Some Things Are Just Not Very Wise...

If Your Little Church or Chapel is Struggling to Keep Existing, Could There Be Reasons For This?

Could the Fear of Making Decisions be a Problem?

Some 'balancing acts' are just plain dangerous!

S ome things which certain Christians and Bible-believing Churches attempt to do are really not very wise, in fact, at times, they bring Christians and Christianity into ridicule. For example, the average person is now much better educated than such a person was even fifty years ago and Christian evangelism must be prepared for this if it wants to be taken seriously. For example, I never used to get questions on relativism or on the Christian approach to 'multiculturalism' - I do now. Are we prepared for this? If not, why should anybody take us seriously?

We must understand that we no longer exist in a society in which children - on quite a large scale - were 'primed' in the basics of Christianity from an early age (either at school or Sunday School or, very often, both), indeed, modern western children are only now 'primed' in evolutionary theory; moreover, this is 'evolutionary theory' which is carelessly assumed to be fact by multitudes of science teachers who have been very carelessly trained (actually, usually under-trained since the 'numbers game' entered college and university education). This fact alone must mean that Christian apologetics and evangelism will often need to be approached and presented somewhat differently compared to fifty years ago. Disappointingly, I find that many very sincere Christians are still not recognising and properly responding to this fact.

But there are a number of areas where Christians sometimes show a truly worrying apparent lack of wisdom. Here, in our opinion, are a few of them:

1. Compromise as a Means of Survival.

I have been amazed at how often a tiny church or chapel, down to perhaps no more than 12-24 members, none of them getting any younger, considers that major compromise with the Christian message is a prescription for survival. We do know something about this because, on several occasions from 1998 to 2009 UK Apologetics has attempted to help such small, failing fellowships. In every single case we have pointed to 'strengthening the things which remain' as the best way forward, that is: to re-establish the preaching of the gospel without fear or favour. Yet I have been alarmed how often the leaders of such places have thought that compromise with modern society was the best way to get 'new people coming through the doors.' Yet, truthfully, the Church has never existed to attempt to get 'as many people as possible through the doors,' but rather, to attract those whom the Holy Spirit is convicting. In a place of worship which we sought to help within the last year, only two sermons per month were being preached yet lots of social activities were being arranged. Prayer and communion were certainly being faithfully upheld but the lack of interest in sermons and Bible studies was quite frightening. Also (and this is very common), the leaders were afraid of taking any decisions at all, and this was a situation where some decisions urgently needed to be taken! Actually, we believe that a certain decision had been made 18 months or so previous to our involvement which had exacerbated things and caused some to leave. This place of Christian fellowship is now on the verge of lapsing into a Christian-related social club rather than a gospel-preaching church. Two of the leaders agreed with us, unfortunately they seemingly had no clout among the larger group of leaders.
What can one say? Almost always, major compromises have caused the problems in the first place, yet further compromises are seen as the remedy. Paul's advice to Timothy is very helpful to us here:

2 Timothy 4:2: Preach the Word, be instant in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.
3. For a time will be when they will not endure sound doctrine, but they will heap up teachers to themselves according to their own lusts, tickling the ear.
4. And they will turn away their ears from the truth and will be turned to myths.

Interestingly, the 4-5 most biblical churches in our city do not lack numbers.

Leaders of small struggling local churches are rebuked by such words of truth (and many similar New Testament Scriptures). The answer to reducing numbers is not to retreat into a compromise with worldliness but to be ready and prepared to be valiant for the true Faith! Then let the words fall where they may, any people our Lord is calling will come, the rest are not important as far as our mission is concerned. Trouble is, too many 'modern' church leaders do not see it that way; they want a "modern, socially-relevant church," actually, truth is, they want a "modern socially-relevant" religiously-influenced social club, for they are misusing the word 'church.' Scripturally, 'Church' is only about those whom God is actively calling and working with; such people ARE Church. Yet I think it interesting that the 4-5 most biblical churches in our city do not lack numbers.

2. Refusal to Confront the Issues of Evolution.

Okay, one has to admit that this is a tricky one. Already touched on in our introduction, I utterly despair of how many generally biblical churches have no sort of position on this issue at all! Apparently, those who become members of such places may believe whatever they like on this most vital issue!
Now, we would have to agree that the older, more fundamentalist churches did not do themselves too many favours here; they were possibly too quick to pick a fight rather than to focus on the truth of the gospel proclamation. Then, as a desparate measure, some adopted the 'gap theory' (inserting thousands or even millions of years between two verses in Genesis in which, they claimed, evolution must have occurred). I think most of us now can see that to falsely impose about a million years between two Genesis verses which give no indication of any such gap was, well, lamentably foolish, quite apart from showing disrespect to the Scriptures. According to this silly theory, Darwin had been greatly misunderstood and was really a very fine man - talk about living in cloud cuckoo land! But times have now greatly changed: In an increasingly postmodern society in which evolution itself is now under serious pressure from within science, many churches really should revisit this issue, rather than to simply hope that new believers just don't raise the topic! It is obvious that liberal 'churches' have long since completely surrendered on this topic, accepting any reasoning which society in general is prepared to accept, but it is very disappointing when one finds just plain disinterest on this subject among churches which consider themselves "Bible-believing," every single such pastor should have come up with a consistent Bible-honouring position on this. We now suggest one:

It is most sensible for any biblical church in 2009 to state that it loosely supports the ID (intelligent design) movement (it does not have to say more than 'loosely'). This is not a strictly creationist movement and is based on a sound area of science with some very brilliant thinkers involved. A church might also state that it supports micro-evolution (variations in kinds and natural selection), but not macro-evolution (men descended from apes from an origin in primeval slime soup). The latter of these being even less likely now than when Darwin postulated such a schema from the scientifically-naive world of over 150 years ago (supporting fossil evidence never having been discovered). As grand evolutionary dogma comes under more and more pressure from scientists themselves, this cannot be a time for any biblical church to state that,

"acceptance of macro-evolution is entirely up to the individual and nothing to do with the gospel."

