How do you define the health of today’s church in Texas? Vibrant? Dynamic? Static? Of course, the answer depends on the particular church you attend. I’m certain we have churches that fit all three descriptions. Yet my overall opinion, based on the fact half of Texans claim no church affiliation, is that our churches are not vibrant.
I have paraphrased some information from Erwin McManus’ book, An Unstoppable Force, to indicate some trends that characterize declining churches.
• Survival, rather than service, has become the goal.
• Leaders are equipped to preserve the past rather than create the future.
• The church has become a fortress from the world rather than the hope of the world.
• The church has turned to politics rather than spiritual awakening.
• We have kept our traditions and lost our children.
• The church has begun to exist for the benefit of its members.
• Christians have developed a selfish theology.
• The church has become an institution rather than a movement.
This description is quite different from the church Jesus describes in Matthew 16:18, “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” The Apostle Paul prays for the church, “… that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of his calling, what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power toward us who believe” (Ephesians 1:18-19).
Paul continues to pray, “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19). The church described in Ephesians is the fullness of Christ, and Christ is the fullness of the church.
The church that is the body of Christ is a dynamic, living instrument of the Holy Spirit that is God working in the world to reflect righteousness, not selfishness; passion, not complacency; humility, not arrogance; charity, not greed; hope, not despair. The world does not need the church to be clever but to be authentic.
Sharing the hope of Christ with everyone in Texas requires planning, hard work and participation from all of us. However, unless our efforts are born of God and empowered by God, Texas Hope 2010 will be just another marketing ploy. Our goal is not to help the BGCT to survive or even to thrive; our aim must be to fulfill Christ’s commands to make disciples of all people.
Pray for our churches to be a part of a movement of the Holy Spirit that brings the hope of Jesus to a world who needs him.
Randel Everett is Executive Director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas Executive Board.