Top Ten Challenges Facing the Church in 2015

In late 2013, I posted an article which has become one of the hottest articles on my website at http://pastorbrianchilton.wordpress.com. The article laid forth the top ten challenges facing the Christian church in 2014. Due to the interest sparked by that article, we will make the Top Ten Challenges List an annual offering to you the reader. 2014 witnessed some daunting challenges for the Church.[1] 2015 will also provide some distinct challenges which will need to be met with truth, integrity, and faithfulness. The following list will provide the top ten challenges facing the Church in 2015 and will offer a proposed method of handling the problem.

Challenge #10:           Racial Issues

Problem:         Some may find this a bizarre issue to place on the top-ten list. When the reader discovers that this writer is Caucasian, this may provide an extra bit of surprise as Caucasians do not traditionally address race issues as African-Americans. However, if there is one thing that can be learned from the issues from the latter part of 2014, that is that race relations in America are not as good as everyone might like to think. The issues surrounding Ferguson has demonstrated the lack of trust that some of African descent have towards those of European descent, and vice versa. Couple that problem with the fact that Sunday mornings is among the most segregated time in America, and one finds a real problem. Adding to the mix is the level of distrust that Latino (or Amerindian) individuals possess with those of African and European descent, and vice versa, due to problems surrounding immigration. The sum total of the problem equals a big, grand, ol’ mess!!!

Solution:          The Church can provide a solution. In fact, many churches are already helping to correct these issues. The solution is to focus on the value of human life, all human life. Jesus placed great value on human life and was not divided over socio-economics, race, or gender. This value was demonstrated when Christ met with the woman at the well, a Samaritan woman at that.[2] In addition, the church needs to stress, as Paul did, that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).[3]

Challenge #9:             Holiness/Integrity

Problem:         In 2014, the Mars Hill Church of Washington decided to disband their multi-site complex once Mark Driscoll stepped down. Among many other things, Driscoll was accused of plagiarism within his works. Many of his publishers removed his works and Driscoll was left in the cold. Christianity Today’s Morgan Lee reports that,

In a statement, the church’s board of overseers accepted his resignation, but emphasized that they had not asked Driscoll to resign and were surprised to receive his letter.

They concluded Driscoll had ‘been guilty of arrogance, responding to conflict with a quick temper and harsh speech, and leading the staff and elders in a domineering manner,’ but had ‘never been charged with any immorality, illegality or heresy. Most of the charges involved attitudes and behaviors reflected by a domineering style of leadership.’[4]

Regardless of Driscoll’s leadership style, the origin of the problems at Mars Hill stemmed from a lack of integrity on Driscoll’s part. It is easy for one to condemn Driscoll, but the cold-harsh truth is that many modern church leaders, as well as many modern congregants, lack integrity in their Christian walk.

Solution:          First of all, each Christian needs to be reminded that they are not responsible for their salvation. For it is “by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Second, each Christian must stay focused on Jesus, which can only be conducted by regular private and corporate worship.

Challenge #8:             Technology Addiction/Individualization

Problem:         The eighth challenge is not only a challenge that the Church faces, but is one that all modern people face, at least those who have the means: that is, addiction to technology. Messaging has replaced phone calls, instant messages have replaced visits, and emails have replaced cards. Whereas this is not all bad, there has been an increased emphasis on individualization. Technology addiction may have something to do with such a problem. However, can one blame technology for the modern individualization, or is technology addiction the byproduct of a culture that is possessed with “having it your way”? Either way, sympathy, empathy, and compassion are being lost in the “world of me.”

Solution:          It is recommended that Christians set boundaries as to their time spend with technology. Technology fasts may be a good disciple to practice. In addition, families may desire to have “technology free zones;” that is, times where iPhones, iPads, iPods, and computers are not permitted. Good “technology free zones” include: supper time, family time, vacations, and et cetera.

