So much has been written on generational and cultural shifts; yet it is my conviction that these are not the essential reasons for the loss of momentum and the atrophy of so many churches. These rapid and dramatic changes have made for rough sailing in my lifetime, but they are not sinking the boat. There is no perfect storm out there that can sink the church of Jesus Christ. No matter how much or how rapidly culture changes, the church is designed to prevail. Yet, with each culture shift, it is painfully obvious that the church has become an institution rather than a movement.
The distinction lies in the fact that institutions preserve culture, while movements create culture. Everything about our current church culture may be born and rooted in the work of the Holy Spirit. But the Spirit of God moves like the wind, leaving a still silence where He once blew and beckoning us to where He now stirs. The church must raise her sails and move with the Spirit if we are not to be left behind. It is not enough to simply hang on; we must boldly move forward.
This past 3 months, the Mobberly Church family has been praying for 100 people to come to saving faith in Jesus Christ during our Easter services. (Just for comparison, that’s more than we have seen in the last 10 Easter’s combined.) Yet, as Paul put it, our “prayer and heart’s desire is for the salvation of our brothers.” (Romans 10:1) Believing that God wants to save souls, we, as a church, began to pray fervently. With each service, the number of souls that were saved continued to rise. Beginning with a youth service on Wednesday night and ending with a Spanish service on Sunday afternoon, when all the counts were in, we have not ceased our rejoicing. While we had the largest attendance in the history of our church, what is being talked about most is the 102 souls who were saved this week! To God be the glory! No matter the battle, winning souls must be priority #1!
Paul experienced danger, hurt, hunger, exhaustion, and even nakedness, but what strained him most was his ‘daily concerns for all the churches.” (2 Cor. 11:28) The truth of the matter is that the center of God’s will is not a safe place but the most dangerous place in the world! God fears nothing and no one! God moves with intentionality and power. To live outside of God’s will puts us in danger; consequently, to live in His will makes us dangerous.
We understand this when we consider the realities of life for believers in persecuted countries. We champion their sacrifice and willingness to stand for Christ, even at the cost of their own lives. Yet we consider laying aside our traditions and cultural preferences as an unreasonable expectation. From my own experiences, I know that the only storm that can sink a church is the one that rages from within. In the end, atrophy is never simply about styles; it is always about the substance of servanthood. It is about a people who are willing to submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, no matter what the personal implications are.