My Church is a Failure

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My Church is a failure. We’ve probably lost more members than we’ve ever gained. We don’t have a youth group, children’s church, or an outreach into our community. We don’t raise money to feed the poor, or bus in children from the inner cities. We don’t protest at  abortion centers as a church, or have political candidates in our pulpit. On top of all that, we don’t focus our encouragement on personal devotions, or lots of prayer time in your inner closet. We don’t keep a list of what not to watch and what not to read and what not to wear. Even worse than all that, we encourage young men to give up their careers, money, power, and influence. Why? So they can study an ancient and out of touch document. We encourage young women to pass on the idea of a career and consider their calling as wives, mothers and homemakers. We encourage men to lead and women to submit. We encourage people to give up on their dreams.

Have I made you gasp yet? Do you think I’ve gone and joined a cult?

We want so desperately to live by sight. We just want to be able to see the Kingdom of Christ soooo badly we can taste it. And often, too often, we willingly give up the truth, the gospel, the commands of the gospel in order to see heaven here on earth.

See, we don’t like the way Christ set things up. We want it to be about us. We want to do “great things for Christ”. But that’s never been what Christ called us to do. You want to know what he called us to do? He called us to live quiet lives of service, and service specifically to our church. He didn’t call us to end the ills of this earth. If He had, you’d think Paul would have led a slave revolt instead of telling slaves to obey their masters. You think the apostles would have told women to preach but they told women to be silent, modest, to sit at the feet of other silent modest older women, and to submit to their husbands. Paul had the perfect opportunity to change his world, but he didn’t. Instead, he preached the gospel to sinners.

You want to see heaven here on earth? Okay. Ready for this? Look at the person sitting next to you on the pew. Yes. Them. The ones with the wiggly kids, the gum smackers, the off-key singers, the bad dressers, the questionable movie watcher, the couple with no kids, the couple with way too many kids, the strange, the odd, the nerdy, the geeky, the least of the earth, the greatest of sinners sitting beside you on the pew each Sunday. This is heaven. Heaven is not what you want it to be. Heaven is the True Kingdom finally made sight for us instead of just faith, and your local congregation is your little taste of heaven.

Church is heaven.

2014 ARBCA GA

2014 ARBCA GA

Our church may be a failure in the eyes of the world, or in the eyes of big, modern churches, but Christ has blessed us with elders who encourage us that true Christianity is not found in independent bible study, but in the gathering of the local saints. True Christianity is based on the means of grace: preaching, the Lord’s supper, baptism, and prayer. This is where we are promised blessing if we remain faithful. It’s not about daring and change. It’s about trust, a quiet life, and Christ making us more like himself.

Stop being so worried about whether you missed out on your private Bible time, or the ills of this world, which you can’t change, and start worrying about whether you make it a point to be at church every time the doors are open. Are you a faithful attendee by God’s grace? When you’re there, do you engage others, or do you try to hide as much as possible? Do you pray? Do you engage yourself in the Lord’s Supper? Do you participate in the baptism of new believers? Do you visit sick church members? Do you sacrifice what you want for what the church needs? Do you serve those around you?

See, none of this is amazing. None of this is pretty, or powerful, or mighty according to how the world judges might. It is lowly. It is humbling. It is even stupid sometimes. I mean grown men who sacrifice time and money to study and teach in obscurity. And even if they are ever ‘well known’, who knows them? A few other stuffy old men? And women? Smart, talented young women who turn their back on art, music, jobs that let them travel, their own destinies for what? To change dirty diapers? To visit sick people they’re not even related to? To submit, obey, and serve their husbands? It’s not very glittery. It’s not very pretty. It’s not popular.

But, it is heaven here on earth.

A careful exegeses of the scripture does not call the Church to change our society. It doesn’t call us to right the wrongs. It calls us to love our fellow church members, to serve them and take care of them, to live quiet lives, and to store up our treasures in heaven, not here. This is not heaven. This is a world under the wrath of God, filled with sinners, out of which Christ is calling his own. Someday, Christ will return and destroy this place with fire. It won’t be pretty. It won’t be nice.

Heaven is on the other side of death, or Christ’s return, and the only place we can find an inkling of it here is in a local church where the word of God is consistently preached by elders called by Christ who hold fast to their confessions of faith. This is our heaven here on earth.

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27 thoughts on “My Church is a Failure

  1. Thank you, Abby. Never have I heard or read a more succinct description of what you and Price believe. The New Testament does give these very directions to Christ-followers. I can’t deny that. Just remember the story of the blind person describing an elephant. When touching the animal at different places, the description changed. We come to the Lord from where we are and He leads from there if we commit our lives to Him. I met Him as a six-year-old from a very strict home where the wife’s opinion was rarely even considered. Walking with Christ over 70 years, I know He has placed me in different circumstances where I sensed His call on my life in varied ways and tried to follow. At this stage, I am happy that Price is teaching “in obscurity”, as you put it, and giving his life to the call. I love hearing him and will be back periodically. But God has called me in a different place and time. I, too, have served in obscurity and been blessed through it. I leave the results and outcomes to God. You seem happy that your church “is a failure” by the world’s standards. I feel the same about my life. However,God does speak to us women individually, too. Keep in tune and listen. I love you, Abby!