Challenge #7:             Solid Male Leadership

Problem:         The seventh challenge may seem a little bizarre. Nevertheless, the modern Church is increasingly finding itself without an abundance of male leadership. Perhaps part of the problem is due to the breakdown of the family. It could also be that men find Christian principles to be feminine in nature (i.e. love, compassion, etc.). While many denominations have stressed female leadership, much is lost in such a drive. This article is not arguing from either a complementarian or egalitarian standpoint, but is simply noting that many men fail to see their role in the local church. Several families suffer from fathers who have given up their roles. The children especially suffer from the lack of a fatherly role.

Solution:          The Church needs to revitalize its focus on male leadership. If a denomination accepts female leadership, well and good. However, such an acceptance should not come at the expense of the denomination’s focus and training of men in order that they might take leadership roles. Men have a place in God’s house. Men should not expect women to perform all the work at church; neither should they think that their role in the family is unimportant. Perhaps leadership conferences could be held with a focus on male leadership. Churches could focus on masculine attributes of the Christian walk, such as truth, justice, and standing tall in the face of adversity, while also demonstrating that it takes a “real man” to love and show compassion as such disciplines are often difficult. While it is certainly healthy that the Church places its attention on women (and unfortunately many churches in history have failed in this endeavor), such a focus should not be done to the neglect of the men. Both sexes are important to the family of God.

Challenge #6:             Negativity

Problem:         The modern Church has lost its joy! Every Christmas churches sing “Joy to the World,” but do so with a melancholic and defeated temperament. Perhaps the strains of modern ministry have taken its toll on Christians. Nevertheless, the Church must not be bogged down with negativity, but must face uncertain days with the joy that only God can bring.

Solution:          A few disciplines may help the modern Christian reclaim their joy. First, the Christian needs to take time away from the news. If one constantly allows oneself to be bombarded by negative news, one will find oneself becoming more and more negative. Second, limit your time spent around negative people. It is impossible to avoid every negative person, but a person does not need to allow such a person to envelope one’s life. Third, take time with God!!! Even Jesus Himself was known to go “out to a desolate place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35). Take time with God privately and corporately! You may find your joy quickly coming back!

Challenge #5:             Love/Interpersonal Relationships

Problem:         Perhaps the eighth challenge listed in this article is what affects the fifth. Nevertheless, it seems that the Church, particularly the American church, faces a problem with Christian love, particularly interpersonal relationships. The Church is at its strongest when it is united. Unfortunately, churches have found themselves focusing on trivial matters which lead towards a lack love towards their fellow man. Because of this, the Church has seemed calloused and rigid to many who do not know much about the Christian message.

Solution:          In Revelation, Jesus has John write a letter to the Church of Ephesus. The church had done many things right. They had stood up against “those who are evil” (Revelation 2:2) and have “tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false” (Revelation 2:2). However, Jesus had one thing against them: they had “abandoned the love you had at first” (Revelation 2:4). Perhaps that is what has happened to many Christians. In our effort to stand for truth and to be salt, we have forgotten that we are to stand for love and are to be light. We must remember that all the law is found in two great commandments: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37) and to “love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:40). Focus on the major things…loving God and loving humankind.

Challenge #4:             Secularization

Problem:         Secularization is something the Church must continue to face in 2015. The world is becoming more and more secular and the influence of the Church is becoming less and less in certain areas. Ethical values have been tainted and, in some cases, have been completely reversed. Most troublesome is the entrance of worldly values into the church, particularly the American and European churches.

Solution:          Values and ethics from a biblical perspective must be emphasized. No longer should the church leader expect individuals to automatically know right from wrong. In many cases, people have been so tainted by the culture that they may not realize the impact that it has had on the way they view the world. Christian teachers and preachers must stress values and be unafraid to speak on sin. One may lose a member or two, but great spiritual development will come to those who remain. As Isaiah denotes, one should “learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (Isaiah 1:17).

Challenge #3:             Marriage

Problem:         Marriage is under attack in modern times, indeed and understatement. Not only has the definition of marriage come under assault, but traditional marriages are collapsing as well. Unfortunately, Christians are not immune to this problem. I recently spoke with a woman who attends a church I previously attended. She told me that she knew of at least three couples that were either separated or facing divorce. Infidelity was the cause of the problems in all three of these occasions. She frustratingly inquired, “Does anyone remain faithful anymore?!?”

