By David Cox
I read a post at http://joshhevans.com/2014/08/29/5-things-that-can-ruin-a-church/ and that got me thinking. There are a lot of things that can “ruin a church”. This post is the first of three, and here I look at qualities, then events, and then people. First of all, by way of introduction, let’s consider what is “being ruined” really mean? I mean, what is a “non-ruined church” and what would ruin it? We cannot consider the factors that cause the “ruin of a church” without considering these two points first. Let’s do this with your church. What is “church” supposed to be? When a church is fully pleasing God, doing what God has ordained it’s purpose to be, what is that? Write that down on a piece of paper, now consider when you have seen or conceive of a church being “ruined”. What would that be like?
Let’s go a bit further and say that a church is ruined if 1) it does not define its purpose and goals according to the Bible, and 2) it does not prusue those purposes and goals with single-minded dedication. Many churches are ruined because they don’t know what “church” is all about according to the Bible. The issues of church, what we are, why we are, what defines us, where we are headed, how are we to get there, etc. all of these issues are either ignored, or presumed by just following a denominational tradition instead of explaining clearly and often these things to the membership.
Part of this is defining success for the church. Is success growing from 50 to 5,000 attendees or members? Or is it seeing 100 members that are truly saved and serving God? We settle for good things instead of insisting on God’s best. Misdirection often is useful for false prophets. They point to the 5,000 in attendance as success, when in actuality, few of them are really saved. The church has sacrificed the true Gospel with a gospel of works without biblical repentance and faith, and in the process ruined the church.
The signs of a sick church are very clear falling numbers, ageing membership, missing young people, internal conflict, etc. But these are consequences of the sickness, and often only in the final stages of spiritual death. In these three posts, I want to examine the early signs of a sick or ruined church.
Note that part of the points here I have taken from Middletown Bible Church’s page, “The Enemies of the Church”
Tract: Church14 Finding a Good Church
- 1 What is the church’s purpose?
- 2 A faulty Foundation will ruin a Church
- 3 Bad Leadership
- 4 What is a church missing its purpose?
- 5 Worldliness ruins a church
- 6 Unity versus Dis-unity
- 7 Toleration ruins a church
- 8 The spirit of Compromise ruins a church
- 9 The loss of Boldness ruins a Church
- 10 Emotionalism ruins a church
- 11 Coldness of heart ruins a church
- 12 Apathy Ruins a Church
- 13 Ruined churches have little gratitude.
What is the church’s purpose?
When a church has no vision, no calling, no expressed purpose, then it is ruined. The leadership of a church must first study and find these things, then they must communicate these things to instill them into the membership, and this is by persuasion, selling these ideas to the church. If a church doesn’t have a vision, doesn’t have a purpose, it is ruined. Get out!
Community of Love
We should start off by saying that the church is a grouping or “congregating” of God’s redeemed. A church would fulfill its divine purpose if it is organized and doing the rest of what is God’s will for his redeemed. Here we must put some things “clear”. The group or community must have a relationship first with Jesus Christ, and then with each other. That is correct functioning. In my tract, salv21 There is no salvation without love, I explain that Christ’s death on the cross is an expression of God’s love, God’s very essence. Without understanding, embracing, and practicing this essence of God, one cannot really be saved. Part of this aspect of salvation is to shew forth this love to others, and we do this with our neighbor (anybody that is around us), but much more than that, it is highly focused on the local group of Christians which we relate to in our local church. As Matthew 25:40-46 demonstrates, Christ considers what you do to your brother in the Lord as having been done directly to Christ himself. So this community of “church” is a place where we demonstrate, prove, and build a body of evidence that shows that we truly love God. That “should be happening there”. See my tracts ch31 3Bs of success: buildings, bodies, and bucks. ch14 Finding a good church. ch15 Congregating because we Love.
Education, Repentance, and Edification
A second function of the church is to be a place of the challenge of sin, and correction according to the will of God. This can only be done correctly by an intensive expositional study of God’s Word. The study of God’s Word must be directed at changing the sins and lackings within the people of that church by the exposition of Bible passages that rebuke the sins of the people, and address what they are not doing that they should be.
