4 Practical Threats to the Church Today

Jared Longshore
| May 30, 2017

I recently saw that doom’s day bunkers are on the rise. I’m not really a retreat underground with canned goods kind of guy. But, I’m growing in my appreciation for those who can identify real threats and take measures to guard against them. Any threat assessment of the church runs the risk of sounding universal and hopeless. So, qualification one and two: (1) These threats are shared from a very limited vantage point. (2) God can obliterate these threats with a flick of His wrist. Here are four practical threats on my radar:

We face a threat of not meeting regularly enough as a church. If I were the devil, I would get Christians separated. I would convince them that one hour a week is plenty of time for them to spend together. When I was young, I had the privilege of growing up in a church where I was taught the Bible multiple times a week. Between Sunday mornings/evenings and Wednesday nights, I tally up at least 8 hours a week spent with the people of God, much of which included hearing biblical truth. I have no idea how many sorrows I’ve been spared and how many blessings I’ve received from the common means of grace as common people served me God’s Word. Many Christians today only sporadically gather with God’s people on Sunday morning. No organization, school, army, or church can survive scanty assembling. God commands us to stir one another up to love, “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25). Our failure to assemble is not mainly one of discipline, but desire. We simply do not really love God’s Word and people as much as we say we do. Add to that an adolescent view of what the church is, and you have vast amounts of Christians very busy, but not with seeing the church built up throughout the world. Neutralize this threat with this book: Church Membership by Jonathan Leeman

We face a threat of self-centeredness. Oxford dictionaries’ word of the year in 2013 was selfie. Facebook did not create this phenomenon in the human heart, but it has revealed the me-monster within. Social media is a mixed bag that the enemy has used to exacerbate our obsession with number one. The church, however, thrives on looking away from ourselves to Christ and others. The church cannot function appropriately when members don’t deny themselves. It is a recipe for disaster when we start to think the church exists for me to express my gifts or in order to accommodate my preferences. It is common to hear, “I want to go to a church with deep community, solid preaching, and passionate missions.” But, what we need to hear is, “In this church, I am going to initiate deep community, promote solid preaching, and sacrifice toward the end of passionate missions.” Paul’s words serve us well as we face this particular danger, “Do nothing fromselfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). Neutralize this threat with this book: Side By Side by Ed Welch

We face a threat of being thin on the Bible. Yes, we have some verses memorized. And certain culturally-acceptable Christian morals still guide us. But, it increasingly seems that a large swath of evangelicals have very little Bible in their bones. Every Christian is being discipled by the world around him or her. That is why Paul says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:2). In certain ways, I fear we have been Cannanized. God has much to say about how we spend our time, how we function in the home, what we set before our eyes, when and to whom we submit, how we spend our money, and how we raise our children. If we drift from God’s Word on these topics, and others, we are in real danger. We need to get serious about changing our mind to agree with God’s Word for “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Neutralize this threat with this book: Taking God at His Word by Kevin DeYoung

We face a threat of fearing man and not fearing God. The gospel demands that we fear God, not man. If we are to love man how we ought to love him, then we must not fear him. When told by the authorities to cease speaking of Christ, Peter and John replied, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20). If you strike that tone today, you will likely get a few raised eyebrows even from well-meaning Christians. Why is that? Our orientation is off. We offer man respect at God’s expense. God has commanded us to fill the earth with the knowledge of the Lord. But, we put this command and others aside when man says such activity is unacceptable. We’ve lost a context for understanding Psalms like Psalms 2, 5 and 7. And we’re losing a place in the Christian life for “fearing God and keeping His commandments” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). May God give us grace to pray with David, “Unite my heart to fear your name” (Psalm 86:11). Neutralize this threat with this book: When People are Big and God is Small by Ed Welch