Nine Reasons the Western Church Needs Another Reformation

1) Jesus had nowhere to lay his head (Matt. 8:20), yet many of our church buildings have become little (some not so little) country clubs complete with swimming pools, cafés, bowling alleys, and Frisbee golf parks, built to entertain ourselves and draw in the world with the world’s methods. Even our most conservative churches today are not immune to the lure of fabricating comfortable little kingdoms in the name of Christ, putting faith in “if you build it, they will come,” and completely ignoring the teaching of God’s word to the contrary (Matt. 6:19–20; Phil. 3:19–20).

2) Because we need to support our mini-kingdoms, the tithe, one of the only Old Testament laws that apparently still applies to Christians, is preached, and Malachi 3:8 is twisted, while churchgoers are guilted into giving their 10 percent. We may or may not call it the tithe as the plate is passed, and the pastor quickly reminds us that “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7), all the while the funds are counted and booked for excessive building expenses, lavish pastoral perks, and other extravagant expenditures. Or sometimes, out of fear or greed, it’s just banked in the name of “stewardship,” rotting away and being of no use to the kingdom of God.

3) Most of the apostles were not educated, yet, because they were filled with the Spirit of God they preached the word of God which pierced the hearts of men. In fact, Paul downplayed the achievements of men and lifted the lowly in 1 Corinthians 1:26–31. Today, the opposite happens; the accomplishments of men are applauded and boasted about, and men are not considered suitable for the pastorate if they do not hold a degree or two from some seminary (despite those seminaries becoming increasingly humanistic and ungodly, training men how to be the blind leading the blind in progressively secular churches, rather than humble shepherds lovingly leading the bride of Christ).

4) The office of pastor has become a mockery in many modern-day churches, in some places even unrecognizable when compared to Scripture. Many pastors have achieved rock star status while preaching twenty minutes of their man-centered ideas, neglecting to feed the flock they are responsible for. Others are little more than timid hirelings who must either tickle the ears of the congregation or do the bidding of the “elder board,” or both, in order to maintain their jobs. Most today willfully neglect the qualifications God set forth in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 for pastors/elders. Furthermore, teaching elder or teaching pastor are redundant terms—all elders should be able to teach (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:9). Also, an elder “must not be a recent convert” (1 Tim. 3:6), yet this is commonly ignored as we hire men fresh out of seminary, knowing nothing of their true character. Should we not regularly raise up/train/disciple men to be elders from within our own congregations so that we can testify to their qualifications?

5) The role of deacon has become somewhat synonymous with groundskeeper in too many churches. The present diaconate retains little of its honorable origin found in Acts 6 or its high calling in 1 Timothy 3. The deacon was to be of “good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom” (Acts 6:3) and was tasked with the care of the poor in the church. If you ask people today what a deacon is responsible for, the response would most likely be, “They take up the collection, pass the elements, and mow the lawn.”

6) Today it’s difficult to tell whether we want to evangelize the lost or build our kingdoms. We might say we want to save souls, but we neglect the power of the gospel (Rom. 1:16) and instead use man’s methods and “wisdom.” We reveal by our actions that we’re ashamed of the gospel, think we’re wiser than God, and fear the ridicule of men (1 Cor. 1:18–25; 1 Cor. 2:1–2). We try to defend ourselves, saying we’re being “relevant,” but the church was never called to be relevant to the world; we are called to be holy (1 Peter 1:16). Set apart and relevant are not synonymous.

7) Missions are usually just extensions of what’s going on in the hearts of our churches—and that may not be such a good thing anymore. Modern missions are less about gospel preaching and the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19–20) and are sadly more about building our kingdoms abroad and/or responding to the social problems of the world. What’s more, many missionaries are not vetted for kingdom work (not knowing the true gospel), or worse, they are evaluated by a board of people halfway across the world who do not understand much of missions’ work or many of its everyday issues and instead rely on a set of Spiritless by-laws or “practical” rules to determine if a mission is worthy of support. Funding is many times arbitrary, and if acceptable results are not produced (i.e., not enough baptisms or “decisions for Christ” made), cut altogether.

8) Where in Scripture are we told to divide our meetings by age, stage of life, or social circle so that we (somehow) can gain knowledge from one another? How can the older women “teach what is good, and so train the young women” (Titus 2:3-4) if we are all separated in Sunday school and other church events? The “senior saints” cannot impart the valuable wisdom of their many seasoned years if they are put away in one room while the “young marrieds” and “college and career” folks are left to fend for themselves. How does this unite the church? Dividing the bride of Christ even more, many of our churches, as a remedy for declining attendance or to placate itching ears, establish a contemporary service—one that appeals to the preferences of one group, another service, the other group. However, it’s like having two separate congregations. But who cares if the coffers are full and there is abundant activity, albeit counterfeit, going on inside the doors of the church, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power (2 Tim. 3:5)?

9) My Bible says, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42, emphasis added). Yet the prayer meeting, any prayer meeting, is curiously missing from most Western churches. Astonishingly, an entire movement, stemming from a book about what characterizes a healthy church, misses the mark when it leaves prayer off the list. Pragmatic churchgoers put forward many arguments about the reason the church is so ineffective today. Yet the Bible would suggest the answer is prayerlessness. “My house shall be called a house of prayer” (Matt. 21:13; Mark 11:17; Luke 19:46). Countless Christians of the past whom God used to build his kingdom proclaim in their writings that they held prayer in highest esteem (and actually participated in it). The apostle Paul did. Peter did. As did James. Christ thought it pretty important too. Yet today’s congregational prayer, when it is even practiced, is weak and unavailing, usually only covering the physical needs of churchgoers, our distant relatives, or someone we heard about on Facebook.

So, maybe it’s time we took a good long hard look at ourselves and compared our churches with the Bible. Maybe it’s time we admitted we’re looking an awful lot like the rest of the world, running organizations rather than being the body of Christ. Perhaps we need to be zealous, repent of our “lukewarmness,” and realize that we are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. (Rev. 3:14–19). Maybe it’s time we renew our first love, remember from where we have fallen, repent, and do the good deeds the church once did (Rev. 2:4–5). A modern-day Reformation. Only then we can say unashamedly, “Come, Lord Jesus, come. We are ready.”

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