The Heart of God
I wonder. I wonder if the Western church continues to share the heart of God for lost people. There was a time when the church was all about lost sheep. Songs and hymns were written to encourage the Body to be about the business of the Lord. Mission efforts at home and abroad defined ministry. Revival occurred. People noticed, and like the church in Acts, new souls were being added daily.
Today, we have been led to believe that the church in the West is in decline. Maybe so, in Europe. But what about here at home? Is the church getting smaller? Granted, lots of churches are closing each year. What’s more, a number of smaller churches are joining with well-financed mega operations that can sustain costs and programming. But is the church truly declining?
“Well not really,” says Thom Rainer. Apparently the church has been hovering between the 20% - 25% level for many years. About a quarter of the population is actively involved. What “active” means is another story. But let’s put it in context. 25% of the country are non interested in God or his church. 25% are cultural Christians. That means that due to the fact they were born in the USA and the USA is supposedly a Christian nation, they claim to be Christian as well. 25% are nominal Christians. They may still attend on Christmas and Easter and may still desire a Christian wedding or funeral, but they are in no way active. So that leaves the top tier as the group most resembling the church of the New Testament.
What’s happening in our culture is that the top and bottom tiers are somewhat solid. Those in the middle, however, are moving downwards. They are not being raised up and welcomed into the church. In this sense, the church is losing the battle and failing to see significant numbers of the “lost” or “un-churched” come to faith. We are holding our own through generational growth and to some extent through the immigration of Christians from South America, Africa, and Asia.
But back to the question...do we share the heart of God for lost people? (Read Luke 15.) Are those outside a higher priority than those within? It doesn’t look like it. I draw that conclusion on the basis that if the church were truly making a priority of ensuring that everyone would be saved (1 Timothy 2:4) we would be realizing miraculous growth across our country. Revival would return. Things would be different. So, based on statistics alone, we seem to be falling short.
And then there is the prevailing attitude in the American church that often seems to disregard Christ’s teachings on humility. Humble spirits put the needs of others ahead of their own. Humble spirits never battle to have things their own way, or to demand their rights. They are not complainers or church-hoppers. They are joyful servants, joyful stewards, and great team players. They take the Word of God seriously and follow his lead in building his kingdom by constantly sharing their faith and seeing others brought to Jesus. Right now, the Western church is longing for such disciples.
Well, we can’t affect those in other congregations. We can’t change the culture on the coasts or even in the heartland. But we can be who God has called us to be. It is never to late to start winning this world for Jesus. How marvelous, how wonderful would it be to be a part of a church that truly shares the heart of God for others!