Fruitless Living: The disease of the 21st century church

Have you ever wondered why so many churches are filled with the same members it had 20 years ago?  Sure, sister special may have gone home with the Lord, or brother beloved might have joined a church closer to his children, but there are plenty of churches where you can take the church directory from this year,  compare it to the church directory 20 years ago and you will notice many of the names on the pages haven’t changed. Al Goodsoul and Ed Saintly have been deacons as far back as anyone can remember, but that could be because the church hasn’t really needed any new deacons.

Let’s be honest, if there is anything most Christians do well, it would be maintaining what we are already doing. We’ve had Sunday School for over 200 years and “That’s the way it’ll always be done.” Sure our children have been taught about David and Goliath a dozen times, but it has such a good moral lesson. Songs like “How Great is our God” or “Shout to the Lord” should be added into our Hymnals before we consider using these songs on a regular basis in their services.

The sad truth is this; while we’ve gotten so good at a few specific things, we find it difficult to consider new avenues of worship. Some churches will completely refuse major changes to the programs they are used to even if the productivity of the program is in decline. Two hundred years ago, Sunday school was an innovative effort to combine literacy training with teaching the truths of God. In 2012 it is one of three standard measurements for church growth, along with worship attendance and tithing, and it will continue regardless of seeing actual spiritual growth.  Hymnals were first created to offer believers a set of commons songs to lift praises in unison to the Lord during worship services, and particularly, revivals. In 2012, instead of promoting the lifting of shared praises, it is a tool to divide the praise of God’s people into “Traditional” and “Contemporary” groups.

Is there a root cause for all of this church damaging chaos? Yes! The Church has learned that it is okay to be fruitless. As James puts it in chapter two in his letter, “Faith without works is dead.”  In Matthew 7 Jesus teaches that you will know those who are His by their fruits. He also commands the withering of a fig tree in Matthew 21:19 that did not yield fruit. This goes to show that since He commands the withering of fruitless trees, or fruitless Christians, we may still have something that resembles a fruit baring tree, but in reality it has stopped producing long ago.

We are foolish to continue trying to make a withered tree produce fruit. Caring for a dead tree doesn’t take much action, but if we go so far as to care for it as if it were living, we are just performing worthless action. Intentionally performing worthless action is just as bad, if not worse, than fruitless itself.  If we are performing fruitless actions, we are supporting the life of an action-less tree or program, which just further proves the church’s acceptance of fruitless living.

In Revelation, Jesus suggests that a lukewarm church he will reject or spit out. Again, lukewarm water is suggestive of water that is doing nothing. It is not hardening into ice, nor is it forming steam, it’s just plain old water. In regards to the church, we are neither training our members in discipleship or evangelism, nor do we challenge those who just sit in the pews to realize their continued lives of disobedience. The church is content to remain fruitless in promoting the truth of the Gospel.

This is in direct opposition to several of Jesus’ teachings and commands. Most Christians can recite the great commission, or at least tell you its summary, but living it out is not on the agenda for their days. When Jesus commanded the disciples in John 15 to “love one another, just as I have loved you,” He wasn’t just suggesting we get along and present a pleasant and peaceful “worship” service each week. Jesus was commanding us to surrender our ambitions and desires to assure the benefit of others in the faith. When Jesus told Peter three times to “Feed my Sheep,” this was not a calling just for the best of the best brethren, but an ongoing task for both shepherds and any person to whom the bread of life is given.

While I realize this is quite the heavy set of thoughts, I would like to offer one enlightening tool for honest self-evaluation. What defines the majority of your Christian life? How often you read the Bible? How sincere your prayer life is? How welcoming you and your local body of believers have made your church to be? None of these things are bad things for fueling a Christian life, but what good are efforts to prune a tree that still is not baring fruit?

Jesus said it himself; he came to seek and to save those who are lost. Not one of us played Hide and Seek without being prepared to take action, run after those who are hiding, and then make every effort to catch our buddies. If we know it takes action to succeed at a game, why would we ever be content to remain fruitless and action-less when our buddies are not just hiding, but they are trapped in a pit of sin without the means to be set free?

Yes, many churches are in a state of disaster, but it’s not yet too late to ask God to help us begin the clean up. We simply cannot allow fruitless living to be accepted any longer!

Written by Timothy Hegerich

There is truth in our world, and it lies within the word of the One who created the world.  It is my prayer that my thoughts and writings echo this truth and inspire you to seek it for your life today.

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3 comments

  1. Good root cause analysis – now you need to identify priortized areas of improvement and recommended action plan.

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