By Mike Rose
I would like to use this week’s blog to make a book recommendation. The title is STORM: Hearing Jesus for The Times We Live In. The author is Jim Cymbala, pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle in Brooklyn, New York. Pastor Cymbala tells of the night when Hurricane Sandy slammed into New York and the always lit, always bustling Lower Manhattan District suddenly disappeared from sight. Cymbala writes: “It was unfathomable to think that parts of New York could just suddenly dissolve into darkness. It struck me that this could be the perfect metaphor for what is happening in the church in America today.”
Although Pastor Cymbala begins the book with his account of the devastation brought by a powerful hurricane, that is not the storm he is really concerned about. The storm Cymbala is concerned with is a storm that is dwindling the gospel light of the church in America. Reporting that nearly 247,000,000 people in America claim to be Christian, (79.5% of our population) he asks why the effects of such a high percentage is not being felt in our culture. Author John S. Dickerson in his work The Great Evangelical Recession gives a likely answer: “…the numbers don’t add up. …the vast majority of those claiming to be ‘Christian’ rarely attend any church, nor do they trust in Christ alone for their salvation, nor do they value God’s Word as the only rule for faith and practice.” In 2012, the Barna Research Group reported that: “46% of churchgoers said their life had not changed at all as a result of church going.” Additionally, “three out of five church attenders said they could not remember a significant new insight gained by attending church services.” Furthermore, “one-third of those who have attended a church in the past have never felt God’s presence while in a congregational setting.” Cymbala concludes: “This is a critical warning sign that something is terribly wrong.” I agree!
So how does the church respond to such ominous warning signs? Here is where we get down to the real issue Cymbala is addressing. Instead of falling on our knees to seek God’s face, instead of confessing our sins of apathy and “what’s in it for me mentality”, instead of doubling down on the gospel and power of Scripture and the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the church is turning to other means to seek its renewal. Pray tell where has the church been looking? With increasing numbers the church seems to be turning to fads and cultural trends to regain her perceived former glory. If you should read the book, you will find many examples of how this “storm” has been wreaking havoc on ministry after ministry, always promising great results, but seldom delivering. I’ll not take up your time in this blog covering those examples. Instead, I’ll cut to the chase.
The ultimate point that Cymbala makes, one that I whole heartily agree with, is that fads and cultural trends will not win the day in the church. What the church needs, what FFC needs, is an old fashioned, Holy Spirit-authored revival of love for Jesus, each other and a passion to share the good news of Christ with the spiritually lost. The church needs to return to The Word as our final authority of faith and practice. We need to return to prayer as the engine that drives every ministry and every decision. Prayer is our declaration that we are dependent on God and our prayerlessness is a statement that we think we are sufficient in ourselves. We don’t need newer or better techniques, better music, slicker presentations, or fancier facilities. But what is needed is the LOVE of God coursing through our spiritual veins. Love that drives us to forgive one another, encourage one another, help one another, and moves us to share the powerful, life-changing message of the gospel with friends, neighbors, relatives and associates.
Ok… enough of my ramblings. I encourage you to contact Twila Shreves at Hidden Treasures Gifts & Book-Tea-Que, and ask her to get you a copy of the book, STORM. After you’ve read it, I’d love to hear how it impacted you.
Have a great weekend!