Posted by Gary on May 28, 2012
Luke 12:32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.”
I received a good question from my brother Bill regarding my post “Like Christ or Like the World?” which is in total, a quote from Martyn Lloyd-Jones about how the Church and the Christian must be different from the world. Here is Bill’s question:
“While I agree 100%…what is your view as to why the churches using these methods attract large numbers and true Biblical churches are seeing a reduction in numbers?”
First, the passage above from Luke tells us that Jesus had a “little flock” and if He did, I should not be surprised that I do also. There are a number of passages in Scripture that tell us that few, not many are saved:
Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
Matthew 22:14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.”
Luke 18:8 “However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”
John 6:66 “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.”
It is not a surprise that churches that are willing to be worldly are often larger for there is something in fallen man that wants to be religious for he wants to believe that he is good though the Bible tells him he is not (Romans 3:10). Many are willing to go to church and claim belief in God if in the end they can ultimately still have the world and their sins.
Churches that refuse to tell people the truth about themselves and even tell them that they are fine as they are will always have many attend. We are the generation of entertainment so churches that entertain and lead the people who attend to think that the service is for them will always have large crowds. How counter to Scripture this is which teaches us that worship is for God and that He is the audience in worship not us. We leave church asking, “Did I get anything out of the service?” not the right question which is, “What did I give God during the service?”
If a church creates a mixture of: “You are fine”, plenty of entertainment, and a message that God wants you healthy and wealthy you can call the architect, start the building program, of course you who will have many in attendance.
As we draw nearer to the return of Jesus the Bible tells us that there will be more and more of these churches and there will be great pressure to conform to their ways.
2 Timothy 4:3-4 “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.”
From this verse I know definitely that there are people who do not return to our church after a visit because they cannot “endure sound doctrine”. Sitting through a sermon of truth is enough to kill them, they cannot stand it. Their body language and countenance scream the message that their hearts hate God’s truth.
I am very curiously watching the churches that have abandoned sound doctrine and embraced the “Your fine”, “We’re here to entertain you” gospel to see what happens when persecution arises. What will attendance be when it starts to cost something to be a Christian?
Jesus has told us that the way that leads to life is narrow and only a few find it. To desire a church where you are told the truth about yourself and called to die to yourself and embrace persecution takes a work of God’s grace in the heart. The unsaved church-goer does not possess joy which is the gift of God and comes with repentance and faith. He only knows of a happiness that is driven by his own fallen, darkened, selfish heart. The unsaved church-goer sees the true gospel as an enemy to his happiness. Poor, blind, person…you do not know that by rejecting the true gospel you are the enemy of your own joy and peace. Jesus wept over His generation and I am sure ours as well:
Luke 19:41-42 “When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.”
Reader, believe it or not, it is possible to have joy even though you are told you are a sinner for that is not the end of the message. Tell me I am a sinner as long as there is a Savior to save me from my sins. I have joy knowing that much of the world hates me (John 15:18-19) because I know God loves me. I do not think I am losing anything as I deny myself much of what this world loves for in Christ I have all things (Revelation 21:7).
So my not so short answer to Bill’s question is that it should not be a surprise to us that Biblical churches are often smaller and may even be shrinking. The truth has always been outnumbered. Remember, out of the whole world, only Noah and his family were saved. This is nothing new and Jesus could not have been more upfront with us about it.
While as Christians we long to see the whole world saved we know the whole world will not be saved. While we pray for the salvation of many, numbers are not what drives us. It is possible to gather a large crowd only to send them away unsaved still.
Our goal as God’s people is to be faithful, faithful to God and to His truth. Growth is in His hands and we must not be content with anything other than growth as He defines it. A growing church in God’s estimation is a church where people here the truth about their need of a Savior. Where the call to discipleship is held forth without flinching. When people come to hear these things and embrace them we know it is a work of God.
May God grant His true churches to remain faithful to the end. Without His grace we will go the way of the world. We will water down the message and resort to the gimmickry and man centered entertainment that so many churches in this day have.
Lord, grant us faithfulness to You that we may hear those most precious words from Your mouth:
Matthew 25:21 “Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’”
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