What is the greatest threat facing the church today? OK maybe I change it to “What is ONE OF the greatest threats….” It’s a question every pastor comes around to asking sooner or later. It’s certainly is a question many books have been written to address and are still being writing about today, so I might as well throw in my two cents worth.
Some of the things I hear around the traps are cultural differences, materialism, post modernism, the rise of Islam, feminism just to name a few. I remember asking the pastor what he believed was the greatest threat to the church in his city. He couldn’t think of anything. OK let me suggest that one of the greatest threat is forgetfulness. We keep forgetting the gospel and being distracted from it and so in the end we abandon it. Sadly I regularly hear of people who were once firmly rooted in the gospel but have now forgotten it.
How do people forget? Very simply. We forget because many of us constantly assume that we know, or that others know the gospel and because of this we stop preaching the gospel to ourselves and to others.
So we have parents who constantly assume their children are Christians and therefore never help them to understand the gospel. Instead what they do is to keep talking to them about how to live the Christian life and how to serve. The end result is moralism and legalism.
We have preachers who constantly assume their people are well taught in the scriptures and so believe that what they need is not to be taught the gospel again but to be challenged to serve, to pray, to read the bible more etc etc. The end result is a works based faith which is not rooted in the gospel.
And we are bound to forget when we say to ourselves “Yeah I know all this but I need something more than this!”
I’ve seen churches where this is clearly the case. I’ve talked to long standing church member in many churches who do not have the foggiest idea of what the gospel is. I remember hearing one lady trying to “evangelise” an unbeliever by telling them to obey the 10 commandments, go to church and pray. I remember speaking to many young people who have been going to church for many years. When I asked them what it means to be a Christian and what the gospel is they struggled to rattle it off.
We accept people to be members of our church on the assumption that they understand what the gospel but soon find out that have no clue what it is.
I remember a classic example of this many years ago. I was attending one of our young workers church canps. During free time I was chatting to one of the guys (Let’s call him Bill – Not his real name, besides he is no longer at our church) who had been coming for about a year but whom I had not met as yet (I had just started working in the church) Anyway I asked him if he was a Christian to which he said no, so I took the opportunity to share the gospel to him. By God’s grace he accepted Jesus as Lord and saviour. Anyway we went back to the rest of the group and shared that Bill had become a Christian. The response was astonishing. Everyone else had assumed he was already a Christian so never bothered to share the gospel to him. Unfortunately I find this happens far too often in many churches.
Forgetfulness is a thing which the bible constantly warns God’s people not to do. Many times Moses warned his people, before they entered the Promised Land, not to forget all that God had done for them in bringing them to where they are (Deut 4:9,23; 6:12; 8:11,14,19. So it’s no surprise that one thing God constantly calls his people to do is to “remember”. (Just type in “remember” in your online bible and check it out yourself)
The threat of “forgetting” the gospel is a serious problem I find in so many churches and the consequences are dire. As I said above, it eventually leads to a moralism and legalism that has no power to change or to tranform the world.
So what can we do to ensure that we and our church do not “Forget” the gospel? Here are a few things.
a. At church, if you meet someone you’ve never met before or have never had a good conversation with then make it a point to ask them if they are a Christian and if so how they became a Christian? I head up a leadership conference and I made it a point to say to my team members every year to never assume the delegates are Christians. During the conference I saw many of my team members sharing the gospel to the delegates. Many had come thinking they were Christians but sadly did not know what the gospel was or was confused about it. So don’t assume!
b. As a matter of encouragement and conversation make it a point to ask people if there are any theological issues or questions they are wrestling through. It’s amazing the number of people I find at church wrestling with burning questions. I remember speaking to one youth leader who couldn’t work out why he had to read the bible.
c. Make a decision in the bible study group and in the preaching program to regularly and annually work through your Statement of beliefs
d. Make it a point to take new members through a membership class where the gospel is clearly explained and expounded.
e. Encourage parents to make it a point to teach their children the truths of the gospel regularly and consistently.
If we all get into these habit we might avoid one of the greatest threats facing our churches today and for generations to come – the danger of forgetting the gospel.