Unrepentant sin open within the church ruins it. The leadership of a church needs to “bite the bullet” and deal with sin in the congregation. On a constant level, they need to preach and teach against the specific sins of the congregation and exhort them to repent of these sins. Anything else degenerates quickly into the group playing church. Here, consider the homosexual churches in San Fransisco where the pastors are two gay men. Yes, they claim to be a church, but they are ignoring the obvious sins of the group, and they are just playing church, a ruined church.
A faulty Foundation will ruin a Church
Every church needs to understand and be founded on the sure rock of Christ. While there are drug addicts, homeless children, and single moms all begging for spiritual help, that is not the foundation of the church. A church must be founded on the evangelism of the unsaved, and the discipleship of those converted. This must be the central focus of a church’s beginning, and it must be what permeates the church and seen throughout its history. If a church is not centrally focused on these two issues it is ruined. Special needs are great causes, but they are not the church’s foundational purpose.
This error seen most often in modern Christianity is a church that has so focused on a particular ministry that it has lost its moorings and foundational imperative (evangelism and discipleship). The modern Christian school movement is a case in point. Many churches have become feeder churches for Christian colleges, and their singular foundational imperative seems to be “send kids to our school”. When a Christian school becomes more central, more pervasive, more important, grabs more of the budget than local and foreign evangelism, in discipleship, then the church is ruined.
A good church may have a Christian school, but the time, energy, and resources of the church are not absorbed mostly in that school.
Here I think that the “leadership” of the church should not be confined to just the Pastor. Many (most) churches include others in their leadership such as a board of directors, deacons, assistant pastors, and other key people in the congregation. The rare thing (although very common in some churches) is that the pastor is out of the leadership because others in the church are dictating to him what is what. Also, another rare thing (not because it is uncommon, but because it is illogical) is when assistant pastors are outside of the leadership circle as if they didn’t count, especially ministers of music and youth pastors).
Bad leadership happens when a leader’s governing style shifts from the biblical concept of Pastor (who leads and governs) to Cowboy who forces and dictates. Here see my tract: Ch51 Cowboys or Pastors? The point here is that the Bible establishes only a single style of leadership, and that is one wherein the leader is a picture of Jesus Christ, the Good Pastor. There are some pertinent points I think we need to make here.
Leadership is about being an example, Not pushing people around
Most people think leadership is a privilege that once you get into that position, you do whatever you want, and most people’s idea of leadership acting out is to order other people to do your will and work while you do little except glory in the power of the office. People with that concept of leadership will brutely ruin a church to no end. Consider Jesus’ example. Being the Creator of the Universe, who went for him in his place to the cross to die? Who bore the sins of the world for him? Who took up the defense for him at the Cross? Do you see my point? Jesus, being the perfect leader, took the initiative, and did things first and asked us to take up our cross (like his) and follow him. How many bosses in businesses can honestly say that they did the dirty work for a long time before they asked somebody on their staff to do it? Very few.
Biblical leadership is about imitating Christ, and what the leader “orders” or tells the followers to do, he has already done it or is constantly doing it. Leadership is not about “pushing” others into doing the right thing by some kind of authority over them. It is about showing them how good the will of God is by you actually doing it constantly, intensively, and exceptionally.
If church leaders (whoever they may be at whatever level they may be at) would take this attitude of pulling those under them instead of pushing them, most church versus pastor/leadership conflicts wouldn’t happen. A push is an order. A pull is to convince them 1) by the authority of God’s Word, thus saith the Lord… We need to do things this way because the Bible says so. 2) by the wisdom of experience. The pastor needs to be practicing this constantly, and by the spiritual fruit that is obvious from this, it convinces others to follow his example. For example, the pastor can order his members to pray for 2 hours a day, and that will be a hard thing to actually get them to do, but if has a habit of praying for 2-4 hours a day for most of his ministry, and the people see the power of God in his ministry and personal life, then they will do what he is doing not because he orders them to do so, but because it works, it works well, and they see the wisdom of God behind it.
