Today we are continuing our journey through obstacles the church faces. Today we have the privilege to have an article written by Rev. Paul Buscher at Open Door Christian Church where he is the Senior Pastor. He is thought provoking and down to earth with his writing. I know you will enjoy it as much as I did
– Rev. Joe Kramer
Obstacles for Church Growth
Rev. Paul Buscher
Open Door Christian Church, Deland FL.
There is an ancient Greek myth about a fellow by the name of Sisyphus. He was the supposed founder and first king of the city of Corinth. Sisyphus was guilty of some things, and as punishment, he was made to roll a huge boulder up a steep hill. Sounds simple enough? At least he was punished for whatever he did, right? However, before he could reach the top, the massive stone would always roll back down, forcing him to begin again. This process would go on and on. He would never be able to complete this task. So, it has come to pass that pointless and/or never-ending activities are sometimes described as “Sisyphean.”
During the time when this supposed king was punished this way, many would have felt that the punishment was fitting. “He got what he deserved,” people might have shouted! On the other hand, reflect on this mythical story through the eyes of modern thought. “What is the point?” one might question. “If he knew that the rock would roll back down, why would he keep trying? It’s illogical in that it doesn’t make sense and irrelevant because we all know better than those primitives!” Unfortunately, it is this modern way of thinking why the majority of people have become disenchanted with the Church – because God, as seen nowadays, is pointless and irrelevant.
Take, for another example, a church congregation that has been around for quite some time. Open old photo albums of the church or look at their aged directories of members. The church used to be a thriving and growing church – with several in membership! When one looks at the church now, they see a dead church – with only a handful of people in attendance. Where did all these people go? While there may be a number a different reasons and causes, one ongoing and prevalent theme is spreading in the world – it is because people no longer feel that they need God – He is irrelevant.
Suppose you asked some random person off the street if they attend church. It is highly probable that he or she would say, “no.” If asked “why,” one would usually get the same responses: “I don’t need God. Science has already explained what we didn’t already know…” God is now seen as being pointless and irrelevant and that those who follow God-based beliefs are nothing more than someone who pushes a rock uphill only to have it fall back down.
Secular humanism is a worldly/material ideology that espouses reason, ethics, and justice, by specifically rejecting supernatural and religious teaching as a basis of morality and decision-making. It seeks to find answers to life and organizes knowledge only in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe, that is, science. A philosophy like this, along others (such as atheism) fuels the flame that kindles the ideas of no longer needing God and finding Him irrelevant.
We live in a world where things only explained by alleged science are our god. The “scientific age” and “modern thinking” have been the driving forces of how to establish fact from fiction. Concepts like “God” and “the Bible” which used to give everyone an explanation are no longer needed. Again, a random person on the street would be quick to point out that “science has already proven that things like evolution explain our origin…”
Now, this paper will not go into the historical background and significant persons who and how this ideology started and its driving force today (you have the internet for that!). The point is that because this way of thinking is enormous and worldwide, it causes a huge obstacle in the church today. If one were to make God relevant again, it should help solve a large portion of the church growth dilemma. And how does one make God relevant again? There are three potential ways to contribute to the relevancy of God and thus increase the growth and need for church.
One way is to establish God as being personally relevant to us. This might sound easier said than done. When one is depressed, why not turn to alcohol? Money problems? Why not try your luck and gamble and become rich? See something you want? Go out and get it without thinking of the consequences (or so we are taught in our culture…). The world is immersed in a consumer culture that encourages us to be selfish (you know, greater and faster consumption of goods, and encourages us to be dissatisfied with what we have, to replace what we have with newer models, later technology, younger spouses, or whatever). In the long run, material things only find temporary satisfaction. God is the only one that can completely and personally satisfy.
There is, however, a second predicament to this: some people feel as though they have no real problems. They have a car, a house, a job, a spouse. Life is fine – why do they need God? “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?” Well, like the saying goes, “good things don’t last forever!” People soon forget that death is inevitable. This fact is a very sobering and humbling truth. By prioritizing God personally and individually in one’s life, God will not just become more “real” – He’ll become relevant!
A second way contribute to the relevancy of God is to make Him locally relevant to us. People will see the need for God when their needs are met! Typically, God is more “real” at a homeless shelter. Why? Because when people have nothing and then are given something – God is there! A church needs to support and contribute locally. There are numerous examples all over the internet when church growth skyrocketed when a local need was met (such as starting an Alcoholics Anonymous group, a food pantry, grief counseling, kid’s softball team, etc.). People do not want to come to church and be told that they are going to hell. People will come to church when God is locally relevant to them and their community.
Lastly, one more way to make God relevant again is to make Him globally relevant to us. Can a world function without God? Many people think so – but few have taken a closer look. Just consider even the minute (or not so small) features of the universe and of living things. These are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection (as taught in secular humanism). When one considers the argument from the intelligent design of life and the universe, how could God not be relevant?
People may put their “faith” in wars, weapons, and countries to save them. However there are problems with worldwide pollution, natural resources running out, unequal distribution of financial resources, nuclear weapons, and a possible imminent danger of worldwide catastrophe. In short, when considering the global problems within the world, the world needs God!
These, however, are only the tip of the iceberg. The obstacles for church growth are ever present and sometimes never ceasing. But with the aid of showing God to be more meaningful and relevant both personally, locally, and globally, it can help blast open the doors of growth instead of tediously and uselessly pushing a rock uphill.