Years ago, I had a conversation with a Baptist preacher about the decline of congregants. He mentioned that numerous young adults were leaving his congregation altogether or showed very little interest in spiritual things. I could tell he was perplexed about the situation as was I because the same was happening in the Lord’s church. That was more than five years ago, and I regret to say that things have not gotten any better. Recently, I heard a talk show host on a local Talk Radio program lament the same thing. The Barna Research firm concluded that seventy-three percent of Americans identify as Christians and eighty percent of American families own a Bible. However, only fifty-five percent attend Church services and only thirty-one percent are classified as practicing Christians i.e. they actually practice what they preach. Even more disturbing is that only twenty percent of these so-called Christians read, listen to, or use the Bible. These poll numbers are certainly not indicative of the whole, but they do paint a gloomy picture regarding the mindset of today’s Christians; according to many Church is for the birds. Is Christianity irrelevant? Has Christianity lost its efficacy? Are churches part of a fading culture heading into obscurity? A proper understanding of the Lord’s Church is paramount to answering these questions and critical in stemming this regrettable tide. The Lord’s Church is a place of:
Absolution. Remember the account of Noah the ark-builder (Genesis 6). The Ark was the place in which God chose to house those who were saved. By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.
Hebrews 11:7. (Emphases MS). In the same fashion, the Church is the place where the saved are housed. This fact was prophesied long before the church was established, and it came to fruition on the Day of Pentecost (Cf. Acts 2, Isaiah 2:2, Daniel 2:44, Acts 10 & Galatians 3:27-29). Those penitent believers who were baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:37-38) were not left to wonder where they should go. The Bible clearly states, And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved, Acts 2:47. The saved are in the church, put there by God. Paul stated that Christians were delivered from the power of darkness and conveyed into the Church or the Kingdom of Christ (Colossians 1:12-14). Salvation and addition to the body are synchronous. One cannot separate being saved from the Church that Jesus built (Matthew 16:18). If the church became irrelevant then salvation becomes nonexistent.
Veneration. The Almighty Father deserves all glory, honor, and praise. Praise the LORD! I will praise the LORD with my whole heart, In the assembly of the upright and in the congregation, Psalms 111:1. The apostle Paul elaborates where this glory is to be given and for how long. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever Amen, Ephesians 3:20-21. (Emphases MS) God is glorified in His Church, by Jesus the Christ, for all eternity. Those who make up the Church of Christ have a distinct function, emphasized in the following passages. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven, Matthew 5:16. Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God, 1 Corinthians 10:31. But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 1 Peter 2:9. The Church exists for the Glory of God in all things. If the Church has lost its efficacy how will God receive the glory? If the church is no longer relevant is that not tantamount to saying Glory to God is no longer important?
What is the conclusion of the whole matter? It is impossible for the Church to lose its pertinence. Cultures and people may change but the value of the church cannot, no matter how many people forsake her. By its design and function, the church is perennial and germane in nature. (Ephesians 3:10-11). The reason we are seeing a decline in our congregations is because some have fallen for the same old lie that has plagued man from the beginning (Genesis 3) Satan is promising something better, something more exciting in the world, something more fitting for the culture and time and many are biting hook, line, and sinker. Some want to enjoy the sinful pleasures of this world and in order to justify themselves they point a finger at the Church and say it’s to blame. It is easy to become discouraged when one sees the polls and hear the pundits talking about the death of Christianity. I know it hurts to see good brethren walk away from the faith. However, let not your heart be troubled, the relevancy and permanency of the Church are not tied to those who comprise her, it’s tied to The Eternal One who founded her. The Church was here long before we were added to it and it will be here until that time when it is presented to the Father in Glory!