As a former youth director/minister, I very much relied on Group Magazine as a “resource” for lessons, games, etc. in the early years. As I prayed and studied God’s Word more and more, I began to see that this resource was taking things of the world and trying to fit God into some of the things that were appealing to youth/children/adults in the church.
I received this article (The Rise of the Dones) in my email this morning and was reminded that the focus of this resource is to appeal to the target to draw them in… of course, the age-old idea of “ministry” has been to do what we have to to get the crowds in and then “market” Christ. How many times do we see, or have we seen, many come in, pray a prayer, join the church, and within a few months, they are gone… or how many times have we, who have worked with youth ministry, seen the “youth” disappear when it is time to stop entertaining them and time for them to join the adults in “big church?”
This article talks about the number of “devoted adults” who have been in church most of their lives, they are the ones who have taught, studied, tithed, and lead others in the church, and they are leaving…they are “done.” The solution offered in the article is once again, to poll the “audience” to see what they want and jump over hoops to “keep them happy” and keep them coming back… entertaining them.
As I have gotten older and studied God’s Word more… to learn how to have a real relationship with Him, to learn more about Who God is, and not so much about “what can He do for me,” I have been impressed with how, for so long, my focus on ministry was so completely wrong. The polling, collecting data, meeting with committees for ideas, entertaining the masses, “give them what they want” concept still isn’t working. Why? Because humans are fickle, humans are never satisfied, humans are selfish…. apart from God, isn’t that who we really are, lovers of the world, of sin, of doing the the things that make us feel good about ourselves. After all, sermons and songs that really make us feel our depravity and lead us to conviction just are not popular. We don’t want to feel “brow beaten.” We don’t want to deal with the things that break us and tear us apart so we can really see why we need Christ. So in finding a solution for “keeping people in church,” WHY ON EARTH would we keep doing this over and over and over?? By now, it seems to me, there should be a clear sign that “giving the people what they want” isn’t working!! Even in the 387 comments to this article, mostly people who are “churched” or in ministry, prove that we are a fallen race full of selfishness and pride….and that was only with a scan through them. After the first few, I couldn’t stand to read more, because it was so reminiscent of those “committee” meetings from my past.
How about something new and revolutionary (actually very old and goes all the way back to such teachers as Paul, James, Peter, and even Christ, Himself). What about asking God what HE wants for our churches? How about challenging and encouraging our members, oldest to youngest, to grow, not in a relationship with other church members, but with God. How about discipling those members who have been there “forever” to ever grow Godward? Growing in a vertical relationship with God will never be “done.” What if, because we aren’t entertaining, our numbers begin to drop? Does that mean that we are to stop sharing Christ? No, it just means that you will have to carry the Gospel to them, not bring them to you. It means allowing God to do the work in them and putting more trust in Him and His Sovereignty than you ever have before…..talk about stepping out in faith… Begin preaching and teaching that sin is ever present in the lives of your members. Begin calling members to repentance from hidden sin. Begin pointing out to each other sins you have overcome and how you can pray for and support them as they relinquish that sin to Christ. It would mean we would have to actually get out in the trenches and get dirty, be uncomfortable, have less suits and church clothes and more work clothes. It would mean there may not be a need for mega-churches full of “megatron” screens, basketball courts, bowling allies, huge sound systems and concerts. How about turning everything we do in “the Church” to point to God and not to look like the world to seduce and entice people to come in? Have we become so faithless that we believe that if we don’t entertain the masses, God can’t do His saving work in the lives of His people?? This is just a thought, but could it be the breakdown of churches, the masses that are “leaving” the church, the ones who are “done” or the youth who leave before ever becoming one of those foundation members, is because God is doing a work to show churches that they, like the Israelites, became adulterous to Him, trying to please by looking like the world, by feeding the desires of sin, and throwing a little Jesus in here and there? Until we take the focus off of what “we” want and completely turn the focus to what God would have us do, “churches” will never completely succeed…
Remember in Leviticus chapter 10, when Aaron’s sons didn’t do what God wanted them to do, they didn’t follow His directions in worship and in the job of the priests? They were being “innovative” trying something new… Leviticus 10:1-2 Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. 2 And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. 3 Then Moses said to Aaron, “It is what the Lord spoke, saying, ‘By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy,
And before all the people I will be honored.’” So Aaron, therefore, kept silent.
These priests were destroyed because they offered something God didn’t command. Pray about whether or not your church is offering strange fire before God? Are we really treating God as holy in most churches? Recent research has shown that there has been a huge drop in reverence toward God in our churches…in the area of youth and adults, alike. Is it because we have been too busy allowing the desires of the people and not of a Holy God?
Sorry this has been so lengthy… it is just what God impressed upon me this morning, reading this article, and I felt the need to share. If you don’t agree, feel free to disagree, but I ask that if you share your disagreement, give Scripture to back up filling churches by offering the desires of the people… because I could be missing something!!