Here is an interesting article about the church and some of the practices written by Phil Cooke. In a day and age where the messages are so watered down, convenience is also now the order of the day.
I am extremely concerned about the state of the Church, the perception of Christianity and ultimately where things are headed if we (Christians) do not rise up and take a stand. We are constantly being inundated by an overly aggressive media with all sorts of negative images, i.e., fallen Christian leaders; individuals committing heinous, terrorists’ acts being falsely labeled as Christian fundamentalists; Christians being blamed for violence against other religions, people groups, etc.. These are merely a few of the issues fueling the trend toward a global hatred being directed at us and undoubtedly attacking the very core of our faith.
This attack, however, is not entirely external (outside of the church). It has indeed reared its ugly influence in the Church. Instead of the Church making an impact on society, the ways of society have infiltrated the Church. Can you believe in some services, it is taboo to say the name “Jesus” in the pulpit? The Pastor and leadership do not want to cause anyone to be uncomfortable or offended in any kind of way. Some faith-based organizations have removed the word “Christ” from their titles; many religious organizations no longer refer to themselves as “ministries” and we are in a day and age where people are offended by Christianity and the basic tenets of our faith at unprecedented levels. Christians everywhere are being prodded by fear (both subtlety and directly), to tone the message down and carefully choose words so non-believers and even those who claim they are believers will not be put off.
The majority of the churches I’ve had exposure to are devoid of the power, presence and the purpose of God. If you feel like I am being judgmental, please read about the early church in the book of Acts – what we see today does not even remotely compare in terms of His power, His manifest presence, and His mission. I have visited some grand buildings (here in Texas) during Sunday services and in a few of them, the name “Jesus” is rarely if ever mentioned (I have literally been in a service where His name was never mentioned (I wish I were joking here); some sparingly use the word “Christ” when referring to Jesus; people are encouraged to drink and eat in the sanctuary (like attending a movie); and what disturbs me most are the churches where the Pastor or speaker does not invite people to come into a personal relationship with Jesus (this is not a priority for them). They are obviously more motivated by filling seats, raising money and having their egos stroked. The messages are watered down and are nothing more than motivational speeches, communicating what people want or like to hear and not challenging and/or inspiring us to first and foremost be better, more committed followers of Jesus (and genuinely loving and caring for all people). We were entertained by the rock bands, pyrotechnics, and cool video presentations. These church buildings/services seem to be nothing more than social clubs: hip, trendy places to gather on a Sunday morning or Wednesday night where the preacher/speaker dare not challenge our thinking, confront our sinful actions and behavior; or communicate the uncompromised, full gospel of Jesus Christ.
None of this surprises me as Paul warns us in II Timothy 3 and I recommend reading and meditating on the entire chapter. Verses 1-5: (CJB) Moreover, understand this: in the acharit-hayamim (the last days) will come trying times. People will be self-loving, money-loving, proud, arrogant, insulting, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, uncontrolled, brutal, hateful of good, traitorous, headstrong, swollen with conceit, loving pleasure rather than God, as they retain the outer form of religion but deny its power. Stay away from these people! Harsh words, yet without being self-righteous and judgmental, we can clearly see the handwriting on the wall. Paul goes on to warn us in verses 12-13: And indeed, all who want to live a Godly life united with the Messiah Yeshua will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived themselves. We (those who are striving to live all out together with Jesus) cannot get around troubled times. And what makes it worse is the institution where we should be able to find refuge is oftentimes the greatest problem. Nevertheless, thank God for encouragement. Verses 14-17 reads: But you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, recalling the people from whom you learned it; and recalling too how from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which can give you the wisdom that leads to deliverance through trusting in Yeshua the Messiah. All Scripture is God-breathed and is valuable for teaching the truth, convicting of sin, correcting faults and training in right living; thus anyone who belongs to God may be fully equipped for every good work.
We must develop an audacity and determination to stand up and contend for our faith regardless of the consequences. I encourage you as the Word of God encourages us in Jude 1:3-4: Dear friends, I was busily at work writing to you about the salvation we share, when I found it necessary to write, urging you to keep contending earnestly for the faith which was once and for all passed on to God’s people. For certain individuals, the ones written about long ago as being meant for this condemnation, have wormed their way in – ungodly people who pervert God’s grace into a license for debauchery and disown our only Master and Lord, Yeshua the Messiah. Let’s move away from man-centered religion, denominational and racial separation, and all of these tactics created by man and for man to be exalted, and let’s progress into a genuine, authentic, intimate, personal relationship with Messiah Yeshua (Jesus). Society, although they do not know it, needs us!
Please read 2 Timothy 3, Jude 1. If you have not received Jesus as your Lord and Savior, simply invite Him into your heart. Romans 10:9-13: that if you acknowledge publicly with your mouth that Yeshua is Lord and trust in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be delivered. For with the heart one goes on trusting and thus continues toward righteousness, while with the mouth one keeps on making public acknowledgement and thus continues toward deliverance. For the passage quoted says that everyone who rests his trust on Him will not be humiliated. That means that there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – ADONAI is the same for everyone, rich toward everyone who calls on Him, since everyone who calls on the name of ADONAI will be delivered.