What’s the #1 Problem in the Church Today?

10 07 2012

I honestly don’t know.  But, I’d like to mention what I think it’s NOT.  The #1 problem in the church today is NOT that there is too much accountability, which is often referred to as “judging” in the church world.  Unfortunately, I come across several Facebook/Twitter comments like the one below regarding the church at least a few times every week:

“There is a lot of controversy in churches these days. Not much compassion. And a lot of judgmental behavior…”

Obviously, it’s hard to interpret this sentence without context but I take it to mean, as many of these comments do, that we need more “love” in the church, and less “calling people out” because of Sin.  After all, we are all sinners, right? Let him without Sin cast the first stone!

No beloved, I don’t believe this is the #1 problem in the church today. In fact, far from it.  While it is true we struggle with legalism in our own lives, as well as trying to excuse our own sins, while holding others to higher standards, and while the church will certainly be served well if Believers, like myself, would better deliberately cultivate love and compassion towards one another expressed in tangible ways, the church’s worldliness in our day is rampant.  Yes, we MUST repent of any unloving attitudes or lack of true compassion, grace, and humility towards others.  However, let me just quote a passage of Scripture at this point:

But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5:11-13

Do you believe this passage of Scripture? If you know your Bible then you remember that it is in this passage that Paul is commanding the church at Corinth to excommunicate one of Her members.  Excommunicate? Ouch.  Sounds harsh.  Sounds unloving. Kinda sounds like the archaic practice of (key scary music) Church Discipline!

Truth is, we live in a society that the one wrong thing to do is to say someone else is wrong, and this has crept into the church. (Side note: D.A. Carson’s new book The Intolerance of Tolerance is very good!). So, in many evangelical church’s today (especially in the South- where I’m from), there are Deacons who’ve been through questionable divorces, members who participate in drunkenness, couples having sex outside of marriage, affairs, questionable business practices, etc., etc., etc,.  And these are just a few of the “known” sins in the community at large.  And yet, the “worst” thing the church could do (from the perspective of many) is to actually go all Biblical and point these things out.  Beloved, human depravity knows no bounds- thank God for His grace.

We have a crisis in our churches where many “Christians” are basically indistinguishable from the World! And in the above passage Paul says to pass judgment upon them.  Now, this is NOT a “I get to say who’s saved and who’s not” judgment. Or a “I’m better than you” judgment.  This is an “As a church, we’ve compared your life to what the Bible says a Christian is and you’ve been found lacking, repent and believe the Gospel, or membership here is no longer an option for you” judgment.

What’s the #1 problem in the church today? I don’t know, but I do know that the recovery of biblical church discipline is a must.  I’ll conclude with a brief outline on just some of the purposes of corrective, Biblical church discipline:

    • It’s part of discipleship- We need one another to guard ourselves from the deceitfulness of sin (Heb. 3:12-13)
    • It’s loving- If someone where about to put themselves in harm’s way, and you did nothing is that loving? Sin is harmful.  It hurts individuals AND the Body (1 Cor. 5:6)
    • It’s for reconciliation. Matthew 18:15-17. The goal isn’t to “kick people out” but to keep people in, focused, and pointed towards Christ!
    • It defends the purity of the church. The World should see a difference between Believers and themselves (cf. 1 John 2:15-17)
    • It defends the teaching of the church. 2 Peter 2:1-3. False teachers are a reality and must be dealt with.

John MacArthur’s church, Grace Community Church, publishes a pamphlet on church discipline that says this: The purpose of church discipline is the spiritual restoration of fallen members and the consequent strengthening of the church and glorifying of the Lord.

Resources:

Maybe you’re not convinced on the necessity of reclaiming corrective church discipline in our churches today.  Here are two short books on the subject that I’d recommend you read:

Jay E. Adams, A Handbook of Church Discipline

Jonathan Leeman, Church Discipline

Also, here is a blog by Jonathan Leeman entitled A Church Discipline Primer

A few other passages to study- Galatians 6:1-3, Hebrews 12:1-14, Proverbs 12:1, 27:5-6, 2 Thessalonians 3:11-14, 1 Timothy 5:20, Luke 17:3-4, Titus 1:10-11, etc.

I would chalk the failure of corrective church discipline in many churches to the “practical” denial of the sufficiency of Scripture- which may just be the leading candidate for the #1 problem in the church today.

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