Do you realize the culture and standards in the USA have changed, and changed significantly over recent years? Of course, the USA has never been a perfect country, nor have her people ever been a perfect people . . . no, not by a long shot. But the reality is that historically we always had a moral compass and enough dignity so that we kept many things regulated to the back streets or out in the boon-docks. We did that as a society because we knew that some things were just wrong and offensive to a decent society as a whole. So, knowing that such things could not be eliminated, society demanded that they be kept out of sight. What was the point? That a line be drawn, a standard established so that certain things not be called “normal” or “acceptable.” So that our children always knew there was a difference between acceptable behavior and what was wrong and offensive.
I believe the change that has occurred in our culture is that we have allowed that line to be removed, and we have begun to accept unnatural and bad things as normal. We have done that by describing the things once viewed as wrong and offensive as “personal preferences.” Part of the switch is that we, somewhere along the way, lost the sense of society and replaced it with individual rights.
I think history will one day put much of the blame on political and religious leaders, both of which have strayed from their intended purpose in a society. There was a time in our history when both called right “right” and wrong “wrong.”
Of course, there are a great number of behaviors that could be identified and discussed in this arena, but I want to simply point out something I heard on the radio last night as I drove home. The topic of discussion was one of the State having recently eliminated laws against possessing and using pot. The host of the program was interviewing two women and asked them how they felt about this now being legal. One of the women quickly said, “I like it and think it should have happened long ago.” She went on to state that she “hoped that it would open the door and the other states would follow.” The host asked her if she was ok with the fact that her 14-year-old daughter would be able to legally buy and use pot. The lady said, “By all means . . . I love her and don’t want to keep any good thing from her.” I almost wrecked my car . . . that sure is different than my mother. At 85 years of age, she would use her walking-cane on me if she even suspected that I even thought about using pot.
So what is wrong? What caused this drift away from what we once believed was nailed down? Is it a lack of churches? Is it because the churches have lost influence?
If we look in the yellow pages . . . or look at an internet directory . . . we quickly discover that there is no shortages of churches. They are everywhere . . . in every community. There are churches with just about every kind of ministry, program, style of service, and ministry. The lack of churches cannot be the problem.
Ed Stetzer in his book, Comeback Churches provides a list of churches he has identified as being incapable of advancing the Kingdom of God and impacting the community in a positive way . . . at least in the way they are currently. He describes several as follows:
The Institutional Church: This Church is more concerned about programs and activities. The activities choke out productivity.
The Voluntary Association Church: A church of the people, by the people . . . and most importantly, for the people. Well, the people who are already there. Its focus is on retaining the people who are already there. When new people do show up . . . they are always kept in their place. The underlying premises: maintaining the status quo.
The Unintentional Church: This church has the best intentions but just never manages to actually get around to doing anything.
The “Us 4 and No More Church”: This church is afraid of growth. The concern is, “If we grow, we might lose the fellowship we so enjoy.” This makes it almost impossible for new folks to break into the clique . . . because the church wants to maintain the family feel and new people might change the dynamics.
The “We Can’t Compete Church”: This is the church that has completely given up on being able to make a difference at all. It just feels like it will never grow . . . So, it simply becomes satisfied with where it is and determines to just stay the way it is.
The Decent and Order Church: This church has a high regard for process . . . but lacks passion. This church wants to run everything “by the book,” but sadly and unfortunately that book is not the Bible. Everything has to meet the approval of various committees; everything has to be discussed to the minute details.
Stetzer goes on to list and label a dozen more churches . . . all of which seems to affirm an alarming and chilling statistic that many churches today lack sufficient health to effectively impact the people in the community that surrounds them. He goes on to say that there is evidence that 70-80% of the churches in our Nation are in an unhealthy status.
That is tragic . . . yet, it helps to explain the shift in values within our culture.
I submit that God’s goal for my church and your church is that we be a strong, vibrant, and healthy body. His purpose is that we be able to touch our communities through the power of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The truth is that God has not called us to be a closed community of cronies . . . but He has called us to go outside our comfort zone for the sake of reaching others with the life-changing, destiny-altering message of God’s amazing grace.
This Sunday, I will begin teaching a 13-week series, entitled “Revealing the Heart of God.” The series comes from the Old Testament books of Hosea, Amos, and Jonah. The series was published by LifeWay (Biblical Solutions for Life). The first lesson is, “Exposing a Broken Relationship” and covers Hosea 1 – 3. It covers a time in Israel’s history (8th Century B.C.) when the nation was enjoying financial success and prosperity, reminiscent of the days of Solomon. Everything looked good to them . . . and for them . . . on the world stage. But all was not well . . . storm clouds were forming over them . . . because God looked down from Heaven and He saw things differently . . .
How do you think God sees our Nation today?
Are there storm clouds forming over us today just as there were for Israel in the early 8th Century B.C.?