Solution:          One cannot offer an easy fix especially to couples determined to part ways. However, there are means of fixing the problem. First, individuals must ask what it is that they really want. Does one merely want a partner with whom to party? Or, does someone desire to find a faithful, loving partner? If the answer is the latter, then one needs to find a faithful Christian partner. Christians should marry Christians. If it takes a Christian several years to find their mate, so be it. It is better to wait and marry the right person, than to rush and marry the wrong person. Second, couples need to constantly work the make their relationships better. Many people will get married and then will stop trying. Continue to kindle the fire in holy matrimony.

Challenge #2:             Biblical Heresies

Problem:         The second great challenge facing the Church in modern times is that of biblical heresies. This year Victoria Osteen was blasted by evangelical Christian for spouting individualistic and unbiblical teachings. Victoria is not the only one offering a watered down form of the Christian faith. Megachurches and small country churches have fallen victim to erroneous doctrines and beliefs. The apostle Paul placed so much emphasis on right doctrine that he boldly proclaimed that “even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8).

Solution:          The solution is relatively simple. Stay true to the Bible! Preachers should strive to preach expository messages, that is, allowing the Bible to speak for itself, rather than choosing topics and jumping around from text to text. Also, as Greg Koukl has often said, don’t just read one verse from the Bible, read Bible passages and keep them in proper context. I would say that it is important also for preachers to obtain at least some Bible training from an accredited Bible college or university. This will help one to abstain from straying from the truths of the biblical text.

Challenge #1:             Global Persecution

Problem:         While the other nine challenges will be debated by many, it should be beyond dispute that the greatest challenge the Church faces in 2015 is persecution. With the rise of Boko Haran, ISIS, and the continued efforts of the Taliban, 2014 will go down as one of the bloodiest years for Christians (and non-Christians alike).

Solution:          It is difficult to know how to respond to Christian persecution as this has been a problem since the inception of the Church. But, perhaps there are a few solutions that one may find concerning the problem. First, one must pray. Pray for those being affected by such ruthless persecution. Pray for the families who have lost their loved ones. Also, pray for the enemies and attackers. Pray that God would change their hearts. God has transformed people through visions, miracles, and near-death experiences. Pray that God would do whatever it takes to reach these individuals. Second, one needs to pressure their elected officials to protect the defenseless wherever the defenseless may be. The world has seen dictators and ruthless aggressors before in Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot. Finally, the Church needs to remember the end result. In the end, God wins. Evil will be defeated. As the Bible concludes, Jesus is noted as saying, “Surely I am coming soon” (Revelation 22:20). Along with John, I would also say, “Amen. Come Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20)!

Conclusion

Many other challenges could be listed. Ebola, socialism, and countless other problems entered my mind as I prepared this article. At times, it seems that the challenges that the Church faces is overwhelming. But, when we feel overwhelmed, we must remember we serve and all-powerful God. Our problems are big, but our God is bigger. Finally, let me conclude along with Paul in saying “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

Bibliography

Lee, Morgan. “Goodbye, Mars Hill: Mark Driscoll’s Multisite Empire Will Sell Properties and Dissolve.” Christianity Today.com (October 31, 2014) http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2014/october/goodbye-mars-hill-multisite-church-dissolve-mark-driscoll.html. Accessed December 15, 2014.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version. Wheaton: Crossway, 2001.

Copyright 2014. Pastor Brian Chilton.

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Footnotes

[1] When Church is capitalized, the global church is referenced.

[2] Racial tensions existed between Samaritans and Jews. The problems between the two races extended back for centuries. The problems originated when the Samaritans, who were originally of Jewish descent, interbred with Gentiles. Nevertheless, Jesus was unmoved by the racism of the day and sought to minister to Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles alike.

[3] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[4] Morgan Lee, “Goodbye, Mars Hill: Mark Driscoll’s Multisite Empire Will Sell Properties and Dissolve,” Christianity Today.com (October 31, 2014) http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2014/october/goodbye-mars-hill-multisite-church-dissolve-mark-driscoll.html.