Why are so many of our churches in decline? Some reasons are easy to understand. Many churches don’t live by Scripture. Some have declined because of bad decisions and others because of splits. But, more than these, there seems to be a lethargy in our churches today.
From the 1930s through the 1960s, most churches grew. But today we hear about all the churches that are closing their doors, even when they are in growing areas. I believe part of the reason may be what people hear from the pulpit — good theology (depending on your point of view) but nevertheless producing an unintended consequence.
Many pastors have said from the pulpit, “I don’t believe in predestination, but I do believe God knows who will be saved and who will not.” This is sound theology regarding the omniscience of God. All Christians should believe that God knows everything and is not surprised by anything. But many people could reason as follows: “If God knows who will or won’t be saved, why should I pray or witness, when nothing I do will change what God already knows?”
Another statement I have heard from the pulpit or classroom is taught especially by dispensationalists: “In the end times, the world will continue to get worse until God finally gets so tired of it that He brings judgment after the Rapture.” After the Supreme Court overrode our country’s civil contract of morals and recognized homosexual marriage as legitimate, I heard a preacher say, “I can’t wait until Jesus comes back and straightens this mess out.” In his belief system, Jesus is coming back to take the church out and to judge the rest of the world. Has this become the desire of our Christian community? Have we become so callous to this world that we can’t wait for God to judge the lost and send them to an eternal hell? Have our churches become fortresses of defense instead of mission refueling stations for the purpose of spreading the gospel?
For many years, my thinking was, “If people want to die and go to hell, why should I care?” I am not proud of this, and God has changed my attitude dramatically. I realized that God is waiting for His people to call on Him. Jesus said, “If I am lifted up, I will draw all men to me.” He said it is His responsibility to draw all people to Himself, so why isn’t He doing it? Maybe because He is waiting for us, His people, to take earnestly our responsibility to first pray for the lost, and then to witness.
When God told Moses to get away from the Israelites because He was going to destroy them and make a new nation from Moses, Moses responded by falling on his face before God and pleading for the nation. God changed His mind and spared the Israelites (Exodus 32). Does God expect any less of us as Christians than to intercede for the billions of lost in this world? Peter tells us the Lord hasn’t come back yet because he is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).