Cowboys are people who ride horses (high and haughty) and they get people to move by using cattle prods and whips. When they move people, the people feel like a cow and they do move and do things, but they feel violated and that the experience was more a shock and pain than a pleasure. My sheep hear my voice and follow me (the Good Shepherd). That experience is much better than being prodded by a cowboy. If church members would pressure their leaders to first do what they are asking and publicly show a history of the thing first, that would take the wind out of their sails. “Give a thousand dollars to the church for a special program. Sure, why not. Pastor, how many times have you done this in the past? You are giving double, triple that to show us how right?”
The key here is the sermon and the personal example. Good biblical leadership convinces people with Scripture of what to do. They open things up and actually listen and example opposing views. They give in if Scripture could be interpreted in an opposing view. They agreeable and are easy to get along with, not forcing their own wills on the congregation at every turn.
What is a church missing its purpose?
Community of Strife, Hatred, and Bitterness
The first thing to me that “ruins a church” (I am a pastor of a local Baptist Church here in Mexico City), is when the atmosphere is no longer full of brotherly love. I cannot see anything else done as good or pleasing God is there is antagonism, competition, hard feelings, envy, animousity, etc. one towards the other. The church is a disgrace and is ruined if love does not saturate the people, their attitudes, their speech, their actions, their spirits, etc. Satan is always ready to cause problems between persons, and a church that is ruined is one where love has been replaced by strife, hatred, and bitterness, and in which forgiveness is a seldom or never heard word.
Another aspect of this is cultic, in that the church preaches that they, and they alone are the only ones faithful to God. The brand everyone else as being evil, unbiblical, and without the blessing of God. They wrangle salvation from others who believe what they believe about salvation, branding them as unsaved. They often leave the biblical definition of salvation (repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior), and add to or change that to something else. The KJV only movement has a lot of people saying that any church that doesn’t agree with them about the version of the Bible they use are wrong. While I use the KJV Bible, it is not a good guide for orthodoxy, because many cults (like Seventh Day Adventism among others) have been built from the ground floor up centering on that as a litmus test of orthodoxy. False doctrine enters easily if a person’s Bible version is all that is checked.
Misdirection, Error, and Puff
A church that does not clearly, forcefully, and directly teaches the Word of God is ruined. The first step down this road of error is a devaluation of the authority of Scripture, where alternatives are given and very Scripture is undervalued, followed by alternative authorities such as popularity (Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church for example), or people’s opinions, or anything that is not directly the Word of God. If you do not highly value Scripture as a guide and ordering of your life, nothing will be right after that. We obey Jesus because we love him because he first loved us. The second form of attack is twisting of Scripture to mean anything but what it obviously says. Parts of Scripture are twisted out of their context to say what they don’t say, and the priorities of Scripture are changed to major on the minors, and minor on the majors. Very many churches stress unity, peace, and love (as actions between themselves) but without the necessary undergirding of a new birth relationship with Jesus, condemning all their efforts to failure. Other churches maximize the Holy Spirit and his work while minimizing Jesus and His work. A third attack is simply refuting Scripture as a self-made authority. In this attack, there is no reason or validation of the person who refutes Scripture, just because he says so. This is often used with a poor reasoning that Scripture, or the way Scripture has been interpreted is just wrong, and doesn’t work any more, therefore we have to use other options outside of Scripture (like the Emergent Church Movement). Still yet another tactic used here by Satan in “ruined churches” is to simple puff the unnecessary. What this does is to highly value something of low value so that people don’t have time for the priorities of the Christian life. Many churches are ruined by programs. These programs do social projects, build buildings, or do community works like picking up trash. While none of this is really wrong, it is wrong to waste the churches energies, time, and resources on what is not directly the work of God. Many times churches have introduced so many “mission projects” like radio stations, Christian camps, Christian schools, and many other things that in themselves they may not be wrong or bad, but they drain what the church can do diluting its resources and energies. The first priority of every church is to reproduce itself in the form of evangelism of its community, telling the unsaved the plan of salvation, convincing them to be saved. After that, the priority becomes getting these unsaved people recently saved grounded and participating as active members in that very same church. Missions should be likewise 90% (the majority of the funds and resources) this activity away from the local church, and very little should go to other things. The church is ruined if evangelism is absent, muted, or weak. The only way to do evangelism correctly is aggressively. By that I mean that the church confronts false doctrine with the truth of Scripture, and fights for this truth. In my estimation, churches that are Calvinistic have already been ruined because as a rule, Calvinistic churches are not aggressive evangelistically. Some would argue the contrary with me, but Calvinistic philosophy that only the elect can be saved usually has a corollary that they should not be radical or extreme in reaching out to the lost if most are not going to heaven and have no change to go to heaven anyway. We will look at more things later.
