Top 10 Challenges Facing the Church in 2016 (Part 2)

Due to the overwhelming response from the first installment, I decided to post the second installment earlier than anticipated. The previous article dealt with the first five challenges facing the church in 2016. Those challenges were:

10. The issue of the Christian’s right to self-defense (that is, the right to bear arms).

9. The sense of entitlement.

8. Apathy for evangelism.

7. Race relations.

6. Trusting God despite chaos.

See the article “Top 10 Challenges for the Church in 2016 (Part 1)” for a fuller treatment of the previously mentioned issues.

This second installment will provide the top-5 challenges facing the church in 2016. As noted in the previous article, these insights do not necessarily represent anything from the current or past churches that I have served as pastor. Rather, these issues stem from trends that must be faced as we move into a new year. Let’s first look at the fifth issue.

coexist

  1. Syncretism: Are there Multiple Paths to God?

It has been noted before, but must be reemphasized: the New Age movement has entered the modern American church. One of the hallmarks of the New Age movement is syncretism. Syncretism is defined as the “incorporation into religious faith and practice of elements from other religions, resulting in a loss of integrity and assimilation to the surrounding culture.[1] Other issues are at work with this problem. Primarily, one faces the classification of a “bigot” or “hate-mongerer” if one claims that there is only one way unto God. Secondly, the problem seems to emerge from a lack of knowledge pertaining to worldviews.

Most everyone in the continental United States has probably seen the bumper sticker that reads “Coexist.” While I agree that we should live civil with those from differing perspectives, the bumper sticker is often used to assume that all religions are the same.

Are all religions truly the same? Not really. For differing worldviews make different claims.

Buddhism, a pantheist worldview, is basically an agnostic religion. Hinduism, a panentheist worldview, claims that God has manifested himself by various gods and goddesses, whereas Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, all theist worldviews, claim that there is only one God. Yet, contrary to Islam and mainstream Judaism, Christianity claims that Jesus is the unique Son of God, the Messiah sent to save all of humanity. While all these religious beliefs could be wrong, they all cannot be right. To make matters worse for the syncretist, Jesus himself said things like, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).[2]

Logic dictates that either Jesus was right or he was wrong. If he was the Son of God, one would think that he would be right pertaining to spiritual matters. If Jesus is right, then syncretism cannot be correct. If syncretism is correct, then Jesus was wrong. If Jesus was wrong on this matter, then one must wonder whether he really was the Son of God.

Thus, the person must make the decision. One cannot sit on the fence. Either Jesus was right or he was wrong. If you accept Christ as the Messiah, the Son of the Living God (Matthew 16:16), you must ask yourself “Am I going to follow the words of Jesus or not?” If it is true that Jesus is the only way to the Father, then it is extremely evil to claim otherwise as such an accusation would mislead people away from God.

How to combat:          It would seem that the solution to this problem is also the solution to the most challenging problem found on this year’s list.

 marriage

  1. Family and Marriage: Building Strong Families One Home at a Time.

2015 has brought many challenges to the church as it relates to the definition of the family. We do need to define biblical marriage. But, I think the church needs to focus on this issue by another means. We need to build strong families in our churches. Do we emphasize the importance of marriage? Do we emphasize the benefits of having a strong home? The church should be a light to the world.

Do our families serve as good examples of the home?

How to combat:          Church leaders must not allow political fear to strangle the importance of teaching and preaching on marriage. This platform should not be used to insult those that differ with the biblical interpretation. Rather, this platform should be used to instruct and teach how to build strong Christian homes. Perhaps churches could hold marriage conferences and retreats for the families in their church. Perhaps discipleship studies could be conducted on the issue of marriage. For ministers, it is more crucial than ever to perform pre-marital counseling for interested couples to be wed.

 Hostility

  1. Increasingly Antagonistic Culture: the War with Political Correctness.

We must face it. The Leave it to Beaver days are over! Not only is America becoming a post-Christian nation,[3] it is becoming hostile to Christianity. Don’t believe me? Then, start talking about Christ in a public forum. Go talk to Christian apologists who speak at public universities. Now that the shock has worn off, let us understand something important. Seeing the culture as antagonistic is not meant to alarm you. I am not saying that you should stockpile your cabinets and build a bomb shelter somewhere in the deepest, darkest, deserted woodlands.

No!

This is not said to alarm, but to inform. The modern Christian must use different tactics than one would use back in the 1950s. Living in this time is actually exciting. Why? Because when society is at its darkest, the church normally shines the brightest!

