The first complication(s) - I've been suffering from so major writer's block / spiritual doldrums (all my fault) / general frustration with life. Enough of that...
Whenever we visit someone in the hospital, we know things are serious when they are "suffering from complications". I believe that we as Christians today and, in a larger sense, the church, are suffering from complications. These "complications" are causing our mission and message to become muddled. Therefore, without a clear message, I believe it's hard to reach those looking at Christianity from the "outside".
As evidence, an Associated Press story on April 25th, highlighted the decline in Southern Baptist membership.
Total membership was 16,266,920 last year, down nearly 40,000 from 2006.My biggest concern is that there is a trend not just in the Southern Baptist Convention, but among all protestant churches. The number of people that are "Unaffiliated" continues to grow. To me, this is a sign that the Christians and the protestant church in general are suffering from complications. Looking further:
The dropping number of followers in the nation's largest Protestant denomination reflects a trend in other mainline Protestant churches, while non-denominational churches are gaining and the ranks of the unaffiliated are growing.
Part of the blame can be placed on a notion that Baptists have been known too much in recent years for "what we're against" than "what we're for," Page said.For clarity, these quotes are from Rev. Frank Page, the current Southern Baptist Convention president. However, I believe this statement has broader implications beyond Baptist churches. This is where the "complications" come in.
"Our culture is increasingly antagonistic and sometimes adverse to a conversation about a faith in Christ," he said. "Sometimes that's our fault because we have not always presented a winsome Christian life that would engender trust and a desire on the part of many people to engage in a conversation on the Gospel.
Instead of the complications you might be thinking of, mine are different. I believe that we as Christians are over-complicating the message of the Gospel. How? the message of the Gospel is very simple. To use the simple ABC Gospel formula, becoming a Christian is simply:
- Admit - Admit that you've done things God doesn't like. Admit that even in a world that doesn't believe in the concepts of "right" and "wrong", you've done things that are wrong.
- Believe - Believe that God sent His Son to take the penalty for the things you've done wrong. Believe that Jesus died for your wrongdoings and as a result of the penalty He paid, you can now be forgiven for those things you've done wrong.
- Commit - Commit to live your life differently than you did before. Commit to learn more about Jesus and learn how to follow His teachings.
But, what do we do on Sundays? As I've posted before, I believe we run the risk of getting the method before the message. The effectiveness of our worship is measured based on the quality of the media, music, lighting, artists and the emotion they engender. Sermons are graded on how they make us feel or how edgy and current they might be.
Then, we grade who should attend church based on how they dress, what problems they currently have (and should correct before they attend), the color of their skin, their nationality, their economic status and what they can "add" to our church. Lastly, we determine what ministries to offer or which groups we try to reach based on who we want to be around or what exposure will our church get for this project.
All of these items add complexity to a message, method and purpose that should be simple. The challenge? Don't let your Christian walk or your church suffer from serious complications. Simplify. Ensure that you're clearly conveying the message of the Gospel, which is strong enough to stand on its own. Also, remember the Gospel applies to everyone.
Now Playing: "Crash and Burn" by Old Man Shattered
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