False teaching ruins a church (see next study for more on this).
Worldliness ruins a church
Jas 4:4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
Worldliness can be defined as wanting to be associated with the redeemed, but also wanting to live as close to the world as possible. There is an antagonism between the church and the world (should be at least). This means that while the church does not want to offend the world and those stuck closely to it, the church offers a different way of living. This contrary style of living renounces the world’s way and the world’s darlings, and presents the way of Jesus Christ. While we do not want to build antagonism with people of the world, we don’t want to be like them either. Any church that runs things in such a way as to be as close to the world as possible is just ruined.
Some examples will serve well here. First of all, God presents us with the form of reverence in worship for God. God’s people should use the best, most formal clothes they have when worshipping God on Sunday. Worldly churches want to downgrade this to blue jeans and tank tops. God wants the worship service to be conservative, low key, and focusing on reverence for our worthy God. Worldly churches want to make the worship service into a rock concert complete with loud, scandalous music performed by rock music instruments (drums, electric guitar, and such). The biblical example is that the service is devoted to expositional teaching of God’s Word. Worldly churches have either shortened the teaching part of the service from close to an hour down to 10-15 minutes, or they have gutted the sermon by removing the expositional part of it, bypassing the reading and explanation of Scripture and replacing it with “a talk” about “something good or bad.” Worldly ruined churches do not condemn sin clearly, but beat around the bush if they even do that much.
Worldly, ruined churches do not focus teaching on explaining and exhorting individuals to accept Jesus as their personal Savior, nor in turning their life over to God. These two themes are very common in good churches, but ruined churches have a lot of problems actually teaching or saying either of them. Note that many Calvinistic churches today are becoming so bold in their ruin that they directly attack the event of the presentation of the Gospel, and a person receiving Christ as their Savior, saying that this is the heresy of Decisional Regenerationalism, a term they invented to attack people coming to Christ. These churches are highly ruined. They have totally missed their purpose for existing.
Rom 12:1 I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. Rom 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
Worldliness can be seen in the clothes church members wear to worship services. While nobody should be condemned if they are unsaved and want to come to church, it is a sign of worldliness when the leaders (players) and key members of a church come to church looking worldly. This is wearing clothes as the more baser people of the world would do it. Here the women are immodest, showing parts of their body that should not be exposed. This may be seen in short dresses or skirts, or even tight fitting clothes like pants or blouses, clothes that are see-through, etc. For men, this would be wearing opened collared shirts that reveal chest hair, or again too tight-fitting pants. There is not necessarily a dress code in the good church, but the people know that God is displeased with immodesty will not come to God’s house improperly dressed. While a few may not understand or even be saved, when the principal members or a large percentage of the church is ignorant of any kind of dress standard, then the church is ruined. Likewise, a church worship service is not a beach party, and the clothes and the environment should be very distinct from causal social events. There should be a formality and reverence for God in the services, otherwise, the church is no good.
