Anyone who does not think the church faces incredible challenges has not been reading current books and literature on the subject.
Anyone who does not think the church faces
incredible challenges has not been reading current books and literature
on the subject. Actually, one can be deeply challenged – if not
frightened – by current trends addressed by excellent literature.
An excellent book, “The Present Future: Six Tough
Questions for the Church” by Reggie McNeal contemplates the challenges
our society presents the church. McNeal is consultant and church
leadership developer for the South Carolina Baptist Convention.
In his brief (148 pages) volume, he presents six
“New Realities.” Each of these “realities” presents the church with
significant challenges, any one of which can cause a church to rethink
the way it goes about being church.
Readers may not agree with all his premises or the
way he believes a church should go about meeting them, but he will stop
the reader dead in his/her tracks considering them.
Along with this provocative book are the results of
Lifeway’s recent survey of ministers. The survey included 1,300
ministers in North America and Europe. The study presented subjects
with 3,700 issues and asked them to select the top 10 most challenging
issues. The results were not particularly surprising. The top 10 issues
selected by participants are, in ascending order:
The church’s lack of an effective response to 30-plus years of legalized abortion.
The rising social pressure to accept same-sex behavior and relationships.
The seeming inability of the church to answer questions one has living in the “real world.”
The negative effects on families that result from divorce, adultery, etc.
The seeming lack of personal interest, support and enthusiasm from the pews for the work of the church.
The growing pressure to compromise principles to
make truths more palatable to an audience and the widening influence of
explicit anti-Christian culture and negative influences on the church.
The decline among Christians in personal sharing of the gospel.
The need for clear, biblical vision and direction by church leaders.
The need for involvement of every believer in being continually transformed into the image of Christ.
The need for more ongoing, passionate prayer in both personal and church life.
One may put a different order on these issues, but
most church members would agree on these basic issues, plus or minus
one or two.
What does all of this mean?
Basically, it means there exists an incredible need
for believers to take with ultimate seriousness their faith and what
the Apostle Paul calls, “living out your salvation.”
The church has faced tremendous challenges
throughout its history. And each generation of believers has somehow –
with God’s leadership and power – met their challenges and emerged
stronger, more vibrant, more evangelistic and more mission-minded.
The question facing today’s churches and individual
believers is this – are we willing to pay the price to face our
challenges and emerge stronger, more vibrant and more evangelistic and
The church emerged victoriously in each generation
because enough believers were willing to pay whatever price they were
called upon to pay. The victories were not delivered on a silver
platter but on the sweaty brows of people willing to be used of God in
the struggle of good and evil. In short, they were willing to sacrifice
So, the question comes to this present generation –
“Are we willing to lay aside our comfort and our self-centeredness to
surrender ourselves to Christ and take up our crosses and follow him
through the incredible challenges the church faces?”
Christ was definite – “the gates of hell” shall not
be victorious over the church. But that is a promise that will be
played out in history and does not mean that individual churches will
not fold in their effectiveness without their best efforts and
Cultural changes are presenting the church of this
generation with more severe challenges than some previous generations
have faced. Are we deep enough in our faith to be used of God to
reverse trends and meet challenges? That question must be answered by
individual believers and individual churches. If the question is not
asked, and believers do not answer in the affirmative, the church has
some incredibly interesting days ahead.