That is a statement actually issued by one UK evangelical church; it is not only far too defensive but it compromises the gospel (Jesus and Paul clearly considered Genesis to be entirely accurate and the position of the 'First Adam' is paramount where Christian theology considers the Lord Jesus as the 'Second Adam').

3. Jumping into the 'Youth Worship Style' Ditch.

Sometimes it is believed that young people will start commiting themselves to Christ in droves as long as only modern worship songs are sung, preferably by pop-style young singers (in which accompanying very noisy guitar and drums are deemed essential). In this manner (some have believed, and - worryingly - even continue to believe), many young people can be "won for Christ" thereby ensuring the future of a congregation. This of course has now been fully played out and may be seen as something which never worked and only alienated older, longer-established members. The wiser, better-led congregations are now departing from this whole idea with it's plainly flawed assumptions; they are moving to a far more balanced approach. Yet it is alarming that some still believe that very loud, rock-style worship songs will lead many to Christ. A local baptist church was steeped in this approach when my wife and I visited it around five years ago. We recently revisited and were shocked that the pop-style worship approach conducted by very young people had actually become more intense, not less.
Isn't there a time to move on to maturity and to throw away such immature and misguided gimmicks??

4. Being Too Inward-Looking.

Some churches which really need to think about expansion, have become very inward-looking. If new people do suddenly show up and show an interest in attending, they are kept at arm's-length. People may be very polite to them, yet they are generally kept at bay. This even applies to very experienced people - long-term Christians who could contribute much. In one such small church that we are aware of, a newly-attending lady and her husband experienced much of this. The lady was a professional-standard flower arranger and was dismayed to note that the 'flower arrangements' offered for services were rather poor and hardly giving honour to God the Creator. The lady said nothing for several months (fearing to tread on toes), but finally said something like,

"Look, I would not wish to interfere with your way of doing things but would you like me to contribute to the Sunday service flower arrangements? I am a professional-standard flower arranger and would love to help."

But this sincere lady was rebuffed with something like, "Oh no, that's Sally's job!" Well, apparently Sally (real name changed) was not doing the job too well, in fact, she had recently suffered health problems and would probably have loved to be relieved of this particular burden. This little church also had a 'ladies knitting group' in which babies blankets etc., were knitted for charities. As a very fine and experienced knitter, this sincere lady was encouraged to contribute but never invited to one of the group's 'knitting meetings' (which they considered "private"), these meetings even had their own, completely independent 'Bible study' ("only for us"). Any serious pastor should have become pro-active in sorting out this business, but that could not happen for two reasons: a. there was no pastor, and, b, the church was so tiny that the leaders were afraid to 'rock the boat' in case these completely independent ladies just decided to leave!
Frankly, here at UK Apologetics, we could write a long list of such examples which have been brought to our attention where small churches urgently needing some assistance have rebuffed those who could have greatly helped them. Does this say something about why such places of worship often find themselves in such a predicament? I'm afraid that long experience has certainly suggested so. Sometimes even a 'church constitution' written in the 1840s (in a world of different assumptions about future church worship patterns) paralyses leaders in reaching out for the help which they need. Example: "We would love to ask you to.............but our constitution forbids it because you are not a member!" The fact that the gentleman in question was a long-standing Christian and a very experienced preacher apparently counted for nothing when faced with a dry and dusty old local 'church constitution' which nobody had even looked at for a hundred years or more!!

Again, here at UK Apologetics, in our willingness to reach out to small, struggling congregations which request our help, we do sometimes despair.

5. "We Need More Money..."

Sometimes the lack of money and funds is used as an excuse for inadequacy in other areas including the inability to make decisions. I have occasionally made myself a little unpopular for retorting with:

"You don't need more money, you need to devote yourselves to prayer over this issue..."

Money can almost never be the answer to such problems. Frankly, sometimes the solution is to recognise that a particular town is already seemingly covered by the main denominational Christian viewpoints. Local leaders often have this rather romantic view of their own fellowship as being unique when - truth is - it is not that unique; maybe it was, a hundred years ago, but no longer. Here, emotional feelings sometimes become confused with spiritual issues and this is where an outside perspective can certainly help.

Indeed, too much money entering a congregation can sometimes lead to major problems and I have personally witnessed that happening; sometimes a wealthy congregation can become rather arrogant about the power and influence it wields and I certainly see signs of that in a big church in my own city of birth.

Okay, let us close by looking at one or two Scriptures:

Revelation 3:2: Be watchful and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die. For I have not found your works being fulfilled before God.

Revelation 3:14: And to the angel of the church of the Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Head of the creation of God, says these things:
15. I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I would that you were cold or hot.
16. So because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.
17. Because you say, I am rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing, and do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked,
18. I counsel you to buy from Me gold purified by fire, so that you may be rich; and white clothing, so that you may be clothed, and so that the shame of your nakedness does not appear. And anoint your eyes with eye salve, so that you may see.
19. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten; therefore be zealous and repent.
20. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him and he with Me.
21. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame and have sat down with My Father in His throne.
22. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

UK Apologetics, August, 2009.