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Remedy for a Sleepy Church

My wife Karen and I witnessed Mike & Kristen Shaul get married this morning. It was a beautiful wedding set on a romantic desert island off the coast of Mexico. The whole thing was quite striking: well dressed people in bare feet on the white sand, azure ocean in the background. Afterward w…
By Seth Barnes
My wife Karen and I witnessed Mike & Kristen Shaul get married this morning. It was a beautiful wedding set on a romantic desert island off the coast of Mexico. The whole thing was quite striking: well dressed people in bare feet on the white sand, azure ocean in the background. Afterward we were worn out & ready for a nap. That soporific feeling reminded me of church.
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85% of US churches are declining in attendance, while 15% are increasing through transfer growth. Yes, the Church in America is sick – its foundations are gradually corroding. It looks healthy if we view it with our natural eyes. Physical blessings abound. We smile at one another on Sundays. For a two-hour period at the end of the week, we listen to a sermon, then we climb into our air conditioned mini vans and return to lives that we’ve crammed so full of activity, noise and stuff that we can barely hear ourselves think much less God speak.
As a church we’ve been seduced into worshiping a God whose primary values are comfort and blessing. Yet the God of Scripture promises us only discipline and sacrifice. While we seek blessing and protection from pain, pain and persecution are exactly what he promises us.
In short, our paradigm of church is broken.

Sadly, it seems the church is asleep and most of us, once we’re asleep, prefer to stay that way. We prefer the comfort of bed. Think of the townspeople listening to Paul Revere’s warnings. While the enemy is still at a distance on the outskirts of town, the call to a state of alertness is unpleasant in the ears of the hearer. But that does not make the threat any less pressing.

If we’re to awaken a sleeping church, a heavy dose of reality is in order. I recommend a short-term mission trip. A good one can be like a slap in the face to a comfortable person. It can shock a person into awareness of the reality of the battle being waged all around them.

Addressing the problem of a sleepy church is radical. The word “radical” literally means “root” and by throwing Christians into battle, we are returning them to their roots, the roots that Jesus established when he sent out his disciple on a short-term mission trip in Matthew 10.

The contemporary paradigm of church arranges ministry around a central weekly message. But 1 Cor. 2:4-5 says, “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.”

Teaching is a spiritual gift, but more teaching is not the remedy for what ails us. 2 Timothy 3 warns against “Always learning, but never being able to acknowledge the truth.” That kind of ministry, it says, “Has a form of godliness but denies its power.” What we need is a heavy dose of action to back up all the talk.


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