Today’s churches, for the most part, are stagnant and weak in comparison to the Early Church in Acts. Below are two disquieting symptoms we see in many of today’s churches and missions. First we will observe these symptoms and then ask you to find solutions to these problems.
1. We see very little impact in the community and beyond (Acts 17:6). Most churches are not multiplying, disciples are not increasing and the Word of the Lord is not spreading like it did in the Early Church (Acts 6:7). Look at the map on June 24th and observe the dates attached to the geographical progress of the spread of the gospel.
2. We have not succeeded in planting truly indigenous churches. In most countries outside of the West, the Christian faith is still considered a foreign religion. The diagram below helps explain this problem. For instance, in the early Jewish Church the Jews wanted the Gentiles to become Jewish in order to enter the kingdom. In today’s western church, missionary efforts have sincerely, and maybe unconsciously, enticed new believers to become western in order to enter the kingdom.
Explanation: In the Early Church, Paul strongly opposed Gentiles becoming Jewish in order to enter the kingdom. Anything that added or took away from the gospel of grace was a false faith. Paul taught that it was “faith alone” in Christ which enabled a person to enter the kingdom. Paul’s strong stand on grace moved the gospel from a Jewish context to a Gentile context in only twenty to thirty years (Galatians 1:6-9). Today, the gospel has been in some countries for hundreds of years and is still not indigenous.
Therefore, there was a rapid expansion of the gospel from Jewish Jerusalem to the Gentile world. Remember Paul’s words, “For, He Himself (Christ) is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14). Modern day missions have unintentionally and sincerely told us, or have given the impression, that new believers should look like the western church in order to be the church. Although God has used and continues to use modern day missions, there is no doubt our western methods have greatly hindered the expansion of the indigenous church, particularly among the third world people groups.
A third symptom will be discussed tomorrow.
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