The Two Realities of the Local Church

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” (Eph 1:18-22)

According to researcher, and statistical data guru, George Barna, more that 211 million of the 300+ million Americans claim no church affiliation or personal relationship with Christ. Every day in America, 10 churches cease to exist. Only one-third of new church plants survive to see their three-year anniversary. 75% of churches are in decline. 24% are “growing”, if you call 5% over 5 years growth, but primarily through transfers from other churches. And only 1% of churches are growing primarily through reaching unchurched and dechurched people.

America is in the condition it is in because of the condition of the church. So Jesus gave the church a mandate to “go, and make disciples, baptizing, and teaching them, in the authority that God had given to Jesus” (Matt 28:18-20). Or another way Jesus said it was, “When my Spirit comes upon you, you will be my witnesses….” (Acts 1:8). So where is the breakdown between what Christ expects of His church and the reality of the average church?

The breakdown is the result of a lethal combination of poor leadership, poor ministry systems, poor organizational structures, and poor followship. In practical reality, the average church has become little more than a club for self-centered, flesh-controlled spiritual toddlers (some will even get mad just reading this article :).  Yet, in biblical reality, the church is the only hope of the world. We are to be “the ambassadors of Christ”, that carry God’s message of reconciliation to the world around us (2 Cor. 5:18-21).

As individual Christ-followers and churches we are “The Church”. We are specifically responsible for the redemptive potential God has entrusted to us. According to Scripture, “It is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful (1 Cor. 4:1-5). We will have to give an account to God for how we have managed the redemptive potential He has entrusted to us.

With all the negative comments in the above paragraphs, I agree with Paul’s heart in the verses I quoted in the first paragraph; I pray the church wakes up and realizes the hope they have been entrusted with, who they are in Christ, and the “incomparably great power for us who believe”. Read those last two words again; “who believe.”

If you know Christ as your personal savior, the same power (Holy Spirit) that raised Christ from the dead lives in you. He wants to be released to carry out the work of God in and through you and your church.

Do You Attend a Life-Giving Church?

God hates religion. Think for a moment about how Jesus handled religious people throughout the gospels.   Religion says you can attend church, pray some prayers, follow the rules, etc… and be fine with God. Relationship says that your eternity is based on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through which you are reconciled to God.

2 Timothy 3:1-5 says, “There will be terrible time in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying its power.”

Those verses describe America today don’t they? Then verse 5 closes it out with this phrase; “having a form of godliness, but denying its power”. The phrase “a form of godliness” means a structured religion. “Denying its power” is best translated as denying the Powerful One (Holy Spirit).

Religion is empty of any real supernatural spiritual power. It is completely void of the power needed to truly transform lives. Now, let me be clear; attending church and religion is not the same thing. They have become the same thing in many cases. Many churches do just reinforce religion and its rules (I would avoid attending one of those).

But some churches teach a personal, life-transforming relationship with Jesus, which is evidenced by the work of the Holy Spirit in & through a person’s daily life. I call those type churches “life-giving churches”. A life-giving church will spend more time talking about the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through you than about its structure, rules, and expectations of you.

In a life-giving church, you will hear about God’s grace and mercy, and power to transform you; instead of guilt, shame, and condemnation. A life-giving church seeks to remove all the plastic and fakeness (yes, I know, I just made up a word hahaahhahaha), and just be real people, in need of a real Savior for from the real sin, and chasing after the heart of a real God.

God loves you so much He sent His Son, not religion. God loves you so much He sent you a person, not a structure. God loves you so much He wants to remove your sin shame, guilt, and condemnation; not use it as a weapon against you. God is completely different than religion. He is all about us having a personal relationship with His Son, so He can heal us, restore us, give us His righteousness, His power, His gifts, His grace, His forgiveness, His peace, His hope, His gifts, and eventually, eternity with Him in heaven.

It’s not about being religious or spiritual; it’s about actually following Christ; having a personal relationship with a living Savior. Being deeply religious or deeply spiritual without the life transforming work of the Holy Spirit in your life will give you the same results. Hell will be full of deeply religious and deeply spiritual people. Don’t let that be you.