Some recent church attendance polls were taken in America and the final statistics were not near what earlier stats by the Gallup poll revealed. According to one man’s statistics, his findings showed that approximately only 17.7% of Americans attend any Christian church on a given Sunday. That’s a serious decline from what it used to be. These figures were arrived at by a man who is the director of church planting for the Evangelical Covenant Church (covchurch.org). He started his study in the 80’s and followed the regular attendance of more than 200,000 individual Christian churches over the course of approximately thirty years.
I have to wonder why, as Christ’s body, we started drifting so far away from what we once knew to be so important and would have never compromised or given up on. I believe there are many reasons why we have stopped attending church as we did in years gone by and I am going to make a genuine effort to address the ones I believe may be some of the most important ones.
We Have Lost Our First Love
In Revelation 2:2-5 (NLV), John the beloved writes, 2 “Write this to the angel of the church in the city of Ephesus: ‘The One Who holds the seven stars in His right hand and the One Who walks among the seven lights made of gold, says this: 2 I know what you have done and how hard you have worked. I know how long you can wait and not give up. I know that you cannot put up with sinful men. I know that you have put men to the test who call themselves missionaries. You have found they are not missionaries but are false. 3 You have waited long and have not given up. You have suffered because of Me. You have kept going on and have not become tired. 4 But I have this one thing against you. You do not love Me as you did at first. 5 Remember how you once loved Me. Be sorry for your sin and love Me again as you did at first. If you do not, I will come to you and take your light out of its place. I will do this unless you are sorry for your sin and turn from it.
I believe John was saying that we, you, and I can get so busy serving God that we forget what it’s really about, why we’re doing it, and for Whom. If you’ll notice, Jesus inspired John to tell the church in Ephesus that that were doing things correctly and accurately, but that they still fell away from their First love who was Jesus. This was a very serious and sobering statement and it still very relevant for today.
God said in Matthew 23:11 that “…the person who is the greatest among you will be your servant.” But it’s also entirely possible to become so servant minded that you neglect your intimate fellowship time with the Lord. Remember, you cannot give out what you do not first possess. Serving needs to be kept in balance because it can become a very subtle deception. We’re serving in His house and loving people, and we’re staying on guard against the wolves that would desire to come in and kill the sheep. What could possibly be wrong with that?
We have to listen for that still small voice to make sure our motives for doing it are right and that our service “for Him” and “to others” never becomes an idol or a spiritual badge of honor or recognition.
Legalistic Religious Traditions
I believe another reason we can fall out of love with Jesus is because of harsh, legalistic, religious traditions. My belief about this one has a valid basis because I spent almost forty years existing in this narrow-minded way of thinking and living.
Over the course of the “almost forty years” I spoke of, I attended several different churches due to moving, getting married, and getting better jobs in others cities, etc. However, I always stayed in the same kind of church I was raised in, no matter what city I moved to next. I was raised in a Baptist Church, but not just any Baptist Church.
I used to hear some of the older men say this when they were discussing their church or their doctrine and they were proud when they rattled it off like machine-gun fire, “I’m an Independent, fundamental, Bible-believing Baptist!” It came across to me in later years like they were more proud of this than being a Christian. It actually seemed like that phrase described their identity more than who and what they were in Christ. I’m sure I’m wrong, but it sure sounded like it at the time.
They would say they believed the bible from cover to cover. And yet, they didn’t believe it was God’s will to heal all the time. They believe He did and He could heal…but not that He would. They didn’t believe in the fullness of the Holy Spirit or His gifts which were and are so desperately needed in today’s world.
I know those people loved the Lord because that’s where I accepted Jesus as my Savior; so I’m truly grateful for that. But looking back from where I stand now, there was little to no real freedom in Christ for anyone I observed, let alone the knowledge or teaching about how to make that a living reality. Instead, there were more than enough rules to keep a person in guilt, condemnation and fear that God was about to drop an iron fist on you if you so much as stepped out of line. What’s so sad is this, I really don’t think they had a clue at that time of just how good God is, but I hope that has changed.
Harsh, restrictive, rule-oriented religion will instill fear instead of faith and crush creativity and freedom to be yourself instead of releasing you into what God has called you to be…even if it’s not something particularly spiritual for a vocation.