Unity versus Dis-unity
On this one, I have a little problem. So many bad churches preach unity that it has become a magic bullet to fix all church problems. To homosexuals can be agreed but that is not unity in the biblical sense. Unity in the biblical sense only comes when both parties or all individuals bow the knee to the authority of God and confess the same thing that God says. “Confession” comes from the Greek “to speak the same thing as another”. So confession is to agree with God on what He is saying, not seeking God to agree with you on what you are saying.
Unity has to come first and foremost because somebody is united with God. When two or more people are obeying God as Scripture commands, then there is unity. Unity is not deciding against God, and then getting a crowd to say the same thing. That is rebellion. When we think about unity, a church of Satan worshippers or practicing homosexuals and lesbians is a ruined church even if they are united. Be careful with this one.
Note that the Bible positions the local church as self-sufficient, so the church should be able to handle whatever is necessary. Many churches cannot handle internal matters, and that is a sign of a ruined church. The issue must focus on Scripture, and finding what Scripture says about a topic and doing that. If the leadership cannot study Scripture and come up with a conclusion, it is a worthless church. They may open the issue for general discussion and opinions, but they should have a good bearing on what Scripture says about the issue.
Toleration ruins a church
In our world today, toleration seems to be a cardinal virtue. In reality, toleration is a bad thing. There are some things that we should tolerate, like people coming to Christ, people struggling with sin to overcome it in their own lives. But toleration is being preached in the church, and this ruins the church. For example, the homosexual crowd has made up the word “homophobia”, a fear of homosexuals, and they teach that we should “tolerate” people with different lifestyles. I came across one time a website of men that actually defend pedophilia, saying that it is their right, and the children have the right to enter into whatever they want to do (with adults). Toleration of these wackos is not good.
The presence of unrepented, unabandoned sin within the people of the church is cause for great alarm. Paul argues in 1Cor 5 that sin is like leaven. If left to itself in the body of Christ, it will grow and corrupt many. If you are in this kind of ruined church, you will pay for it greatly in your own spiritual life. God condemns sin. Salvation is to free us from sin, not just the consequence of sin. When you think that your salvation is limited to just what God condemns you for after your death, you are wrong. Salvation is about cleansing us actually from our sins (sanctification). A good church works this work of God, and a ruined church doesn’t much get involved with it, or is only nominally interested in it (i.e. doesn’t exhort their own people to live pure and sinless lives by strong preaching).
When a church takes a non-aggressive stance towards sin, it is ruined. Tolerance is not what is needed, but scathing preaching against sin. The ministry of John the Baptist here is a good example. He was so rough on the sin of his day that his preaching on the evil of inter-family marriages, that Herod had him killed. What toleration did John have towards Herod’s personal marriage situation? None. What toleration did Jesus manifest towards the ungodly Jewish leaders? None. We cannot be weak on condemning sin. Any church that is weak and without resolve or boldness in condemning sin is ruined.
The spirit of Compromise ruins a church
Movements such as ecumenicalism has their main thrust as the compromise of spiritual doctrines and standards in order to “find peace” with other groups. In the name of Compromise, Baptist evangelist Billy Graham has made peace with Rome and become a great friend of the popes of Rome.
Rev 2:12 And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges; Rev 2:14 But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. Rev 2:15 So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Rev 2:16 Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. Rev 2:17 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name is written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.
The friendliness of God’s people towards those who spiritually are poison is what is in view here. When people, churches, and religious groups take definite standards against the truth of Scripture, that is wrong and they become the enemies of God. When your church takes a favorable view towards them, especially when they seek to fellowship with these apostate and rebellious groups, then your church is ruined. Our position and stand for Christ cannot be compromised with friendships or endorsements or speaking well of the enemies of the Cross.
The loss of Boldness ruins a Church
Satan has taken to using the government to intimidate Christians and churches so that they are not so outspoken. There is a standing motion in the United Nations for years now to make the promotion of religions a hate crime, which they want to make a world crime. Specifically, any teaching or mention of bad people going to hell or being excluded from heaven is (by these idiots) considered a hate crime, and they use the term “psychological terrorism”. Where do they get off making a person speaking to another person of their religious beliefs a hate crime? While most Christians laugh at this, some churches and pastors actually “tone down” what they say trying to not “get in trouble”.
