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The Local Church: What Went Wrong?

by Missionary Bill

Local churches fail, they split, under-perform and fail to win souls. Why? Because many have moved their focus away from the things of God to the ways of this world. Leaders place more emphasis on the academic and the physical, rather than the spiritual. As a church planter and someone who has held a number of leadership positions in the local church, I am sorry to report that the spiritual health of many local ministries is abysmal.

"And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." Revelation 3:14-22 (KJV)

In many congregations planning has replaced prayer. Committees and lay people work against, rather than with pastors and their staffs. Unnecessarily complicated and convoluted 'discipleship' programs have replaced simple visitation and soul winning ministries. Things like bus, jail, rescue mission, hospital and health center ministries have fallen out of fashion in favor of radio, television and Internet out-reaches.

Right now there are tens of thousands of people that have a spiritual hunger. Sadly, most of them turn to religious television and radio programs in an attempt to find answers. What do they find? A mish-mash of self-serving theology and seed faith charlatans out there to build mega-ministries and empty the wallets of well-meaning people. Even worse, most of these wolves in sheep's clothing make sinners feel comfortable in an unsaved condition.

The vast majority of religious broadcasters claim to preach the gospel, but which gospel is that? It cannot be the gospel found in the Bible because theirs includes all kinds of religious traditions and false revelations that are not doctrinally sound. Most teach the idea that a Christian can lose their salvation, give more credence to a minster's 'word of knowledge' than they give to the Word of God and replace sound doctrine with 'feel good' teachings that accommodate everyone and exclude the truth. And I am sorry to say that local churches are to blame for this situation.

If the pastor and people of a local church do not do their jobs right, someone else will gladly do it for them. Television, radio and Internet ministries should be an extension of the local church, not a replacement or excuse to scale back personal evangelism efforts. Broadcast preachers have taken the place of local pastors because those pastors are too lazy or poisoned with the ideas of liberal Bible scholars to function properly in their job.

"Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain." Psalm 127:1 (KJV)

Most churches offer a 'have it your way' form of Christianity that they hope will appeal to the most people and offend as few people as possible. The problem is that the gospel IS offensive. It tells people they are lost, on their way to hell and in need of a Savior. If you tell them anything less, you are lying to them and not doing the work God would have you to do.

"This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop (pastor) then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus." 1 Timothy 3:1-13 (KJV)

God calls pastors, not CEOs. Instead of worrying about forming committees, building bigger buildings and keeping the fat cat givers happy, ministers are supposed to deliver the Word of God and lead by example. Of course that might be a problem because in many churches no one on the pastoral staff can even agree on which Bible translation is the Word of God. So many use all of them!

I have visited churches where the pastor reads from two or there different translations during his sermon. Those congregations couldn't follow along in their own Bibles even if they wanted to because they all bring different versions with them to church. Does God want your church to offer a Bible Buffet? I think not. Biblical confusion leads to doctrinal confusion and, eventually, no one in a local church like that can agree or settle on anything?

"For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints." 1 Corinthians 14:33 (KJV)

Let's get down to it and look at the biggest problem in local churches today: They cannot or will not obey the Bible. Many have women pastors and deacons. The Bible makes it clear that pastors and deacons must be men. Others follow the charismatic movement believing that the messages received through tongues and the word of knowledge are equal to the Word of God.

"Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away." 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 (KJV)

"We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." 2 Peter 1:19-21 (KJV)

The Bible is a 'more sure word of prophecy' and those who rightly divide the word of truth understand that. However, too many churches still emphasize 'spiritual gifts' above learning and obeying the Bible. Here is an acid test question for pastors and their congregations: When is the last time that you personally led someone to Christ? It's a hard question for many because it has been my experience that most local churches emphasize 'spiritual growth' above soul winning and visitation.

Start winning souls and go out on visitation and I will guarantee that you will grow spiritually. Too many pastors make the mistake of giving their congregations a pass when it comes to soul winning and visitation. And yet, these things are at the very heart of personal, spiritual and church growth. To ignore them is to invite apostasy.

"Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 2:5 (KJV)

The priesthood of believers is a fundamental of the Christian faith and one that should never be ignored or replaced by the false belief that spiritual growth comes from simply sitting in church and listening to pretty sermons. Soul winning and visitation is something that almost everyone in a congregation can and should participate in. Jesus preached the gospel and told us that we should: It cannot get any simpler or more direct than that.

Contrary to the teaching of puffed up academics, there is nothing archaic about believing and obeying the Bible or accepting the King James Version as the Word of God for the English-speaking world. There is nothing wrong with being more concerned about winning the lost to Jesus, helping our fellow Christians grow in the Word and visiting members and visitors on a regular basis; than worrying about building some mega-church or appearing acceptable to a lost world.

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