These are hard days. It's tough for ministries. It's tough for churches. It's tough for parents. It's tough for men, and it's tough for women. It's tough to know who you can trust and who you can't. It's tough to weed out fact from a preponderance of fiction. In general, life is hard.
Did you know the Bible promises that life will be hard? In a recent conversation with Ann about the overall decline of the church... why congregations take off and then systematically shrink and ultimately dissolve... I believe the Lord dropped a relevant truth into my heart. It's not anything I haven't said before, but it is in a different context.
I'm seeing a trend in making converts without discipleship. And, in the cases where discipling does take place, I fear there is some error in the teaching which could, in very large part, be responsible for the decline of the American church.
God is love. On this we should all be able to agree. If God weren't love, there'd be no Jesus and no promise of Heaven for those who believe. In today's "seeker friendly" church culture, I think we focus so much on love and comparing God to a modern parental unit, or even a best buddy, that understanding him as a Heavenly Father sets new Christians on a fast track to utter disappointment in their fresh, undisciplined faith.
Stop to consider a recent trip to your favorite big retail department store or maybe your most recent attempt at a relaxing dinner out. Perhaps the last time you dropped in at the house of a friend with children. I'm just guessing you probably observed a few children who have never known a single consequence for unbecoming behavior. Sure, they get plenty of warnings but nothing ever comes of it. In fact, they may even end up leaving that big store with the toy or candy they pitched a tantrum for the entire hour or more they, and you, were there! No consequence to the behavior. The child wins by wearing down the authority figure.
"So what?" Those little minds and bodies that have never known a real consequence and live lives where bad behaviors are smoothed over by someone else, they grow up to become adults who expect the same. A life of whatever they want, however they want, with no consequence because someone will be there to smooth over the bad behavior. God is love. God is full of grace and mercy, but He doesn't operate this way. The Bible is full of example after example of even his most faithful servants facing consequences for their actions. (Moses, King David, Eli by virtue of his sons)
I admonish us all to consider the damage we do when we present only a portion of the scripture. Yes, seek souls, but set them up for every success. Show them that God promises us everything through Christ Jesus our Lord, but help them understand that they have a side of that deal to uphold, too. Not that our salvation is because of anything we do, but that God literally can't do all He wants or give answers in situations where we choose to be continually disobedient. Helping people view God in the framework of his Word, I truly believe, will help new Christians realize that love is true when it's as much about giving as it is about receiving. God wants to answer prayer. He wants to help us, but the Bible is clear... He has expectations that require something of us. And though he never wants to employ them... there are consequences that are promised... and ultimately will be put into action if we go the route of tantrum throwing rather than adult responsibility and seeking the Holy Spirit to help us change. God won't be worn down. We, as the Body of Christ, definitely have a choice to make.
Karissa Petty, Guest Blogger