I was reading something the other day (I can’t for the life of me remember what) and it made a passing reference to threats to the church coming from various outside influences. The article listed such things as technology, apathy, other religions, the state of our culture and globalisation as threats to the church in the 21st century.
I thought about this for a bit, and I’ve decided that, whilst those are all valid contributions to the way in which Christianity has struggled the last few decades, I think there is one thing above all that is the biggest threat to the church.
Not all Christians – I’m not suggesting that. But I do genuinely think that the biggest threat the church faces is Christians who say one thing on a Sunday, and then live the rest of their weeks as if they were completely different people. I know I’m guilty of doing this, and I’m not saying that it’s an easy fix. But it makes me sad and concerned at the number of people who proclaim to be Christians, but don’t show it or live it out in their lives.
And it’s this that I think is the biggest threat to the church. I honestly believe that people out there are curious about Jesus, and in some way are longing for more than what the world can offer them. But when they look at a church of hypocrites, then they simply turn away without even looking further. There is nothing more off-putting to people outside the church than people inside the church who say one thing and then do another.
Now we are all going to mess up, and because none of us are perfect, we will display our errors and flaws to people, both inside the church and out. But I think there is a difference between being honest and genuine in our mistakes, and blatantly saying one thing and living another.
As people who follow Jesus, we should stand out from the world as people who live honest, genuine lives trying to follow Christ. Whilst we will make mistakes, we should be constantly showing love and grace to the world. Our faith should be manifest in our actions and our lifestyle. The world should be able to look at the church and see a community of genuine, honest people who are filled with love for God and for people.
These other threats will pass, as others in history have come and gone. But the threat from inside the church will always remain, and has the potential to either propel the church or drag it backwards. It’s our call.