What I read today;
1 Timothy 6 & 2 Timothy 1; Luke 15; Hosea 2-3; Psalm 149; Job 31; Deuteronomy 2
There has been a lot of hand wringing about the decline of church attendance over the past 50 years. Most mainline denominations and Evangelical denominations such as the Southern Baptist Convention have seen their numbers decrease dramatically. Our culture is grabbing hold of our young people and pushing them away from our churches and the teachings of Jesus Christ and into the harms of secular humanistic teachings. More and more, this decline sees that as our churches age, the young disappear once in high school. We write books on the subject, put together commissions and studies, and still don’t know what the answer is. Some think that we should liberalize our teachings for a more inclusive message while others scream we need to double down and go more conservative in our teachings.
The funny thing is that while we create our commissions and hold our meetings to discuss the problem, Jesus already talked about this very problem. The story of the prodigal son is the embodiment of the situation we have in our churches today.
The son was raised in the church, brought up by Godly parents, had Godly siblings, and had all the comforts he could want. But he wanted to pursue pleasure. In today’s language, he’d want to party like a rock star. The pull of secular society was too great, and he caved in. The result was that the world gave him his desires. But, the world also took everything it gave and left the son empty, impoverished, and hopeless. In shame, he returned to the one place where he thought maybe he could find hope. That background in his upbringing and the patient prodding of the holy spirit brought him home to a celebrating father who welcomed him with open arms. The church needs to pray for those it has lost and remain welcoming and open to their return. But the church shouldn’t bend the teaching of scripture to entice them back.
The problem today is that we don’t really have prodigals anymore. With declining church membership, more people today than ever before have simply not heard the message of God’s grace and mercy. They don’t understand what the primary teaching of the church really is. The church has gotten so wrapped up in it’s building programs and political activism that it forgets to hold out the Gospel to a new generation who doesn’t know the Christianity of their grandparents.
We need to make that our primary mission again. The mission to spread the good news to a generation that has not heard the Gospel.