When I’m preaching on Sundays I can’t see what’s happening in people’s hearts. I can’t see if any are born again, or encouraged or sustained or convicted. Some people may be smiling or nodding, but many have unreadable expressions. If I were to judge by some peoples’ faces I’d guess nothing was happening in their hearts. When we’d have family devotions when the kids were young, most days they were sleepy, distracted and squirmy. I couldn’t tell if God’s word was having any effect on my kids. Often when I share the gospel with someone I’m met with a blank stare or “Oh yeah I believe in Jesus. I go to church.” They don’t cry out “Brother, what should I do?” like on the day of Pentecost. And even when I read God’s word myself, I don’t experience fireworks or goosebumps. At times I’m convicted or challenged or encouraged by a Scripture, but many mornings my devotions feel rather routine and unremarkable.
But our lack of seeing immediate fruit in our children when we read the Bible to them or in fellow believers when we encourage them with Scripture or unbelievers when we share the good news of Jesus or even in ourselves when we read God’s word, doesn’t mean that something isn’t happening. God’s word is at work.
This is fascinating stuff. On a related note…
Nine out of ten evangelicals say no, but what do church leaders say?
While many of the specific reasons for an individual church’s or denomination’s decline are complicated, there are two over-arching reasons for extended drops in membership and attendance – the lack of orthodoxy (right beliefs) or orthopraxy (right actions).
To ignore one or the other will undoubtably lead to decline, regardless of how well we think we have the other handled. That is of particular importance because of the way both sides have treated the issue of homosexuality.
Nearly 20 years ago I was an unbelieving, angry guy. I hadn’t previously been exposed to “Bible-thumping” guys but, now that I was, I utterly despised them. I hated their smiles, humility, hopefulness, charity, and confidence. Oh, how I hated their confidence. I would mock, insult, and try to get them to “sin” or blush. They just kept on like they understood me better than I understood myself.
I didn’t listen to them. I don’t even think I ever really heard them–but, they got to me. They were different. I knew it and so did they.
If sin has to be whispered…
“If there’s a sin that has to be whispered in our congregation then we are not truly Christian.”—Russell Moore at ERLC 2014 (HT: Todd Adkins)