I was asked by a leader in my church:
Leader: "People aren't serving in the church, attendance is dwindling, and our finances are suffering..."
This is the jist of what I told him:
Me: Our problem is Love. The Church doesn't love God enough. If they did, they would give, they would serve and they would attend as many small groups as they could to learn more about God... Sadly people don't love God.
"So how do we change it?"
Well, since you asked... I don't know all the answers, but I'll give it my best shot:
1. Our church tends to preach behavior modification rather than heart change. We need to stop preaching what is wrong with people and start preaching what is right with people because of Jesus.
2. People don't believe that God will change people's hearts. If they did, they would preach Grace (undeserved, unmerited favor)
3. People don't trust God to give because of their perspective. We need to tell them that God doesn't need their money.
4. I've been going to this church for 3 years and I've only heard the good news preached once. We need it to be a foundation in people's lives. How can they trust a God if they think He'll leave them when they sin?
Our church tends to preach behavior modification rather than changing hearts. People could modify their behavior, but still have the desire to sin. Covering it doesn't change their heart, in fact it brews and breeds more sin. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:56 "The power of sin is the Law". Pretty clear where sin gets it's power. He also says in Romans 6: 14 "For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace." So if you are under Law, sin is your master. He goes on to say that Sin was dead apart from the law in Romans 7:8 "But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead." So how do we revive sin? By re-introducing the law.
So what's to stop people from having grace and going out and murdering people? That's the same argument made against Paul in the early church: Romans 6: 1 and 2: "What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2. By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?" Notice Paul does not say "Don't do it" He says How can we continue to sin if we're dead to it? If I told my parents that they are "dead to me" why would I want to visit them on the holidays? People just don't believe God can really change people. They want instant changes... It took Abraham many years after God had declared him righteous for him to obey God and offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice.
We need to have a shift of thinking of who God is. We need to remind people of who they are in Christ. They need to have a strong foundation that they are saved forever. Point them to verses that show God's love for them. Reveal foreshadowing of Jesus in the Old Testament. Show them how God's Love for us is the central theme of the entire Bible. God is good. He's more good than you could even dream. He's so good, that when we get to Heaven he will wipe away our tears - because we didn't realize how present his power was with us at all times even when we failed, fell short and sinned. He never left us or forsook us. God is the one who sent the Son to redeem us. Why do we constantly focus on ourselves and our failing inconsistent love for God?
If we focus on the Gospel - The too good to be true but it is true news" and let people know that their sins are forgiven. God has judged it all on Jesus at the cross to pay for us. We don't have to do a thing but believe that God did what he said he did and trust Jesus as God's sacrifice for all our sins. All means all, past present and future. God knew it all and judged Jesus at the cross, so that rightly he could declare us clean. sins paid for.
In the past if you sinned, you would bring a lamb to the priest as an offering. The priest would then examine the lamb (not the person who brought it) for any blemishes. After the lamb is confirmed being without blemish, you would place your hands on the lamb's head and symbolize that an exchange is taking place. The lamb exchanges your sin and for it's innocence. The lamb is slaughtered and the sins are covered. Thank goodness we have a better lamb the perfect lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. No longer covered, but taken away.
It is so easy for us to go back to the system of do good get good, do bad get bad and we need to be reminded of our right standing with God over and over.
Here are a few foundational verses that you can read to remind you of your right standing before God.
No condemnation for the believer:
Romans 8:1,2 "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2. because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.
God works for your good in all things. He called us, justified us and glorified us.
Romans 8:28 "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified;those he justified, he also glorified."
God is for You not against You
Romans 8:31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
The most precious thing in the Universe, Gods only son... and he gave him up as a payment for you.
Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33.Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.
We are more than conquerers - A prized fighter wins the match, he's all beat up and bloody. He brings the prize money to his wife. She is more than a conquerer.
Romans 8:37 "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
Nothing separates us from the love of Christ:
Romans 8: 38 "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39. neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Jesus said "Feed my sheep" Not beat my sheep.