Throughout the world, many thousands of Christian communities, involving many millions of people, are being persecuted in varying degrees, from not being allowed to follow their consciences in not carrying out abortions, to torture and imprisonment for holding a Bible study in their home, and to beheadings for simply being a Christian. Despite many groups being persecuted, Christians are the most persecuted group in the world today. (We must not forget the millions of Jews murdered by the Nazis and Russians back in the last century.) What concerns me is that in a lot of cases, if one is born in a ‘Christian’ family, you are considered a Christian, even though you may not have made a personal decision to follow Jesus as one’s Lord and Saviour. This issue is also a problem in many church communities, mainly in Europe, where it is the ‘cultural’ thing to go to church each week. God is not interested in one’s involvement in church, He is more concerned about our personal relationship with Him and because of that our desire to please Him through obedience to His will, out of a sense of loving Him because of what He has done for us through Jesus’ death on the Cross and His resurrection from the dead. Therefore, not only should we pray for protection for those persecuted for their faith, but also that all those in these ‘Christian’ communities, to have a personal faith and are living it in the power of the Holy Spirit. Hence, many leaders need to be trained to be able to make reproducible disciples, who know their Bible and how to apply to every area of their lives and in society, in an attitude of love.
For those of us who consider to have personal faith, are we spending too much time in ‘church’ activities like overseeing buildings which cost a lot to maintain, or are we seeking people to befriend, so they start asking questions about Jesus, praying that it leads to a situation where you are discipling them to become a follower of Jesus who applies His teaching and wants to share it with others? Our Sunday services should be times of worship being in awe of God, changing us so that we can be ‘commissioned’ to go out and serve the Lord in our homes, neighbourhoods, or professions, even further afield.
We need to ask ourselves, especially those in the older denominations, are we spending too much money on buildings, a lot of whom are not functionally or adaptable. Take for example – many old churches have high ceilings, which means that most heat rises up to the ceiling and is no use for the people done below. Thus the heating bills are ridiculously high. Or what about all those fixed seats and the crumbling brickwork. The list goes on. We seriously need to think about the small congregations in many rural and urban areas moving out and moving into a more appropriate and cost effective facilities. This releases more money for part-time paid leadership and ‘real’ mission which is outward looking. If the local community does not want to loose the old building, they can waste their money on funding it. Sometimes, we may not even need a building – instead we meet in homes where proper care and discipleship can take place. And then, occasionally, find a facility to all meet together, even with other Christians from other churches for a celebration. All this in return releases resources that are better spent on becoming ‘real’ Christians and seeking to bring others into the Kingdom of God!