There are a lot of things going right in the church today. God is still on His throne. Jesus is still building his church. The Holy Spirit continues to do his work. But sometimes the church doesn’t make things any easier. Many times when a church is struggling to gain ground for the Kingdom, the natural tendency is to look outwardly, to shake their fist at culture or politics or society as a whole. While the problems outside the church are legitimate, we can’t let it distract us from cultural realities within that too often cripple a church. Here are five cultural realities that can cripple a church from within:
1. Bible knowledge alone equals spiritual maturity. I know sincere Christians who are in five Bible studies a week, all to learn as much Bible information as possible. Bible knowledge is useful and foundational to spiritual maturity, but it does not in and of itself equal spiritual maturity. Spiritual maturity comes with obedience and love towards others. Paul warned about this in 1 Corinthians 8:1 when he said, “Knowledge puffs up while love builds up.” If Christians are in an environment where Bible knowledge alone is the sole goal, the church will succeed at breeding an army of Pharisees, ready to go forth and judge the world.
2. Sit and soak rather than stand and serve. A common complaint against modern or contemporary churches is that they feed into a consumer mentality and approach to church. While consumerism has most definitely infected the church, it by no means is found solely in one style of music. When you have Bible-believing Christians (no matter their age) content to sit and attend services (no matter the type) while refusing to stand up and serve others, you have a crippled church. Think of it like a body that’s had a major stroke and the entire right side refuses to work at all. That’s the body of Christ when its members are content to sit and soak rather than stand and serve.
3. We’re known more by what we’re against than what we’re for. Think about it in your local church context. If you went door-to-door in a three-mile radius around your church and asked your neighbors what they knew you were for, what would they say? Are churches today known more for what we protest against or what we stand for? Simply protesting against sin in the world without proactively working for good causes in the community creates a negative impression in the minds of those who drive past your church on Sundays.
4. No movement of the Holy Spirit. It is too rare to see anything like what you read about in the book of Acts happen in churches today. Rather than following the familiar theological debate lines of how exactly the Holy Spirit should act and move, let’s get to the point where we’re seeing him move, regardless of whether it fits within our narrow theological constraints. When’s the last time the Holy Spirit has moved among the people of your church? If you can’t point to something, that may be a sign of a powerless (Acts 1:8) church.
5. No world-defying unity. Jesus himself prayed (John 17:23) that his followers would be one, so that the world may know that we are his disciples. The early church modeled a world-defying unity, bringing men and women, Greeks and Jews, slaves and free, all together under the name of Jesus. Do we see that same unity today, or is the church divided along racial, political, theological and socio-economic lines? Unity is our superpower, but it’s an untapped potential in too few of our churches.
God is still on His throne. Jesus is still building his church. The Holy Spirit continues to do his work. My prayer is that the church will start being part of the solution, not another obstacle for God to overcome.