A Charge to Struggling Churches (1)
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.
-1 Corinthians 16:13, 14
The Church in Corinth in the days of the Apostle Paul was a struggling church. Paul’s first letter to the believers there was intended to address problems that were threatening to tear the church apart and bring disgrace on the Gospel. Essentially, the Corinthians were guilty of two failures: they failed to obey the teaching of Scripture they had received, and they were beginning to go beyond what the Scriptures require or permit in certain ways. Schisms, scandals, lawsuits, misguided teaching on marriage and spiritual gifts, and a service of worship that had become a platform for parading individual “spirituality” – all these problems led the apostle to call the Corinthians to repent and return to the true teaching and practice of the Gospel of the Kingdom. Our text represents Paul’s concluding charge to Christians in Corinth and sums up his message for struggling churches in every age.
Such as ours. At one level, the Church in America would appear to be anything but struggling. Everywhere we look new churches are beginning, mega-churches are flourishing, older churches are holding their own, and a Christian subculture of music, media, and more is flourishing. Christian schools abound, and a wealth of resources is available for Christian parents who choose to school their children at home.
The numbers look pretty good, too, with nearly 72 million Americans professing to have been born again through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Opportunities for Bible study, ministry activities, and mission can be engaged with a phone call in most communities, and, on any given Sunday, church parking lots would seem to indicate that all is well with the City of God in America.
But this is an illusion. For wherever you look in the Church in America today, it’s not hard to find areas where the plain teaching of Scripture is being ignored, or at least, badly compromised, and the influence of the world and its man-centered ways is well-established and gaining ground. The Corinthians were struggling and knew it; that’s why they sent messengers to Paul, explaining the problems (some of which he’d already heard) and seeking his help in sorting things out.
But the American Church seems scarcely aware of its plight. While there are doubtless problems and disappointments in every church, most Christians would perhaps echo the sentiments of the Laodiceans in Revelation 3, “We are rich, we have prospered, and we need nothing.” But Jesus, I believe, would conclude otherwise.
The Church in America is struggling, struggling to find a niche for itself in the new world of postmodern relativism and individualism. Churches today are in danger of setting aside obedience to the plain teaching of Scripture, and seeking their welfare in the ways of the world. The outward appearance of success – strong numbers, smiling faces – suggests that we’re headed in the right direction. But the American Church is struggling, and we could stand to reflect deeply on Paul’s concluding charge to the Corinthians.
Start your own ViewPoint discussion group. This week’s series is available in a free downloadable format, suitable for personal or group study. Download the series, "A Charge to Struggling Churches". Click here: VP Kingdom Courage.
For more insight to this topic, get the book, Being the Body, by Charles Colson.
Or read the article, “God’s Vision for His Church,” by T. M. Moore.