The Church Series (”No Need To Change?”)Pt. 37 (WARNING)
Satan’s power of deceptive work continues unabated today. How else could we explain why the church in one of the world’s most Christianized nations is declining, and why most growing churches get more than 90 percent of their growth by rustling believers from other churches? Clearly, the church is moving in directions that do not result in people being reconciled to God in meaningful numbers.
How can this be? What good are our theological studies, strategies, and millions of person-hours and dollars expanded in ministry if they do not result in people being reconciled to God? Interestingly, resent studies demonstrate that believers in churches that are stagnant or declining usually believe their churches are winning many people to God. Other studies demonstrate that leaders of growing churches are completely unaware that their growth is nearly based on transfers from other churches; they regularly overestimate the percentage of converts in their churches by five to fifteen times the actual figure.
How likely is it that churches will face the pain of seeking out new directions when they already believe they’re on the winning track? When Satan convinces Christians that their ineffective and misdirected efforts are successful, he guarantees they’ll continue in those same ways. To overthrow his deception, we must be willing to withstand the pain of looking honestly at our own failures.
Individual Christians have just as much trouble facing their own failures as do churches. How many believe they are faithfully serving God but haven’t led anyone to Christ or disciple anyone in years, and have actually stopped trying? Facing our own ineffectiveness for God requires a strong grasp of grace. Only believers operating under the grace paradigm will be emboldened to admit they haven’t found the way. Grace gives us both the courage to admit we’re failing and the strength to succeed. If we’re soft on grace, looking at our failure will only result in demoralization.
Facing our failure is also a voluntary act of sacrificial suffering. The agony of soul caused by looking squarely at failure is one aspect of bearing the cross. How many times have you been brought to tears before God over your inability to advance his mission in this world? Not often?—Never? What’s wrong with this picture? Only those willing to suffer the pangs caused by honestly assessing their own ineffectiveness will have the necessary drive and creativity to discover successful paths.
God granted me the opportunity to practice this a few years ago. For many complicated reasons that I don’t fully understand, I had a miserable two years with no spiritual growth, and that wasn’t my usual experience. Even though we appeared to be a thriving ministry, it was stalemate to an alarming degree and a number of other signs were negative.
Our top leadership was doomed to spending long hours of painful questioning and analysis; that everyone outside the family knew the answers, but no one willing to tell the truth. Was God just giving us a chance to consolidate the gain of earlier years? Or was it one of the far more likely reasons: sin in the church, ineffective ministry methods, a hardening field of ministry? Anyone who has engaged in a lengthy assessment like this knows how painful it is ti care from the deepest part of your heart but face an overall gloomy outlook.
God often calls Christians to serve in failure. Nearly every servant of God in the Bible had to withstand profound failure at times. Some lie Jeremiah and Isaiah, had to withstand failure all the time. Nobody ever listened to these men of God, and all the consequences they wanted people about eventually came to pass. This could happen to us. But are we willing to become weeping prophets over our failure like they were? Or will we comfort ourselves by buying in to Satan’s delusion that we’re doing fine?
Results in ministry are not our first calling. Servants of God “must be faithful” no matter what (1 Corinthians 4:2). God is more interested in faithfulness than in results. But Paul also say, “Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air” (I Corinthians 9:29). He explains, “Though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more” (1 Corinthians 9:19). Paul saw faithfulness as the first priority, but results also matter. After all, Jesus told us to “make disciples of all the nations’ (Matthew 28:19), not merely to have good intentions.
By breaking our overall ministry down into smaller parts, we can see more clearly how Satan uses diversion to misguide our efforts. Remember Moses’ father in law, he saw all that he did to the people, he said, What is this thing that thou doest to the people? (Exodus 18:14) Like Moses to many leaders are allowing God’s people to sit in longs lines Sunday after Sunday and only gets kibbles and bits of what God has for them. And Moses’ father in law said unto him, The thing that thou doest is not good. (Exodus 18:17) This is the very reason so for transfer of membership in today’s churches, they come unto me to enquire of God. One or two men are trying to do what God equipped the Body to do.
Jethro told Moses, this is way too much for you—you can’t do this alone. Your job is to teach them the rules and instructions, to show them how to live, what to do. And then you need to keep a sharp eye out for competent men—men who fear God, men of integrity, men who are incorruptible—and appoint them as leaders over groups; Satan has deceived the elect! It is time for a change!!!