In each generation the Church struggles with the issues of its day. It’s interesting to watch the various responses when these issues are in direct opposition to God’s Word. Bible-believing pastors and churches who take a strong stance on Scripture find themselves under assault, but that is the exception today – not the rule. Instead, a quiet assimilation is taking place. Many who profess Christ are slowly but surely making compromises in an effort to not be offensive, and yet attendance at evangelical churches continues to wane.
It seems that we’re much more comfortable discussing the reasons for slumping church attendance than we are trying to overcome them, which leads to making excuses instead of taking action. This subtle deception is a major distraction from our God-given mission to reach anyone, anywhere, at any time. So what excuses are we making in 2017? I think they can be wrapped up in three words: calendar, color, and culture.
Excuse #1: Families are too busy. Youth sports is a multi-billion-dollar industry that doesn’t seem to be slowing down. As a pastor, I helped parents dedicate their children to the training and admonition of the Lord then watched as many put church attendance secondary to athletics. Don’t misunderstand, the issue is not sports. My concern is the subtle yet effective message that misplaced priorities imbed in a child’s thinking – that athletics or some other extracurricular activity offers more reward than the fellowship of the local congregation. If actions speak louder than words, (and they do) then many parents are teaching their kids that consistent practice will make them a better athlete or musician but sporadic corporate worship won’t impact their spiritual health. Sadly, I’ve also seen the consequences of these choices. When families are over-extended on their calendar they have little time to be consistently involved at church. The result has been a redirecting of purpose for many local churches, who spend so much time and so many resources trying to engage the saved that there’s little left over to reach the lost. We don’t have a calendar problem; we have a compromised heart problem.
Excuse 2: We’ve been unfairly labeled as racists. Although we readily recognize that racism is alive and well in America, we fail to see that it is in the evangelical church as well. This reality exposes just how much we’ve drifted from the truth. Many churches allow skin color to take priority over God’s Word. What do I mean by that? Well, we’re all descendants of the first man and woman created by God – Adam and Eve. At the Tower of Babel, He divided people by language, not by race. I see no biblical reason that should keep brothers and sisters in Christ from worshipping together, regardless of skin color. What we share in common is far greater than our differences. Racism will continue to ruin us as long as the Word of God does not rule us. Churches who allow race to be an issue need to repent under the authority of the Word of God. We are not so different racially that we cannot worship together biblically.
Excuse #3: This generation doesn’t share our standards, principles, or priorities. The Millennial discussion is one that I find somewhat perplexing. It’s no secret that this generation has molded a different culture. They rarely darken the door, especially in what we would call “traditional” churches. We’ve responded by developing numerous lists regarding what Millennials want in a church. Let me see if I understand this. The plan to reach a generation who has been constantly accommodated is to cater to their preferences in worship and church structure. What if Millennials are hard to reach because they watched their parents go to church on Sunday but didn’t see Sunday’s influence at home the other six days of the week? In reality, how much genuine faith has this generation witnessed? I’m not saying they we’re totally to blame for their lack of response to the Gospel. However, it seems that a little more authenticity regarding our own walk with Christ would go a long way. Evangelicals often talk about Millennials as if they have an incurable disease, but wasn’t that also true when Baby Boomers came of age? The fact that nobody seems to be reaching this generation en masse seems to offer a convenient excuse for not even making the effort. In truth, the first two excuses have greatly contributed to the third!
Although these are real issues that pastors and churches struggle with every day, they are also symptoms that can only be overcome through obedience to the truth of God’s Word. We need to examine how we may be contributing to these issues and then choose to address them biblically. Have you allowed one of these excuses to become a deterrent to proclaiming the excellency of Christ? Romans 1:16-17 is still relevant, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, the just shall live by faith.” Don’t let the excuses of calendar, color, or culture keep you from declaring the Gospel of Jesus Christ.