The time has come to say some hard things. That is not my determination to make. Indeed, I am a conflict avoider. The pen must write what it is used to write. I am confident that the source is a Father who out of love, chastens, rebukes, and scourges His children.

Pastors and churches in our hectic times are harassed by the temptation to seek size at any cost and to secure by inflation what they cannot gain by legitimate growth. The Next Chapter After the Last; A. W. Tozer

A. W. Tozer recognized the beginnings of our compromise in the middle of the 20th Century (he died in 1963). Since then, many pastors and churches have succumbed to the temptation about which he spoke and wrote. The results have been catastrophic.

A recent Barna survey reported that 51% of church attenders (in America) did not recognize the phrase “the Great Commission”. Only 17% claimed to know the meaning of it!

Think about that for a minute. What does this say about the church in America? How does someone not know about the command that supposedly got them there? What has replaced the Great Commission?

For those of you that love and lead millennials, it is important to know that new church trends are not helping. Only 11% of church attending millennials understand the Great Commission of our Lord! What does this say about our approach to youth and young adult ministry? Are we going to keep doing what continues to fail our King’s commission?

If this single statistic does not knock off and stomp our rose-colored glasses to bits, I don’t imagine anything will. There are dozens – perhaps hundreds – more indicators like it. Tragically, the church in America has been overrun with deception.

It is not hard (nor popular) to argue that the church in America is more like America than the Kingdom to which it owes allegiance. The ambassadors of Christ are conforming to their surroundings (i.e., becoming “of the world”). The proof is easy enough to see. If it were not so, the contrast in lifestyle and message would be causing more friction, pushback, reviling, rejection, and persecution.

Beware the carnal mind’s deception and distraction. Wanting to be an exception does not make a church an exception. Professing to be an exception does not an exception make. Believing that you are an exception does not make you an exception. Faith without works is dead. Dead blossoms do not make fruit.

Let me be clear: Numbers are not an indicator of kingdom success. Indeed, they are likely the result of a compromised message. If congregants are not uncomfortable with their current state, they are not being adequately challenged and led out of the world. Failure to forcefully exhort them to say goodbye to their carnality leaves them on the wrong side of the Jordan.

We are failing our King through dependence on and reaction to current church measures. We must think differently about success. The primary meaning of repentance (metanoia) is “to change one’s mind”. It is the renewing of our mind that frees us from conformity with the world, into kingdom transformation.

Leaders need this as much as their congregants!

Jesus was not predictable in very many things, but He always preached a hard message when crowds grew large. We are commanded to do the same.

“Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” John 20:21

If you want to test the strength of your congregation, teach what Jesus taught. Start with the Great Commission, move on to the Sermon on the Mount, and don’t forget the challenging gospel messages of Matthew 25.

Suffering as soldiers for our King is the proof of our loyalty and spiritual strength – being willing to unashamedly speak and live out the hard truth of the gospel: deny yourself and take up your cross. The forcefulness of our message and life should be a threat, not a compromise.

Humbly yours and forever His,