Rev 2:10 Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. 11 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.
God specifically addresses this, and cowards are specifically NOT GOING TO BE IN HEAVEN!
Rev 21:7 He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. 8 But the fearful (cowards), and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
Isa 51:7 Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings. Isa 51:13 And forgettest the LORD thy maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth; and hast feared continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor, as if he were ready to destroy? and where is the fury of the oppressor?
Our trust in God has to be greater than our fear of what man can do to us. A church that has more fear of public opinion and what is the current religious attitude towards things is ruined. The church is the speaker for God, not the speaker for man.
A church that avoids dealing with problems, especially very serious problems is a ruined church.
Emotionalism ruins a church
Emotionalism is necessary in Christianity. The child of God who has no real emotions is not a good Christian. But the issue here is not whether you have emotions about Jesus or not (See my tracts, Church09 Our “One Another” Relationship; Salvation21 There is no Salvation without Love; Church15 Congregating because we love as examples of the necessity of love for us to be saved), but what part that emotionalism takes in your religious make-up. When emotionalism ruins a church it is because emotions and sensations become gods to follow. God sets down Scripture which has parts that are clear doctrine. Yes, there are historical events and incidents that God also includes in Scripture, like Moses on Mount Sinai and the Transfiguration of Jesus. But these sensational moments are not guiding events that set what we should expect in our own religious experience. We read of these events when God opened heaven and clearly talked with humans revealing Himself (transfiguration it was his disciples).
Emotionalism puts an undue priority and emphasis on emotion rather than the logic of Scripture. God’s transforming power is in the logic of Scripture, “thus saith the Lord”, and not in the feelings that may or may not come from events and scenes. When a church shifts its focus to emotionalism, this is usually seen in an undue emphasis in the praise service (extremely long, heavily emphasized, and dwarfs the rest of the Sunday activities). The leaders want the people to get up out of their seats, move about in an emotional frenzy, and to break out in emotional seizures. Typically people jump up and shout out, causing a disorder in the service, and speaking in tongues is one manifestation of this. Another is many people speaking at the same time but not the same thing. This is confusion, and God is not the God of confusion but of order.
1Cor 14:30 If anything is revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace.
1Cor 14:33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.
Emotionalism is not controlled, and it is not of the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit puts the thoughts and words into men’s hearts when they preach out of Scripture, carefully preparing their sermon or class. This process is focused on the student of Scripture praying for the Holy Spirit’s guidance, and then waiting patiently and carefully for God to guide and speak to him. Emotionalism is sudden, with no preparation, a “bursting out” kind of thing, and this is often speaking inadvisedly with the mouth, which is wrong and sinful many times.
Eomtionalism seeks to move people, but through events and examples rather than clearly exposited Scripture, presented logically and forcefully. It moves people but because they “feel it”. Good churches move people because God has said it.
Martin Luther once said: “For feelings come and feelings go, and feelings are deceiving. My warrant is the Word of God, naught else is worth believing.” God’s unchanging Word must lead us and guide us. How I feel is not important. The important thing is this: What has God said? (Middletown Bible Church)
Coldness of heart ruins a church
Rev 2:4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
While the extreme of too much emotion ruins a church, the opposite is also true. When a church has no feelings and is cold and hard-hearted. God’s church is one of love. This emotion is brought under the understanding of God’s Words, so that it is not wild, taking any ole form. Good emotionalism is when a person understands God’s commands and is energetic in obeying them, “putting his heart into it.” Good emotionalism is sincerity and passion, not wild actions or speech. Good emotionalism is very directed at the spiritual activity. When God moves you heart (emotionally) to pray and financially help a single mother with several kids that are having problems, then this is good emotionalism. It is a formal display of love and kindness, placed on a level of spiritual action that pleases God.