First Corinthians 15:56 in the Amplified says, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin [by which it brings death] is the law”…. In other words, when you’re forced by anyone to constantly live with “unreasonable” religious laws and restrictions, you will ultimately end up sinning somehow because God intended His word to bring freedom to us. We must keep all things in balance though. This DOES NOT mean you can break the moral laws and laws of the land and relationships with people just so you can have your way and be free. That is not freedom, that’s stupidity and that leads to bondage.
Many of you may not agree with this one and I understand that. For me, I did not know for years that I was in an impotent church because I had never been in one that wasn’t. Less this offend you, I am not suggesting that every church or ministry should look or sound the same or that we should compare them to each other because the scripture says that is not wise (see 2 Cor. 10:12).
But God’s word, especially the book of Acts and the writings of the apostle Paul give us plenty to go on as to what a Holy Spirit power-filled church should look like and what kind of fruit it should be bearing.
A true New Testament blood-bought church should be preaching salvation, heaven hell, deliverance from demons, and healing of the body, soul and the restoration of the entire person. If it’s not then it’s not a true full-gospel church.
Remember, we can always trust God’s word because it is unchangeable, unshakable and incorruptible. So let’s see what it has to say about the New Testament church and what the teachings should produce. Again, the apostle Paul said this in Romans 15:18-19. “For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ has not accomplished through me, in word and deed, to make the Gentiles obedient— 19 in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.”
This is “full-gospel” preaching and it should always be accompanied by signs and wonders by the power of the Spirit of God. In Mark 16:20 it says the Lord worked with the disciples confirming the word they preached through the accompanying signs. Hebrews 2:4 says that God bears witness “both” with signs, wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will (NKJV).
When you’ve been in an impotent church for years as I had and then have an opportunity to visit one that is full of life and freedom, you can feel God’s tangible manifest presence. It’s very hard to go back to something that has no life in it. If you do and you stay there and don’t follow the Lord’s prompting to leave, you will die on the vine and become bitter and hard and possibly drift away from the Lord.
Distractions of The Age
Another thing that causes us to “fall out of love” with Jesus is the distractions of the world that we’re bombarded with on a daily basis. As Jesus was teaching the parable of the sower in Matthew 13 and Mark 4, He mentioned this very thing. He was teaching a practical agricultural lesson about sowing and reaping since which was one of the primary means of supporting a family in those days. He started this teaching by comparing God’s written word to seed. He said, “the sower sows the Word.”
He mentioned four types of soil, soil by the roadside or wayside, then there was the stony ground, next was ground covered with thorns in Mark 4:18-19. Verse 19 in The Voice translations says, “But the things of this life—the worries, the drive for more and more, the desire for other things—those things cluster around close and choke the life of God out of them until they cannot produce. Doesn’t that sound very indicative of the times we’re living in today?
Every direction we turn the enemy is dangling lust, greed, gluttony, sex, money, wealth, power, drugs, alcohol and pleasure in front of our eyes. The list is literally endless. And with today’s technology we can indulge 24/7 with as little effort as a tap on the screen of our smart phones or a few taps on a computer keyboard.
Now before you think I’m trying to establish a belief system or doctrine that God doesn’t want us to have anything, that couldn’t be more wrong. 1Tim. 6:17 in the NKJV says that God gives us all things richly to enjoy. Third John 2 says that God desires that we prosper in all things and be in health even as our soul prospers or matures. Mark 10:29-31 promises big blessings from the Lord in this life for serving Him and in the age to come. And if that’s still not enough, Psalms 35:27 says…let the Lord be magnified who has pleasure in the prosperity of His servant. And there’s still more!
God has no problems with us being blessed and having things. But He doesn’t want “the things” to have us. When they do, we ignorantly have become idol worshippers and we will have a dreadful end. Materialism is not the desire for material things. It is the desire to try and meet spiritual needs with material things.
God is never trying to keep us from enjoying anything good. But He is against “anything” that interferes with His love for us and His desire to be intimately involved with us on a daily basis.
Whatever the cost, please do not become a spiritual casualty of war? Make no mistake about it; we are currently in a war for the soul of our nation, our churches, our families and our personal lives. But we can win it a day at time. The Holy Spirit came as our Comforter to comfort us because He knew what these last days would be like and He has the power ready and available on tap for us but we have to receive it, He will not force it on us.
Serving You Truth,