Things Are True
by Dan Coburn
Pastor, Emmanuel Baptist Church
I recently read some statistics about evangelical churches in America, and was saddened. It seems a good percentage of them are what we call plateaued, or even in decline. There are many reasons or excuses for this, some legitimate - some not. Still, in this social climate, one would think it would be going the other way. I mean, how bad does it have to get before the people will wholesale turn to God?
Let's turn the Spiritual Switch: Our relationship to God and His Church often mirrors our other relationships. In his book "Friends Forever", Jack Smith gives us several stages of relationships.
First is the "Preexisting Stage", or one that exists before any contact between two parties. What? It may be that your reputation precedes you. Two dynamics of this are that your reputation may be good or bad, and that it may be deserved or not. Many of us have pre-conceived ideas w/regard to God that are way off base.
Then there is (2) the "First Impression Stage". This is where you encounter the other party in an undeniable way. Paul's was on the road to Damascus (Acts 9) where Jesus so confronted him that he was left no choice but to make a decision. We all have our Damascus Moment but don't all come to the same conclusion.
Then there is the "Acquaintance Stage" (3), where you become ever more familiar with the other person. Some have called this the Honeymoon stage, as we only have eyes for this person. "When will he call? I hope she picks up" etc.
This leads to # 4 which is the "Maturing Relationship Stage". This can be a very comfortable time, but there is also danger. In the secular realm, this is where we may see the Seven Year Itch manifest itself. In the Religious realm, it may be our Crisis of Belief. "I find myself being drawn back into the world and my old ways. How can I really be a Christian and act/think this way? What's wrong with me? How can God love me?" This is also the place where we can be so heavenly minded that we are no worldly good.
This is where I might get to thinking: "I have arrived. I know my Bible. I read it through a couple times a year. I fast. I go. I do all the stuff. I'm very spiritual." And when someone comes to church that doesn't look like me, and talk like me, and use all the deluxe Christianese lingo I have perfected, I make sure they know they are not welcome. I make it clear to the leadership of the church that it's either them or me, but someone has to go. We can forget the Prime Directive - that Jesus came to "seek and to save that which was lost", and "as the Father has sent me, so send I you". We can forget we are Commanded to love. We can forget the - "In as much as you have done it to the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me" principal. We neglect to be all things to all people that perhaps we might reach one. We forget that "God hath set the members every one of them in the body as it hath pleased him." 1st Cor. 12:18 If that's true, and it is, then when I criticize someone in God's Church, I am criticizing God or at least His judgment. Why are we here? To bear fruit. Do you really want to tell God you only like bananas and not pears?
I'm not talking about compromising our faith or our critical doctrine. I am talking about forgiving others as I require forgiveness; and I require a pile of forgiveness. You are never more like Christ than when you are loving the unlovely. God Bless.