The abdication of responsibility by the Church is humanity’s greatest moral problem.
First, I must state that I define the Church, in this context, as the entire body of believers. In particular I do not simply refer to the Church leadership or clergy, though they most certainly have their place in both the cause and solution of this problem.
Second is that I take presupposition that the Church, at large, has walked away from the responsibilities in which Christ has entrusted it. While an examination of the cause and evidence of this is clearly beyond the scope of this essay, the following discussion of the solutions should also provide an inherent basis for the premise of wholesale abandonment of the Church’s responsibilities. Let’s examine the solution to this dilemma from the aspect of the five-fold mission of the New Testament Church.
Worship – It is amazing to me the criticism one hears regarding a church’s worship service. One person will complain about too much contemporary music, another about too many old hymns. Some complain about the length of the sermon, others about how their needs are not being met. The pastor wants “good numbers” and the leadership is more concerned with putting on “The Jesus Show” than with glorifying God. Everyone complains because they just don’t feel the Holy Spirit there anymore – like that’s a big surprise? He is the one Person who is NOT invited to the service it so often seems.
To correct this failure is not an easy thing. It has to start in the pulpit and it is sure to not win any popularity contests. The pastor needs to take back control of the service, where so many now have passed that along to the “Worship Leader.” While there is a time in the service for the edification of the saints, it IS a Worship Service, after all, so it needs to focus on leading us in corporate worship of our God, Lord, and Savior. A good start would be to put the ego aside and both worship leaders (and that means everyone from the door greater to the pastor whole helps make the service “happen”) and the congregation member need to pray that their acts are a suitable offering to the Lord. Worship is not about me. It is not about you. It is all about God. The Church must return to that primary focus if it is to ever accomplish its mission.
Ministry – So many people today think that ministry is the task of the minister or the appropriate committee. Ministry is so much more than that. It is much more than even taking care of the elderly, sick and poor, though that is a good place to start this part of the discussion. Far too often it is assumed that this is the Pastor’s job. The one who thinks that is simply wrong. Yes, the Pastor has a role here, but by far this task should be the privilege of the church body and be lead by the deacons. The church leadership has the obligation to make this an expectation of the membership and the body has the obligation to cheerfully step forward. Yet service to the needy is but one aspect of the bigger picture of ministry. I would consider ministry to be service to the community in the name of my Lord, Jesus. As such I would also include good citizenship as a part of ministry. Unfortunately, in Western civilization today it seems that to allow one’s religious convictions – i.e. one’s morals – to influence one’s civic stance is cause for being outcast. That the Christian would submit to this is nonsensical, particularly when it is moral questions about which one is often asked to make civic decisions. Again, it’s a two-fold issue both from the leadership exhorting and the body responding.
Evangelism – This we find closely related to the problems in ministry. Here commonly there is one of two issues. Either evangelism is left to the church leaders or we expect the lost to come to us. The Christian seems to have forgotten the “go forth” part of the Great Commission. An expectation needs to be made, if not demanded, of the membership to share the gospel. Being a silent example should not be an accepted dodge for active evangelism. Sure there are the “traditional” methods: letter writing, phone calling, tract placement and many other means for those who simply are unable to visit. But there is also 1 Peter 3:15, “always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and respect.” This verse sums up the essence of evangelism in my opinion.
The secular equation of sharing an opportunity to be pushing your world view on another needs to be broken. In this case, it will only be broken by active evangelism. The other point to consider is that without evangelism, Church growth does not exist. Shuffling memberships around between congregations is not growth. The Church only grows when people are saved.
Discipleship – This closely follows on the tail of evangelism, because it addresses the question of what happen to that new Christian? It goes beyond that, as well, into how do we nurture and grow the older Christians. This area includes equipping the members to perform the other expectations. The church has the responsibility to ensure the equipping of the saints. But the saints also have the responsibility to take advantage of the opportunities. If the training and/or mentoring exist, whether in the Bible Studies or specific classes and the members will not take advantage of it, it is their failure. If one has a knowledge or talent that would edify and build up the church but refrains from sharing it, they are guilty of undermining the mission of the church.
Fellowship – Nobody was meant to do all these things alone. This is why fellowship – Christian fellowship – is so incredibly important. Without sharing the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives with each other we quickly become discouraged. We have a moral responsibility to strengthen and sustain each other, but so often we just see each other at the Sunday morning service. What a pity it is to waste that building so many hours of the day, so many days of the week. The Christian needs to reclaim the church-house as a center of community activity.
All of these areas of abdication can be summed up in one word. Indifference. Any pastor or church leader who fails to call the body upon these issues is guilty of indifference to the duties of their office. Even worse, any member who fails to respond to this call is guilty of indifference to the Holy Spirit and to Christ, Himself. There are some who seem to think that it is enough to write a check each payday. However, Jesus could never be bought. Remember that Jesus not only told the rich young ruler to sell his good and give to the poor, but also to come and follow him. In other words, live the faith in your actions. Only this – by the Church as a whole – can fix this greatest of moral problems. It is this indifference that has allowed things such as the outlawing of the Pledge of Allegiance, the gradual dismantling of the family, homosexual marriage, and now the removal of the Ten Commandments from society. Have we as the Church not truly reaped what we have sown?
Laws. Justice. Morals. These concepts are all based upon the knowledge of the Source of all goodness. All the individual moral acts or codes ultimately rest upon the awareness of the great Source of all morality. Without the acknowledgement of God and a place for Him in society any morality will soon collapse. God’s established instrument for the communication with humanity is through the Church empowered by the Holy Spirit. So if the church will not make a stand in the face of persecution – or worse, unpopularity – any hope of true morality stands doomed.