The indigestion of the church
The problem is not the church but the problem of the church!
We live in a time of outright moral decadence even within the ranks of conservative Christian churches. We have been exposed to a world that is involved in many dangerous entanglements which are not always as easily sorted out as we think. Besides the seriousness and depth of moral problems and traumas which suck the air out of the quality of the Christian life that we could otherwise experience, we also face quantitative challenges.
The church as a whole has experienced considerable growth in different places around the world. In some countries even the secular media has taken note and labeled it the “evangelical boom”. Millions of people have come into the body of Christ in the last decades. But together with all of these people came all of their problems, evil stains, traumas and every type of spiritual bondage and ungodly attachments. The world has deteriorated so much that a large percentage of the people that have arrived in evangelical churches need to go directly to an intensive care unit for the soul.
I spent one month in southern Brazil for a practical “workshop” for pastors and church leaders on how to minister to problematic members to discover that a considerable percentage of church members today are problematic. I was raised in a small conservative denomination in the U.S.A. and left for the mission field in the Amazon Basin region pretty much unprepared to face the needs of a large portion of the converts that I was reaching through a church planting ministry that I was working with.
I was raised in an atmosphere almost unheard of in this day and age. I was born to married parents both of whose parents were happily married and among my aunts and uncles there had never been even one divorce and I am talking about 17 aunts and uncles. I was born after both my parents were converted to Christ and both sets of grandparents were also converted. I had a happy, uneventful childhood and never suffered any kind of emotional or psychological trauma. Naturally I imagined that most of the people in the world had a similar experience.
My experience with “the world” was like a season of “That 70’s Show”, which I am sure, was filmed at my high school and with my classmates who later stayed on to film the series. It was a pretty innocent and simple life by today’s patterns. The great majority of today’s young adults have seen more suffering than I may yet see in my whole life. I would have never dreamed that by going to Brazil I would lead a flock of people that had been “through the mill” before they were 15 years old. I am referring to sexually abused young men and women who had been abused by aunts, uncles, neighbors, fathers, step-fathers, and brothers and sisters, and I am talking about both heterosexual and homosexual abuse as well as the practice of prostitution and bestiality. I was completely unprepared for such “baggage”. I have since learned a lot about how to minister to such victims, some of which have become the aggressors in all of this abuse.
The church definitely needs to be more prepared to receive those who are arriving in our lives and our churches. We cannot ignore the depth and complexity of people’s problems. Some people are virtually like a 1500 piece jigsaw puzzle whose pieces need to be put together except that the resulting image of the mosaic is undefined at out of focus. Others are involved in cases of immorality and broken marriages and relationships that resemble a game of pool just after the opening break. Some have experiences with irreversible losses and terrible traumas. Others still carry with them the influence and severe consequences of deep involvement with Satanism and idolatry. Some have simply migrated from a worldly addiction to a “gospel addiction”, and are still trying to survive inside the church moved by the throbbing pain of their unresolved wounds. Yet others are actually malicious and infiltrate the church through cunning manipulation trying to achieve their own agenda. The list goes on and on; there seems to be no end to the variety of such problems.
With all of this growth, the church has more problems than it seems to be able to cope with – or “digest”. So, the church as the body of Christ is suffering indigestion, food poisoning. People are not being healed and end up becoming the focal point of many chronic rebellions and devastating divisions. Divisions and apostasy reflect the nausea of this church indigestion.
But God has an answer: We must open our hearts to the new Wine skin of true revival, a movement of personal and profound zeal and sanctity that advances against “religiosity” and the wickedness of the world which has penetrated the church. Standing against religiosity does not mean turning our back on the church. Unfortunately that is what has happened in many cases. Leaving a church because of problems is like killing the surgeon who discovers that your favorite aunt has cancer. Let’s not kill the messenger, let’s encourage him to prepare himself for the surgery. Also standing up against religiosity does not mean that we should not resist the wickedness of the world. When a person leaves the world without the world leaving the person, the whole church is contaminated.
Sick people, besides not growing and maturing, infect other people with their illness. This hinders the process of growth in many ministries. The high contingent of members sometimes has been a declaration of poor quality, of how the church is made little difference regardless of its size. Much is spoken about churchgoers who are comfortable just sitting in the church pews. Truthfully speaking, however, most church members are not sitting in the pews. A whole generation of new Christians is spiritually alive but wounded, and they are lying in stretchers in need of spiritual healing. The good news is that they can be healed and regain their spiritual health and the potential to bring the same feelings to others. The first step in this direction is to recognize the spiritual indigestion that these issues provoke in the church. When this happens the cure will be sought and then eventually it will be found.