A friend and I had a discussion Sunday at Easter in Tsuruma Park. My friend maintains that the problem facing the church right now is that young people are leaving because too many churches are "too traditional". They are not hip enough, cool enough, or tolerant enough. I find this to be absolutely redundant to any Christian.
We need to understand, Jesus died to forgive sins and win souls. That needs to be the focus of the church. We need to win souls. You win souls by presenting the truth not by being a consumer brand. I know it is frustrating to see Sundays where there are 50 people and then the more often than not Sunday when there are the consistent 15. What does this say? Does it say something the pastor needs to be attuned to? Yes it does, but not what the knee jerk reaction that is tempting to go by.
The knee jerk reaction: We need to change and change fast. Something must be done quick.
This is wrong. Too often we see the church as a consumer brand. "I donate every week. I would like more contemporary music." "You know pastor we need to be more competitive. That church down the street has a special youth service." "If things do not pick up soon then I think this church will fold."
The church is not a consumer brand. The church is the bride of Christ. As such, we need to step back and catch our breath. There are problems facing the church today, but problems also faced the early church, the Medieval church, the Renaissance church, and the 20th Century church. We are not to be expected to be immune to these problems. What we are facing is what the church has always faced, heresy. We just face new spins on old heresies.
"Homosexuals love each other so homosexuality is love and God is love so homosexuality is OK." Of course this is wrong fro the start. Homosexuality is not love, it is a perversion of love. The real problem is that too many pastors will not preach this truth for the fear of offending young, well donating members. That is the problem, not the church or the message of the Gospels. This is just one example, but the problem is the same.
When the church is seen as some grace dispenser that exists to make everyone happy then the church presents a watered down and very weak message. What does not come from the dispenser is the truth. The truth needs to be seen as the standard by which all propositions are weighed against and the standard by which anything else is judged as a lie. That means churches need to refocus on the truth.
When the church is seen as the bride of Christ then the message is centered on winning souls. The focus is not on building buildings or winning favor. Pastors need to be firm on what the church is. If people wish to leave then it needs to be realized that doors swing both ways. The church is not a consumer industry. You can leave Red Lobster if you do not like it and you can leave the church as well. Snipers are not on either roof to keep you inside. I would much rather have a congregation focused on winning souls than focused on building buildings.
Winning souls is a focus on the quality of the church. It keeps the quality of the message Gospel centered. Soul winning keeps the pastor preaching quality not mundane humanist mantra. Soul winning keeps the church Christ centered not secular appeasing. Winning souls is the quality mark. Winning souls may not translate to quantity but Jesus never said it would.
Give me a church with 15 committed members who wish to be saved, proclaim their salvation, and celebrate their salvation than a mega church whose sole focus is on the building and not the souls in the building. Give me a small church where there is focus on winning souls outside than a huge multi million dollar operation where the focus is on catching the maximum financial return from the outside.
The church has always focused on soul winning and that means quality, not quantity. Now we must go and proclaim the Good News.