State of the Church part 3: The numbers aren’t good

State of the Church:
Part 1: Introduction, Love growing cold
Part 2: Are you tending your anchor?
Part 4: Carnal Carnival, & the greatest sin pastors commit
Part 5a: When carnality leads to spiritual abuse
Part 5b: Is your church spiritually abusive?
Conclusion: Spiritual Leaders and Humble Relationships
In the Introduction/Part 1 of this series, I discussed the Matthew 24:12 prophecy Jesus gave of “love growing cold”, and showed how that prophecy relates to believers. So then if love of believers for God and of each other is predicted to grow cold, in this series I ask what causes love to grow cold. Part 2 explored that question, focusing on the Hebrews 2:1 verse “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.” In future parts I will also take a look at what will love growing looks like at your local church or in your life. Last, this series will hopefully (by God’s grace) discuss how to spot waning love and how frequently these days waning love gives rise to church spiritual abuse.

The numbers give us a clue as to why so many are growing cold. Barna is a respected Christian research group, and in 2009 their numbers found that only 9% of born again Christians adults have a biblical worldview. “For the purposes of the survey, a “biblical worldview” was defined as

  1. believing that absolute moral truth exists;
  2. the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches;
  3. Satan is considered to be a real being or force, not merely symbolic;
  4. a person cannot earn their way into Heaven by trying to be good or do good works;
  5. Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; and
  6. God is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the world who still rules the universe today.

“In the research, anyone who held all of those beliefs was said to have a biblical worldview. For Baptists the number was 8%. For youths the number was even lower- 5%.

Let’s look at that practically. If you belong to a medium sized Baptist church as I do, where on average 200 people congregate on Sunday mornings to worship, according to the Barna number of 8%, how many will hold a biblical world view? 16. Sixteen people. That’s it. Sixteen people in your pews on average who believe all six of the basic doctrines of the bible said to give us a biblical worldview. Sad, isn’t it?

But we are told again and again about the numbers. This should not surprise us. The bible is clear on that. Noah’s family of 8 were the only righteous saved in all the world. Lot and his two daughters were the only people saved out of four cities destroyed that day, Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim. (Gen 19:1-29; Deuteronomy 29:23). And here is a lesson for love growing cold: Mrs Lot seemed to love her husband and children, seemed to be righteous in loving God, after all, she obeyed the angel from God, didn’t she? Mrs Lot left the city where her sons-in-law did not. But when push came to shove, she disobeyed the angel from God and looked back. What was she looking back to? All her stuff. It turned out that in the end, her carnal worldview was revealed. And we know what happened to Mrs Lot. Please pass the salt.

Jesus gave the parable of the soils (Luke 8:4-21) and out of fours soils only one soil was good to produce fruit. Jesus said the way is narrow and few find it, but the way is broad that leads to destruction and many will follow it. (Matthew 7:13-14). Books were opened to judge the damned but only one book of life was opened. So you can see that when Jesus says many will be cold and not have agape love, that even Christians will be part of this prophecy- MANY do not make it. Many of those who don’t were thought all along to be Christians but in the end are revealed not to have been.

Taking our eyes off our first love impacts our biblical worldview. (Rev 2:4). Once we ‘neglect our salvation’ we will begin to insert other things into our worldview in addition to our bible. The further away we drift the more things enter into our view. Soon, people begin thinking the bible is not sufficient. They say, ‘Hey, we’re still on the boat, we’re not sinking, and life is still pretty good. Maybe we didn’t need to be that strict after all. Maybe we can navigate through these waters using our own navigation techniques.’

It was my contention in Part 1 that increasing belief in the bible’s insufficiency is one of the main causes of love growing cold. Keeping a biblical worldview is critical to tend to our salvation! If you have a biblical worldview it means you believe the bible is sufficient. Sufficiency is defined in Part 1 here.

Answers in Genesis describes the problem of declining biblical worldview here: “The history as recorded in the Bible has been attacked by our increasingly secular culture. As a result, recent generations have been brought up to see the Bible as a book that contains many interesting stories and religious teaching, but has no connection to reality.” AIG goes on in a different essay to define worldview from the “American Heritage Dictionary as ‘The overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world. ‘The most simplistic definition for a biblical worldview is to have the mind of Christ. That would mean that one would think like Christ; love like Christ; act like Christ; walk like Christ: have the humility, patience, longsuffering and all of the other Galatians 5:22–26 fruits of the Spirit. Christ would not only be the model but the individual’s worldview would be an exact copy. That is the final target of the committed Christian’s process of sanctification. Prior to reaching that glorious point, Christians will have more or less of every aspect of Christ’s worldview reflected in their biblical worldview.”

The moment you neglect your salvation which is Jesus and Him risen and sufficient to pay the penalty for our sins, your reality shifts. The bible is the only connection to reality, but for those 92% not having the biblical worldview, they have accepted that it is OK to add things to the bible and thus have corrupted their mind of Christ. In future parts of the series I’ll discuss this addition mentality and how it relates to (in)sufficiency.

(ClipArt source

I strive to maintain my biblical worldview by studying the bible, praying, living consciously for Christ, repenting frequently, making decisions and taking actions that are consistent with what the bible says to do, and saying that is what I am doing, worshiping unabashedly, and loving people. It is as if I took the bible and put it in front of my eyes like glasses and that is the view from which I look out into the world. I will admit to you that this lifestyle is seen as weird today. I’m not talking about the lost, they think anything related to the bible is weird. I am talking about close brothers and sisters in a conservative, southern Baptist church who think my worldview is weird. I’ve been accused by believers of taking the bible way too seriously. Seriously!

That is how love goes cold. They leave their first love. Once they do that, submissive adherence to the bible’s precepts for everyday living is seen as extreme. According to Barna’s numbers, it is extreme, if 92% of my fellow Baptists do not fully believe six basic six tenets of the bible (those aren’t even the most foundational doctrines, either, other essential doctrines here). Anyone who does believe those 6 basic precepts is easily seen as too hot, too fervent, too outside the norm. And we are.

Praise the Lord that He always keeps a remnant! How precious to Him is that 8%! Those sixteen in the midst of the 200 drifting away, striving to retain zeal and live submitted, Godly lives! If you know one of these, now you know how much more precious than gold these saints are. Pray that at all times we do not do anything to douse the ardor of these few saintly sheep, and if we do, hasten to reconcile in all Agape love.

Part 4 will deal with the twin corruptives in the church: carnality and insufficiency, and how they lead to spiritual abuse.

Part 1: Introduction, Love growing cold
Part 2: Are you tending your anchor?
Part 4: Carnal Carnival, & the greatest sin pastors commit
Part 5a: When carnality leads to spiritual abuse
Part 5b: Is your church spiritually abusive?