Europe, and is now in the process of destroying the churches in America. The “church growth movement,” is fueled by humanism and caters to the flesh or to the self. One who seeks fleshly, as opposed to spiritual, satisfaction, always seeks more fleshly satisfaction. Sooner or later, the more fleshly a church becomes, the more heretical she becomes and eventually total apostasy results. On the spiritual level, the greater fleshly craving is being satisfied by ever more evil spiritual movements such as the “emerging church movement” (see 2 Timothy 3.1-7; 4.3-4).
For many people both saved and lost, once they realize that what they are seeking (true spirituality and/or spiritual growth) cannot be found in church, many of them go to the coffee shops (or to some false religion) rather than to church; they are drinking coffee and seeking happiness (through false religion or worldly activities, etc.) rather than seeking to glorify God by lighting the world; walking in the Spirit in knowledge, understanding, and wisdom; fighting the spiritual warfare they have been called to fight; and winning souls.
In conclusion I quote from the article “I don’t want to go to church anymore”: “‘I hope people get away from the idea that God is a genie that you rub a lamp and call it a prayer and you get everything you want. That is not how it works at all,’ Crabb said in the interview. ‘I just hope people would see this is an incredible privilege that there is a vision for the church that is so high and lofty that it is only possible only through people who are fully dedicated to Christ. Hopefully we will get people moving in that direction.'”
P.S. My inspiration for this article was my own observations and experiences and the article “I don’t want to go to church anymore” which can be seen at http://www.prophecynewswatch.com/September03/0382.html.