Christianity 201

January 13, 2016

Why People are Leaving and Churches are Dying

Today we pay a return visit to Shane Idleman, founder and lead pastor of Westside Christian Fellowship in Lancaster, California, just North of Los Angeles. (And this time we looked into it and no, Shane and Kyle are not related!) To read this at source on the church blog, click the title below; there’s also a related article by him linked at the bottom.

The Real Reason Churches Die and People Leave

Experts say that nearly 4,000 churches close every year in America and over 3,500 people leave the church every single day.

Church is boring, ​and many churches are dying ​because the power of God has vanished from the pulpit as well as the pew. Like Samson, they “know not that the Spirit of the Lord has departed” (cf. Judge 16:20). But there is hope if we once again seek God. “Light yourself on fire with passion and people will come from miles to watch you burn” (John Wesley).

Shane IdlemanWe need genuine revival preaching: “Revival preaching is more concerned about an outcome than an outline. The revival preacher is more aware of his text than the time. He is bent on pleasing the Lord rather than pleasing men. His ear is tuned to hear and heed the voice of God” (Harold Vaughan). “We need more prophets in our pulpits and less puppets” (Leonard Ravenhill).

​Many know about ​2 Chronicles 7:14​ , but fail to apply it​​: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

God’s call is not to Hollywood, Washington, or the media, but to us. If “My people” turn back to Me I will heal and restore. We have a form of microwave Christianity. Service times are cut to just over an hour, prayer is glanced over, and worship is designed to entertain the masses. “People are bored,” they say, “so our services need to be more appealing.” You can increase attendance with slick marketing and entertaining services, but you’ll miss the heart of God. The church will be a mile wide but only an inch deep.

To seek in the context of 2 Chronicles 7:14 means to “find what is missing.” The Hebrew word for seek, baqash, has a very strong meaning. Imagine losing your child in a crowded mall. Your entire heart would be engaged. How would you spend your time? Where would your energy be concentrated? Now parallel this with seeking God.

I’ve often said that one of the most difficult challenges associated with pastoring is not sermon preparation, leading a church, or taxing counseling appointments; it’s witnessing the tragic results of spiritual dehydration—watching people die spiritually with living water just steps away. Sadly, we are too busy and too self-absorbed to truly seek Him.

In today’s culture, there are countless enticements that pull us away from God. It is my firm belief that, second only to salvation, seeking God is the most important aspect of the Christian life…to truly know God: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

Very few of us ever experience this close relationship with God because it involves things such as humility, dying to self, vibrant prayer, and heart-felt worship. This isn’t meant to discourage, but to convict. Conviction is a wonderful gift from God used to turn the heart back to Him.

Let’s be honest: how many can truly say like Jeremiah, “His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot” (Jeremiah 20:9)? How many have truly experienced Jesus’ words in John 7:38, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water?” How many can truly relate to “times of refreshing” found in Acts 3:19?

Many have head knowledge, but they’ve never truly experienced the presence of God. Often, it’s because of ongoing and unconfessed sin. Being tempted isn’t sin—surrendering to it is. Temptation is also an opportunity to do what is right by turning from it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 states, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”

This “way of escape” is ultimately what tilts the scale toward seeking God. When we flee temptation, turn from sin, and seek God, the by-product is the filling of the Spirit. The door of temptation swings both ways—you can enter or exit. If we choose to enter, once inside, we may not see the exit sign so clearly again.

I’ll close with a correspondence I received from a man before he fully sought God with all his heart, “I had become someone I never thought I would become. I was in complete darkness…I would sleep in my clothes for as long as I could. I began wishing that I would die. The emotional pain was unbearable.”

Here is his correspondence after he passionately sought God and surrendered his life to Him. “I only wish that everyone could feel the love that I experienced. I’m able to forgive others and genuinely love them. I feel like I have been re-born…elusive peace has now been found.”

How long will you waver? If God is God follow Him (cf. 1 Kings 18:21). ​​

Shane Idleman is the founder and lead pastor of Westside Christian Fellowship in Lancaster, California, just North of Los Angeles. He recently released his 7th book, Desperate for More of God at shaneidleman.com


Related article by Shane: Why Do So Many People Hate Preachers?

Related: A.W. Tozer quotation at Clark Bunch’s blog.

 

1 Comment »

  1. Pastor Idleman has identified the issue clearly when he states, “Church is boring, ​and many churches are dying ​because the power of God has vanished from the pulpit as well as the pew.” The power of God has vanished from the pulpit and the pew, however the issue is not really “boredom.” Paul has stated to Timothy, “There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves….-having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.” The “form of godliness” is present in many churches and is taught by many pastors. Paul’s prophecy is being fulfilled today.

    The Church belongs to God and He is building it through His servants. He does not need fiery preachers or those who can entertain to the extent that they can relieve boredom. He needs preachers who will present His Word in truth and couched in prayer and who through obedience will honour Him. Isaiah prophesied that a curse would consume the earth at the end because “they have twisted God’s instructions.” (Isaiah 24:5, NLT) They “have violated his laws and broken his everlasting covenant.”

    Many pew dwellers know of the emptiness of the messages that they are hearing. Philosopher-theologians have displaced the Holy Spirit as the source of truth and knowledge. Just as the Israelites displaced God as their leader and took a king, so has the church displaced the Spirit as its teacher and has submitted to educational institutions to dictate “truth.” The issues of obedience, judgment, confession, repentance, and even seeking forgiveness have been displaced, ignored or misrepresented in order to extend God’s mercy and grace beyond what the Lord had revealed concerning the hope of one’s eternal salvation. The gospel has become about God’s blessings to man while ignoring the fact of His eternal plan and His purposes for creation. The focus of the message should be all about God; man’s place is by His invitation.

    It is no wonder that the church is no longer needed when teachings are presented that relieve man of any obligation to God and yet provide assurance of one’s eternal hope. If the hope has been gained, why the struggle for righteousness? Why attend church? If the life of Christ is not active within the believer, much of the New Testament is meaningless anyway.

    Many churches are more interested in “staying afloat” and surviving as an institution than they are with building mature, committed Christ-followers. I see many churches making an effort to “entertain” or to make comfortable those who attend…perhaps this is an effort to abate “boredom.”

    This evaluation may sound harsh, however many of those that I know who have left the church have done so in order to find truth and to be Christ.

    “Believers” cannot permit themselves to be passive (and bored); they are to love (obey) Christ (as Spirit) with all of their minds, bodies, hearts and strength. Any teaching that permits otherwise is false..

    Comment by Russell Young — January 13, 2016 @ 9:34 pm | Reply


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