Church has been on the receiving end of some pretty harsh rhetoric, often in favor of Jesus, but in disfavor of Jesus’ professing followers. And it is in decline in some places, holding its own in other, while exploding in growth in the southern and eastern parts of the world.
This piece is certainly worth considering. The clash he says is between God and Mammon (the love of money):
That’s the real clash of civilisations: the shopping centre (now moved online) versus the temple, a battle between those who are wealthy enough to think in terms of the first person singular and those forced to think in terms of the plural collective. There are only two globalisations: God and mammon. And they will never fully be reconciled.
Although there is church growth in this part of the world, this seems tenuous at best. There are, in my opinion, very good churches, which in numbers may be just holding their own at best. While there are what is called megachurches, which either have grown, and could well still be growing in numbers of those attending, yet may or may not really be centered in the gospel, and God’s will in Jesus, in which the church has a central part. Many times such churches are valued in significant part because of personalities, as in good pastors; those attending often focused on such things as whether or not they get much out of the sermons, good worship music, good programs for their kids, good fellowship (and coffee), etc. And that can be all well and good in its place. But the critical question is whether or not such churches are about making true disciples of our Lord, as well as being Christ’s body in the world.
Churches which seem to be treading water may actually be doing better in making disciples at least within their ranks. Of course new disciples in turn should eventually be making other disciples, that practice and dynamic going on exponentially. In the Spirit’s moving in power in the global South and East, this most certainly is the case, Africa and China being prime examples.
It is good to try to understand better what we’re up against in the limitations of our own personal perspectives, and within society at large. Church planting is a difficult calling here, I think, and for more reasons than touched on in this post. But the Spirit of God is still active, and can penetrate even through our dullness in the western world. We dare not lose hope, but rather should aspire to be in the Lord, even if it’s on a relatively small scale, a witness in word, deed, and life of the transforming and distinctive work of God through the gospel. Remember how the prophet says that God does not despise the day of small things, and that small is where the kingdom of God in Jesus begins. We should work at growing in the life that others need, that we all need, together in and through Jesus.