Jesus and the Apostles always had one purpose in mind — to advance the kingdom of God by establishing His rule in the lives of believers and drawing others into His family. None of the Apostles ever made reference to the "personal relationship with Jesus Christ" that is so common in the modern Christian vernacular. Individual faith was given birth and nurtured in the context of a caring community. It was a "one another" proposition for them, each one helping the other to grow in his or her faith. A common Christian culture was passed from one generation to the next as older, more mature Christians passed the Apostles & # 39; teaching along to younger believers.
Go It Alone Proposition
Today, Christianity is more of a "go it alone" proposition. Sermons focus on the relationship of individual believers to their Lord and rarely on their relationships with one another. They deal with attitudes more than actions. Messages on the wrath of God against sin have gone the way of preaching about hell. Christians are loath to pick up their cross when they sign up for service to Christ. Consequently, they have become more cavalier in their attitudes towards God & # 39; s Word. They pick and choose what parts to obey. Love of God has cooled, prayer has become passé, and expectation for the return of Christ has waned. Worship has morphed into performance as music and drama have become more professional in order to appeal to a clientele immersed in entertainment. Sinners are allowed to go free while their victims are urged to absolve them of their misdeeds. Pastors tell us how to get the most from our spiritual experience, but to what end? Just to serve ourselves?
How does our faith benefit anyone else or advance the kingdom of Christ today? Only one in twenty believers has ever led another person to Christ. Just six percent tithe. The modern church has become the Laodicean church — wealthy, self-satisfied, and complacent, but able to recognize that it is blind, naked, poor and pitiful in God & # 39; s eyes. Christians deny the church is in desperate need of repair.
Christian leaders have not helped matters. They have replaced holistic ministry with pure pedagogy that stresses learning but places little emphasis on practical faith. They have turned churches into lecture halls and classrooms. Rather than addressing real needs on the ground as they develop, they package ministry into formal programs that are targeted to niche audiences. Like the Pharisees of old, they consider them the final authority on the Bible. They give lip service to the concept of the priesthood of the believer but do not respect the spiritual authority of the saints, especially those with no formal religious training.
Academic degrees, professional publications and recognition for scholarly achievement have replaced tassels and phylacteria. Storing up and showcasing Bible knowledge have taken the place of a radical obedience to the will of God. Ministry has become almost entirely didactic — a matter of applying the spiritually correct solution to the dilemma du jour. If you doubt it, just go to any Christian forum and look at the responses to the fears and insecurities of troubled inquirers. Everyone has a good word. No one ever offers a helping hand.
Once hallmarks of the faith, willingness to suffer shame for the name of Christ, to take a public stand against His enemies, to address social evils and to sacrifice temporal wealth for eternal riches are all but absent from church leadership today. Instead they remain content to stay within the friendly confines of their churches where they can teach and preach without fear of reprisal. Larger buildings, larger audiences, better preaching and more professional performances have become the metrics of achievement. Reliance upon the word of religious experts has replaced reliance on the Holy Spirit and the infallible Word of God. But commitment to a caring community, accountability, self-sacrificing service and the advance of Christ & # 39; s kingdom in anticipation of His return are sorely wanting.