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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Does the Church Have Laryngitis?

This isn’t as strange a question as it may seem at first. Let me give a brief background and ask the question again. I will readily admit that this was not copied from a book, and that personal speculation is involved, so I would ask that you stay with this just for a little while and feel free to respond or comment at the end.

In the years leading up to the Renaissance, which some scholars place the beginning around 1450, the Church was ripe with corruption. Indulgences, full or partial pardon for sin, were sold, many times to fund great building projects, ecclesiastical positions were sold, and immorality was rampant within the ranks of the priesthood, even after attempts to correct these problems. In short, except for the difference in clothing and the language used during the worship service, the average person in the pew saw very little difference between those outside the church and many of those in leadership within its walls. The Church had lost its moral authority; she had lost her voice. Textbooks will focus on the rise of mechanical technologies and free thinking as a source for the Renaissance, but few will focus on perhaps what might have been a deeper reason.

When those outside the church see no solution to their own dilemmas from those inside the church, then they must conclude that God couldn’t help His own “insiders,” so He probably can’t help them either. Since they failed to see a faith lived out that offered answers to life’s deepest issues of purpose and meaning, the focus turned inward. “Perhaps, God doesn’t exist, or perhaps this universe is a giant clock that God has wound and left to run.” Regardless, the end result was that man began to look to himself as his own solution, and humanism was born.

I wonder at times if we are not seeing something similar repeated in our day and age:
– The church in North America seems obsessed with becoming a super church, tearing down barns to build bigger ones, so much so that the interest on the debt on the loans is more than we give to missions. We seem more concerned with our comfort and convenience than the needs of a lost world.
– The church has adopted more of a corporate model of administration than a biblical one. I heard the pastor of one of these large churches being interviewed on “Larry King Live” some time back who said, “Larry, I’m the CEO of one of the largest churches in the US.” I will with hold the name, but the idea was obvious, he was CEO more than pastor.
– Some have given up shepherding the flock for herding them like cattle.
– Just as bad are those that promise that God wants to have them rich and prosperous and if they just have enough faith, God will make it happen. I heard of a believer in China, part of the underground church, who after hearing this kind of message from the United States went to his pastor to ask what sin he might have committed, since God wasn’t blessing him with riches.
– We have exchanged the biblical mandate to “go and make disciples of every nation” to “come and let us entertain you into the kingdom.”
– The divorce rate in the church is virtually the same for those outside of the church, about 50%.
– Over and over again we hear of church leadership caught up in financial coverups, and moral failures.

Is it any wonder that those without a relationship with Christ don’t look to the Church for answers when it seems like we have nothing to offer. These are by no means the issues of only large churches. Praise God for those who are stemming the tide; there are a few lights in this darkness, but on the whole it seems as if the Church has lost its voice; the Church has laryngitis. She lost her moral authority because she gave it up on an altar of self indulgence and convenience.

Even with that, the Church has not lost its responsibility to God’s call and command. Would there have been such growth in post-modern ideas of relativity, etc., if the Church had been what God had called us to be? No one can answer that question, and not much is gained by spending too much time on it. Is it too late to do anything about it? As long as there is breath, there is hope, because God is still God and still in charge. He is just as willing to fill and control us now as He has always been, but we must surrender to His Lordship. I am not down on the Church, she is the body of Christ. I love the Church and long to see her rise up as God desires. I am concerned that there are those who desire to take the place of the Head, who is Christ, alone. The Church was God’s idea, not man’s, but we must do it His way, not ours.

You might have asked, “I thought that this was a blog on worship? What happened?” You’re completely right, and here’s your answer. I think the first step toward turning things around is a time of repentance and worship.
– A time for seeing God as He Is and what He desires and ourselves as we are.
– A time for confessing, agreeing with God about how He sees us and what we have done, claiming His forgiveness and thanking Him for what He has done through Christ to make it possible that we might have a relationship with Himself.
– A time to stop and listen to the voice of God, not to tell Him our plans, but see what He is doing and to join Him in it.
A wise pastor once said that we are so busy that “we can’t see the difference between the dust of our own efforts and the cloud of the presence of God.” There may be some things we need to stop doing, there certainly are some things that He will want us to do. Let’s seek Him in worship and take the first step toward the repetition of a failure.

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