So, what did you think? Yesterday I shared an article by Thom Rainer about the symptoms of sick churches, and it was eye-opening for some. Typically, all of us develop tunnel vision when it comes to our churches. We become so accustomed to the way things have always happened that we often fail to see the trends until the situation becomes dire. It’s like the parable (not biblical parable) of the frog in the kettle. If you drop a frog in a pot of hot water, he will immediately jump out, but if you put him into the pot with cool water and gradually turn up the heat, he will swim around until he dies from the increased heat. Like the frog, we are swimming in the pot where the temperature is rapidly approaching critical. What do we need to do? We need to turn up the heat!
“Wait a minute,” you say, “that doesn’t make any sense.” Yes, our first reaction would be to get out of the pot or turn down the heat or throw some ice into the hot water. Get the temperatures down to where we can survive. But that is our problem in the church. We have become cold and lifeless when Jesus says that we need to be hot – white hot with passion for Him and for the world. We need to turn up the heat in our churches if we are going to survive.
How do we do that? Our typical response in a Baptist Church is to form a committee, have a bunch of meetings, and talk about the problem (see number 6 from Thom Rainer’s list.) I will admit that I am guilty of doing just that. Some churches decide it’s the fault of the current staff or lack of staff so they hire more staff and replace others. Seldom is that the solution to the problem. So we talk about it even more which typically leads to frustrations that turn into arguments (see number 7 from yesterday) that take away our joy in worship and our focus from what we need to be doing (see numbers 3, 4, and 5) that causes our members to stay away (see number 2) and guests from attending (see numbers 1 and 8).
So, what is the answer? It is so simple, you probably won’t believe it. Some of you might even want to argue the point. You see, we are human beings who were created by God to work. Yes, work! In Genesis, we read that Adam was created to work the Garden, and it was an enjoyable experience until sin entered the world. And even if you hate your job and wish you didn’t have to work, you were created to do it. That’s why people have such a hard time with grace – God’s undeserved favor. That’s why people can’t understand that salvation is a gift freely offered by God. They want to earn God’s favor. They want to deserve His gift. They believe they have to do some incredible task to be saved, but the Bible says we just have to believe and receive. So what do we do? We try to clean up our lives and come to God. You can’t do that. God is the only one who can do the appropriate cleaning. We try to give more money so that God will be pleased. It’s all His anyway, so why would giving Him what is already His please Him? We look to do some heroic task all for the purpose of finding God’s favor because we have taken the Divine Image in which we were created that puts within us a need to work and we have corrupted it as we do so very often, but we could never work hard enough to gain God’s gift of salvation.
So what is the answer? Prayer! Not the “Now I lay me down to sleep” kind of prayer. Not the “God is great, God is good” kind of prayer. Not the “lead, guide and direct” kind of prayer. The effectual fervent prayer of the righteous – that is what is needed. The passionate kind of prayer like Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Not my will, but Yours be done.” We need the kind of prayer that comes from broken and contrite hearts that recognize that we are hopeless and helpless unless God moves in our lives and in our churches. We need the kind of prayer that says, “God, show me everything in my life that displeases you – attitudes and actions – so that I might confess them as sin before You and be cleansed.” We need the kind of prayers that remind us that we have offended our brothers and sisters in Christ and send us to them to make things right. We need the kind of prayer that moves us to repentance.
Charles Spurgeon, the “prince of preachers,” was showing some guests around his church one day. They really wanted to know why God was blessing his ministry the way that he was. So he took this group down to the basement into the boiler room. The guests were confused. Why here? What could possibly happen here that could bring God’s blessings upon this church? When he opened the door, their confusion turned to amazement as they saw people passionately praying for the church, for their pastor, for their city, and for the lost. Spurgeon said something to the effect, “This is where the power comes from” (my paraphrase). And my friends, that is true even today.