    • Thanks for reading! As a fellow woman with no children, I do believe God has specific plans for each of us and that those plans don’t always look the same for everyone…in fact they don’t look the same at all. I’m resting, as you are too, in trusting him with my life and doing his will. I love you very much, and I’m always thankful for your opinions!

  2. Thank you so much for this post Abby! Wow, what timely encouragement! I just want to mount this post on the living room wall and share on FB every week, lol! It’s especially poignant since we’ve been listening to your church’s Two Kingdom theology series every Sunday evening with a group of families from our church. This post really helped me tie some things together.

  3. Beautifully written and I’ve said some of these things to others many a time. I appreciate you sharing what many of us want to. I’ve had other give me that “so what do with your children during the sermon”? Look…. lol I simply tell them, they sit there with us and listen to the teaching. Usually no reply a simple oh ok and they walk away. Anyway thanks for writing this Abby what a blessing and encouragement you are to many. Loveya!

    • Thanks for reading!!! Glad you enjoyed it! Yes! I spent every Sunday sitting an listening…or coloring and listening. 🙂 You know, with the grown ups! What a novel idea.
      I’m so thankful to be able to encourage my church in anyway I can! Love ya too!

  4. Thank you, dear daughter. Your artical is a very helpful outworking of the doctrine of our Confession. When we follow God’s revealed doctrines and precepts, and believe His promises, He really does change the way we see our lives and world in which we live – and eventually the way we live and speak. Love you and appreciate how you are using your time and abilities to encourage all of us. Dad.

    • Thank you Dad. Thank you for all your studying, praying and careful teaching in our church. I love you as my father and am thankful for you as my pastor. It is so good to have a God who sanctified us, never stops sanctfying us, and blesses us with good teachers and preachers. It’s good to have a Dad who never gives up on you as well. 😉

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  6. This is a great article, but it’s very imbalanced. I pray the Lord will help not just you all, but all of us be the city on a hill. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” As Reformed Baptist we may think we’re doing the right thing by doing nothing, especially when it comes to outreach, but we have to remember Jesus words to the Church of Ephesus, “I know your works…Nevertheless I have this against you…”. I agree that the Churches mission is not political, but many Churches neglect out reach and make excuses for it. You said, “This is a world under the wrath of God, filled with sinners, out of which Christ is calling his own.” Great point! But God’s appointed means to reach people under the wrath of God is to go out into the world and bring them into the Church, not wait for more, Christians to become Reformed Baptist.

    • Thank you for reading and commenting! I really appreciate it. The article wasn’t meant to address every specific topic of the doctrines of the church and evangelism, but to highlight our sinful desires to live by sight instead of faith and to even subconsciously make salvation about me instead of the glory of Christ. It was also meant to address our willingness to sacrifice our lives for big obvious things, but not for the daily work of loving our brothers and sisters sitting by us in the pews. We, even as Reformed Baptists, can get trapped by a desire for glamor and notoriety. We have a hard time living a quiet life. I also think there is a difference between what the church is called to do as a body-preach the word- and what we can do as individuals-protest abortion, have soup kitchens and so on. Our church is heavily involved with church planting and supporting missionaries. What I was specifically trying to argue against is things like the push for women to leave their family behind to follow a “holy” calling when the Bible makes it clear that’s not what we’re supposed to do. We don’t believe we’re called to do nothing. We do believe it’s not the church’s job to fight the ills of the world.
      Is that clear? I feel like I might be rambling around. Anyway. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. 🙂

  7. I am reminded of our pastors constant encouragement to be light and salt by doing our jobs well and living our lives with integrity; by being involved in secular endeavors where we live out our faith. These things can only be done well if we have a foundation of regular exposition of the Word from the pulpit. So thankful for our little ole church.

  8. I’m inwardly smiling for two reasons. First, liked the challenging and true cheekiness of your blog. Second, appreciated the simplicity/sublimity of the your view of the church – rare in modern church culture. Knew you’d get some flak. 😉

    • Thanks for reading and all the support Tom. Cheeky, huh??? 😉
      We’ve been greatly blessed by our Lord with wonderful Elders and I’ve been blessed by a God who doesn’t give up on me but keeps sanctfying me. 🙂

  9. Yeah. Who said we had to be salt and light anyway?! Let the slaughter continue on the unborn!!
    Bahhahahhahahah!

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