“Is Ephraim my dear son? Indeed, as often as I have spoken against him, I certainly still remember him. Therefore my heart yearns for him; I will certainly have mercy on him, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 31:20).
“How many times I would have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and you would not. Behold, your house is left unto you desolate” (Matthew 23:37-38).
Almost daily, I hear of churches firing their preachers, engaged in lawsuits, and struggling with inner conflict. I know a hundred churches that were strong a generation ago but are fighting to survive now.
These are difficult days for churches, which makes these challenging days for church leaders.
If you are not grieving for the Lord’s church these days, it must be because your mind is on other things.
Let us care for what is happening, and pray for the Lord’s people….
–I grieve for the trendy church which is drawing people in from the smaller surrounding congregations and bursting at the seams, but leaving the smaller ones to shrivel and die. The huge church often cons its members into thinking they are doing something for the kingdom since they are experiencing such growth. Churches can be so self-centered. Pray the church will be loving toward other churches.
–I grieve for the church which is having mind-staggering growth but becomes secretive about what it does with the millions of dollars it takes in, protective about the pay it gives its leaders, and dismissive about the questionable personal lives of its leadership. Churches can be carnal. Pray the church will be led by men and women of integrity.
–I grieve for the smaller church which turns an envious eye at the growing congregations in its community and, desiring to be like the others, dismisses its faithful pastor and worship leaders because “we have to stay current with modern trends.” Churches can be wrong-headed. Pray the church will look to Jesus for affirmation and not at their neighbors.
–I grieve for the church which keeps pastors no more than three or four years, then manufactures crisis after crisis to justify sending them packing so they can bring in another one destined to become a victim himself in due time. Churches can be cruel. Pray the church will be Christlike.
–I grieve for the church which fears allowing musical instruments other than pianos and organ into their worship because accepting guitars, keyboards, and drums feels like they are succumbing to the world. Churches can be cowards. Pray the church will be courageous.
–I grieve for the church that thinks installing guitars and drums will solve all their problems. Churches can be caught up in tomfoolery. Pray the church will be wise.
–I grieve for the church which replaces monthly business meetings with an elder-led system allowing a few people to make all the important decisions for the congregation and the church members to stay in the dark. Churches can betray their calling. Pray the church will be responsible.
–I grieve for the church led by a preacher who refuses to do the pastoring work of a shepherd, but expects to build a great church by his brilliant preaching. The word pastor means shepherd. Committees in search of a pastor should find out if their candidates actually minister to the hurting and the lost. Bringing in a preacher simply because he is a great pulpiteer may be the worst decision they will ever make. Churches can be caught up in the world’s way, too. Pray for the church to be godly.
–I grieve for the church which is spending more and more of its income on itself and giving less and less to the community, to missions, and to other ministries dependent on them. Churches can be greedy. Pray for the church to be generous.
–I grieve for the church whose pastor will not be open and forthcoming with the congregation, will not be transparent regarding his actions and motives, leaving people to feel he must be hiding something. In many cases, he is indeed. (See John 18:20 for Jesus’ transparency.) Churches can be victimized. Pray for pastors of integrity and lay leaders of courage.
–I grieve even more for that church whose pastor is betraying the congregation but no one will stand up and hold him accountable. Churches can be betrayed by their membership, too. Pray for the church to be led by men and women of courage and boldness.
Pray for the Lord’s church, friend.
–If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, take notice of all the churches in your community which honor Him. Pray for them and encourage their people. Do not compete with them but rejoice with the victories of each one.
–If you are a disciple of Jesus, by all means join a church in your community and be faithful. Be present each time it meets for worship. Encourage your ministers and leaders. Get into a Sunday School class. Bring an offering. Volunteer.
–If you are a leader of your church, ask God for wisdom in choices and programs, courage to do ask the right questions and take the right actions, and integrity in everything. Speak the truth and love everyone.
–If you are not a leader of your church, stay informed. Ask the right questions. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Brag on leaders who do well.
Pray for the Lord’s church, my friends.
So much depends on the Lord’s churches being healthy, vibrant, and faithful.