There has been a flurry of talk lately in Christian circles about the state of society. Many are shocked, disgusted, and frightened by the increasing immorality in society and how it is being forced upon those who disagree. More and more we are seeing signs of persecution – people loosing their livelihoods and jobs because they will not go along with the demands of the whole 5-letter movement (LGBTQ). We wonder where this will all end.
I can certainly understand the concern. If you look at church history – and indeed the current state of the church in a lot of the world – persecution is a big part of the story. Then you look at things in recent history like Nazi Germany, Communist Russia, Maoist China, and Pol Pot’s Cambodia, and you see that man is not only capable of, but in many instances perfectly content with, treating those they disagree with or devalue with terrible cruelty.
Will parents have their children taken away from them because they teach them that anything other than marriage between a man and a woman is sin? Will churches be shut down because they won’t stop preaching that the 5-letter business is sin? Will concentration camps be opened for those of us who won’t bow to the demands of the ungodly? These things may sound outlandish to our American ears, but none of them are without precedence in recent history.
But before I get too far off track about what may possibly happen in the future, I want to take a look at this issue from the standpoint of the church’s responsibility – both in terms of the cause and the solution.
I understand that God is sovereign and that none of what is transpiring – or will transpire – is taking Him by surprise. He will use all things for His purposes and to glorify His name. I agree with all that. But there’s more to this situation than meets the eye, and simply writing the situation off as “it’s God’s will” unnecessarily, and perhaps harmfully, whitewashes it.
In the 26 years that I’ve been a Christian, people have bemoaned how bad things are getting in society. How crime, immorality, anger, hatred, etc. – are growing. And we’ve fretted about lukewarmness, divorce, and myriads of other sins being committed in the church. And I have agreed and often mourned these things myself.
But I’ve also noticed something else in my 26 years. If you want to see a bad attendance at church, don’t go to Wednesday night Bible study, or even the men’s fellowship group.
Go to prayer meeting.
I’m not talking about what most churches call prayer meeting – where they sing a few songs, somebody brings a message, they take prayer requests and then pray for 2 minutes (or less) over them. I’m talking about a sure-enough prayer meeting – where you get together for 1, 2, … 5 hours or more and cry out to God about the needs in the church, in the community, and in the world.
I was attending a church one time that had an average weekly attendance of around 600. They decided one day that they would start a prayer ministry. At the first meeting there were less than 10 people in attendance. We were assigned an abandoned closet under the stairs as our prayer room – you couldn’t even stand up in it. At the second meeting there were 3 people – myself and 2 ladies, and I never saw more than 5 people at the prayer meeting.
Brothers and sisters, I believe this is the primary weakness in the church – we simply don’t pray. We’re either too self-sufficient and don’t think we really need God, or we don’t believe Him and take Him at His word that He answers prayer. Maybe it’s both. In any case, this weakness has been going on for decades, and I believe it’s why we are in the state we are in – both inside and outside the church.
This is why there is so much sin in our society and nearly as much sin inside the church. This is why churches are dying instead of growing. This is why we don’t often see the miracles of changed lives, salvation, deliverance, and healing. This is why crime, drugs, abuse, broken families, etc. are so prevalent in society.
Contrast this with the church in Asia, for example, that is growing in most places. The midweek prayer meeting is just as important to most Christians as the Sunday morning worship service. Whole communities begin to change as the church prays.
I remember being in a large Baptist church in Atlanta one time. There were several doors leading from the foyer to the sanctuary, which was rated for over 1400 people. Off to one side of the foyer was a door leading to a small room that could have maybe held 50 people if it was packed. Over that door was a sign that read ‘prayer room’. I remember thinking that if this church had been in Asia, the ‘prayer room’ sign would have been over the doors leading to the sanctuary.
Can you see what’s going on here, folks? We’ve been irresponsible. By being so negligent in prayer, we have not done our duty to our children, our family, our friends, or even to the lost world out there. And believe me, I’m just as guilty as anyone else.
Now I know there are some who will disagree with me and say that the biggest problem with the church is its rejection of biblical truth. People base their morality more on subjective experiences and feelings rather than the absolute truth of God’s word, and thus justify whatever ungodliness they wish to. And I would agree that this is a major problem in the church.
Others would say that the biggest problem is that the church is not sharing the gospel with the lost – that we just keep floating along hoping that one day folks will take an interest and start going to church and get saved. We don’t do anything to reach out and show people the love of Jesus. And I would agree – this is a major failing of the church as well.
Still others would say that the biggest problem in the church is the fact that the church doesn’t do what the Bible says. We say we are Christians, but we don’t live like Christians should. It’s often summed up with the modern refrain “The church is full of hypocrites!” I used to be in this particular camp myself, and still believe it’s a terrible problem in the church.
But I contend that prayer is interrelated with all these things.
Exercise is good for the heart in and of itself. But exercise also brings down cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure, and weight. All of these things are good for the heart as well.
In the same manner, prayer affects other aspects of our walk. Prayer forces us to acknowledge our dependence upon God. The Holy Spirit becomes more active, bringing God’s word to life in our lives. He brings conviction when we hear God’s word. He puts that fire in our bones to make the message of Christ’s salvation available to the lost. He gets our hearts tuned in with God so we can hear His voice better and align our will with His. He helps us get out there and be the hands and feet and voice of Jesus to a lost world.
I could go on and on, but you get the idea.
So there’s the solution to the problem – we need to pray more as a body. I know there are a few folks out there who are regularly gathering together for prayer for their families, churches, communities, and the world – and that’s good. But that needs to be amplified many-fold. Every church needs to be actively gathering and interceding before God.
Now I’m not saying that this will produce an instant solution to the problems we have in church and in society. Most probably, things will get worse before they get better. We didn’t get into this problem overnight – it is the result of decades of negligence – so we probably won’t get out of it overnight (although anything is possible with God).
But there is a pathway out, and indeed we have a responsibility to take that pathway – a responsibility to our children, our neighbors, our community, our nation, and our world. Ultimately, it is our responsibility before God.
The solution lies with us, folks – let’s take up the challenge.