Over the last several years a clear trend has emerged - people who claim to be Christ-followers are going to church less often, serving less and giving less. There are a lot of reasons for this trend. Kids' activities are becoming more and more overwhelming in terms of time commitment. There is an increase in the number of people that struggle to hang out in large crowds or make friends in groups. The rise of online church options has made it easy to stay home and watch a service. Some people have lost confidence in the “institutional” church because of real issues they experienced or have seen. Some people just got out of the habit during the pandemic and formed new habits on Sundays. I see parents say they want their kids to grow up to love Jesus, but only engage with the Bride of Christ when nothing else is happening.
Here’s my concern - America is going the way of Europe spiritually. Some may say that smaller, less institutional meetings will take over, pointing to movements in nations like China and North Korea. But I believe a better comparison is Europe. We are not a persecuted nation. We are a nation that is increasingly becoming completely secular. What that means is that your children and grandchildren will have a hard time finding a gathering of believers with which to worship, fellowship and be equipped to reach the culture for Jesus. Part of the fault for this trend lies in the fact that churches have not done a good job of equipping people to make disciples, so there are fewer and fewer believers. This is a shift our church made years ago. It is a constant fight to keep disciple making as the main focus.
Right now, you need to decide what spiritual legacy you will leave for the next generation. Yes - you. It’s up to you. It’s up to every one of us. We have reached a tipping point where every believer must be all-in on the mission Christ gave us or we will reap the results of our apathy. I believe with all my heart, we won’t be ok with those results. So what do we all need to do in order to leave a vibrant spiritual legacy to the children in our communities?
We need to pray. Every revival and major move of God started with prayer. Our success as a nation has made us less dependent on God. We need to understand the urgency of the situation and desperately seek God’s power and direction. We need to not just pray for a general move of God. We need to ask God to show us how our lives should be reordered around the mission. We need to ask God to show us people around us that are becoming curious spiritually. We need to pray for people we wish would become spiritually open. We need to pray for opportunities to share our faith. We need to pray for the leaders of our churches. Many pastors have struggled and many have resigned coming out of the pandemic.
We need to make disciples. We have no more time for pew sitters who aren’t on mission. If you call yourself a Christ-follower, for your own personal growth, you need to be seeking to tell others about Jesus. I say, “for your own personal growth,” because you are not a mature believer unless you are a reproducing believer. Jesus called us to be fishers of men. The goal is not to come and listen to sermons and good music. The goal is not to be in 5 Bible studies a week. Those activities are important, but they should lead to making disciples. When I talk about making disciples, I’m not talking about just handing everyone you see a tract. I’m not talking about asking one question as a set-up and then dropping Gospel bombs on people who aren’t interested. I’m talking about walking with people. I’m talking about asking good questions to see if they are becoming open and continuing to ask questions to help them see what they are really seeking. I’m talking about constantly asking the Holy Spirit to show you the next step for the person you are leading. In other words, I’m talking about a real investment in a person.
We need to serve. In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul talks about how important every part of the body of Christ is. You have a role that is important to your local church. The body of Christ has been playing hurt for far too long because parts of the body are not functioning. When you look at how Paul describes the body of Christ, it becomes obvious that the church can be an unbelievably powerful force when it is functioning at full capacity. Many Christians want to be a part of a growing church that is seeing powerful things happen, but they are ok with the church operating without all its parts. Too often we have a maintenance mindset. In other words, we just think the goal is to keep the few things we see happening going. Ask any Pastor and he will tell you about amazing things he would like the church to be doing, but he can’t right now because he is short on volunteers.
We need to give. Why? Well first of all, for our own spiritual growth. Over and over, the Bible talks about the ways that giving grows your faith, makes you less materialistic, and brings joy to your life. But we also need to give to drive the mission forward. Some people are frustrated with the “institutional” church. They don’t want to support salaries and buildings. Of course, churches also support missionaries, local ministries, outreach into the community and many other things. But this mindset is a massive underestimation of the spiritual growth and life-change that comes through churches. We act as if paying a staff to teach people how to walk with God and make disciples has no value. Imagine a nation where there are no visible churches, or no pastors who have time to train other upcoming pastors or coach people in disciple-making. If the church you attend isn’t seeing life-change, that would be a major concern. You should always look to see what you could do to change that culture. But if nothing you could do would change that, I would find a church that is making disciples and give there. Here’s another radical thought: Even if you attend a church that is making a real difference, consider giving a regular donation above what you give to your church to another up-and-coming church that is making a difference. We are at the point that we need to be willing to give anywhere we see God working. I can personally tell you that churches that are reaching brand new people for Christ do not have enough consistent givers.
We need to develop deep connections. We all need to move beyond attending and actually be intentional to invest in relationships throughout the church. Too many people see church as existing just for them. So if they don’t feel like they need to be in a small group, they don’t go. What if we flipped that mindset? What if we asked, “Where might my influence or encouragement be needed? Who should I be pouring into?” The truth of the matter is, whether you feel like you need it or not, you desperately need deep connections with other believers. But what would it look like if you went to a small group asking those questions? You would be more likely to invite someone from your group to lunch to talk about that prayer request they shared. You would be more likely to take someone a coffee at their job because you know they are having a hard week. I guess a lot of people would know that you are Christ’s disciple (John 13:35). And how would this mindset change how you serve in Children’s Ministry alongside that teenager that helps you? Instead of just getting through the morning, would it cause you to meet early with them and pray for the things they are facing? Could you become that extra voice in their life and solidifies what their parents and youth pastor are telling them?
Some would assume that, as a Pastor, I’m writing this because I want people to help make my church great. I’m always excited to see more and more people jumping on board with the work God has given us, but this isn’t something I want from you. It’s something I want FOR you. First of all, the things I have listed here are all a part of being a growing Christ-follower. Second, your kids need to see you be passionate about these things. Third, if you are a Christ-follower and you aren’t all-in on these things, I would guarantee you that you aren’t going to like the future that your actions will bring into reality.