The characteristics of a ruined church that is cold and hard-hearted is very simply they don’t care. The most extreme of bad situations that people have simply doesn’t move the majority of the church. You can look at what financial gifts a church gives and gauge that church’s heart. When the church is constantly taking up special offerings or giving to help someone of their members, or some situation where God’s people are suffering or in need, then there is some warmth in that church. While you can be “spiritually warm” in yourself, and sit in a cold church, over time their coldness will close up your heart also. It is very important to focus on the point that God deals with you as you treat your Christian brethren. When you simply are unmoveable in response to any dire situation or need, then God will be the same with you.
I have observed that Calvinism causes spiritual coldness in churches. Whereas a belief that your activity can spiritually change a situation for the better, Calvinism instills the opposite thought, no matter how much you want, you cannot impact or change anything. Calvinism skips over the fact that even though God has his will and will do his will, maybe, just maybe, God is wanting to use you to complete that will. The hard-heartedness of being unresponsive is what kills God’s using you for his work.
Note that this hinges on a key point, you spiritual sacrifice. I define love as my sacrifice for your benefit. We MUST HAVE LOVE to please God, and this means a constant practice of it, and God has provided the local church as the place and people where that love should be practiced (after the home that is). Coldness kills any sacrifice you may want to do. The way to fix coldness is commitment and sacrifice.
Apathy Ruins a Church
The difference between apathy and coldness is very little. An apathetic church is one that simply has a problem with generating action. A cold church is one that has a problem generating passion for something. The two are different but they are sisters. An apathetic church is ruined. Again if you stay in an apathetic church, you will become apathetic yourself. The signs of an apathetic church are very simply, spiritual activity is rare. There may be a lot of movement and activity, but spiritual activity is rare. In many churches, they have replaced spiritual activity with other kinds of activity. There are handicrafts, bake sales, and other types of activity constantly, but none of this is spiritual in nature. Spiritual activity would be the actual presenting of the Gospel to the unsaved, discipleship, spiritual ministering in preaching and teaching God’s Word. While many Sunday Schools do have a lot of spiritually oriented activity, many don’t. They degenerate into a simple historical story of the Bible, followed by songs, memorization, and handicrafts. In the case of youth and teens, this takes the shape of discussions that entertain rather than spiritually challenge, teach, persuade, etc.
Activity for Christ is what changes apathy
into action. Street preaching, preaching in prisons and nursing homes, and other such activities can often be the opposite of this. Note that many churches run bus ministries. Most of this bus ministry stuff is spiritual apathy. Attendance, rewards, programs, etc. are not spiritual activity. Spiritual activity is interacting with Scripture to change a person’s life spiritually. Many easy-believism churches err here. They present salvation without repentance, and as obtainable through a simple prayer. Children do not understand this and are “saved” repeatedly because in none of the presentations are they really spiritually engaging in salvation and spiritual truth. Either they are too young or uneducated or unable to understand the spiritual truth as it is presented to them, or the presentation is poor in that it does not explain sufficiently or effectively. When you see the same people making the same decisions over and over again, there is a problem. These churches rarely have new members. They are unknown in the community immediately around them.
In general spiritual apath is a total lack of spiritual activity though. These are again cold dead churches that do nothing for the work of Christ, and by existing, they draw away people from good churches, and keep them from engaging in a good church.
Ruined churches avoid change. They cannot handle it. They desire a traditionalism set up by their church and never questioned nor changed. The most important element of being changeable, is the when and why. When you are wrong, and your methods and plans are not working, you should re-evaluate and be open to changes. When you are not founded on Scripture, that is also a cause or time to change.
Ruined churches have little gratitude.
Dr. Bob Jones Senior used to say, “When gratitude dies on the altar of a man’s heart, he is well nigh hopeless.”
This is very true. When you become so proud that you find it hard or difficult to say thank you for something somebody else did for you, you are poisoned and worthless before God. As a church, this means it is ruined.