How to combat:          As previously mentioned, the church needs to employ different strategies than it did several years ago. The church needs to face the culture much like a missionary would. When a missionary enters a land where Christianity is not dominant, he or she does not assume that the person they are speaking with understands what they are talking about. It seems to me that the modern church should employ similar tactics. Truthfully, studies have shown that as many as 20% of individuals in North America have never met a Christian[4]…as difficult as that is to believe.

 fear1

  1. Fear: An Emotion that Leads to Bizarre and Dangerous Results.

When I first compiled this list, I placed this issue as the most challenging. In some ways, it is. In previous years, persecution has led the list. Truthfully, Christian persecution is an extremely problematic issue in our world. Countless Christians have been driven from their homes and have lost loved ones. Even young children! I mourn with my Christian brothers and sisters across the globe who have suffered greatly because of their faith.

However, it seems to me that there is a greater problem than just persecution. It is the problem of fear. Fear leads individuals and societies to do strange and bizarre things. Fear may even lead one to a loss of love for another due to race or nationality. Yes, I understand that there are great challenges in our time. But, were we not told that one of the greatest commandments was to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31)? Fear causes us to lose our bearings.

Paul notes that “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7). Let the world worry about the world. Let us worry about fulfilling the Great Commission and serving God up until the time that our soul is required of us.

 How to combat: Focus less on the cares of the world and focus more on the concerns of God. Personally, I am making a resolution to watch the news less and read the Bible more in the upcoming year. Yes, we need to stay up on the current issues. We need to pray that God would lift up godly, Christian leaders. I know some good Christians who are starting to enter the political field. We need more of that. Nevertheless, it is even more important to stay focused on the eternal issues.

In case you haven’t heard: in the end, God wins!

 biblical illiteracy

  1. Biblical and Theological Illiteracy: The Problem that Propagates other Problems.

When I first compiled this list, I placed this as the 3rd most pressing challenge. However, the more I delved into the issues before us, the more I realized that most of the problems on this list emerge from this problem: the problem of biblical and theological illiteracy.

Earlier this year, I attended a pastor’s conference at a local Baptist association. I recall one pastor (who will remain anonymous) who was concerned with the lack of basic biblical knowledge by many in his church. He is not alone. Unfortunately, many individuals sit on the pews each Sunday without knowing the core essentials of the faith. To some, an epistle is the wife of an apostle…a joke, yes, but unfortunately true in some cases. Many youth do not know the Ten Commandments or the Two Great Commandments.

Why is it that the youth don’t know these truths? It’s probably because many of the adults don’t know them either!

We as church leaders are failing our congregations. More importantly, we are failing our Lord. After giving the Greatest Commandment in all the Bible in Deuteronomy 6:4, Moses wrote that the law of God was to be “on your heart” (Deuteronomy 6:6) and that one was to “teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:7). We must ask an ever important question…

 How can we expect people to defend the faith if they first do not know what it is they are to be defending???

 How to combat:          Theology and apologetics are two squads on the same team. Theology is the offensive squad and apologetics is the defensive squad. Both go hand in hand. I mentioned this earlier, but it bears repeating yet again…WE MUST TEACH BIBLICAL AND SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY!!! Chicken nuggets and pizza pies are not going to cut it anymore. Yes, we should build relationships. Yes, we should build fellowship. But, we must get back to the meat and potatoes of the faith.

I dare say that if we would just fix this one area, many of the other areas would fix themselves.

Happy New Year everyone! Keep contending for the faith!

 

© January 1st, 2016. Brian Chilton.

 

Bibliography

 Manser, Martin H. Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. London: Martin Manser, 2009. Logos Bible Software.

 Stocker, Abby. “The Craziest Statistic You’ll Read About in North American Missions.” ChristianityToday.com (August 19, 2013). Accessed December 31, 2015. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/august-web-only/non-christians-who-dont-know-christians.html.

 

[1] Martin H. Manser, Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies (London: Martin Manser, 2009), Logos Bible Software.

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

[3] That is, a nation that appreciates the Judeo-Christian ethic.

[4] Abby Stocker, “The Craziest Statistic You’ll Read About in North American Missions,” ChristianityToday.com (August 19, 2013), accessed December 31, 2015.

Top 10 Challenges Facing the Church in 2016 (Part 1)

Since starting Bellator Christi three-years-ago, I have made it a practice to end each year with a glimpse of the challenges facing the church in the year ahead. The top-10 articles have become some of the more popular articles on the website. This year is no different.

It must be noted that I am writing simply as a pastor actively involved in church ministry. These lists are evaluations from what I see in the overall church, particularly in North America. These lists do not necessarily reflect any one particular church, or churches, to which I have served. Rather, this list reflects trends and issues that the church must address in the year ahead. While these issues reflect those facing the global church at large, the issues particularly relate to the church of North America.

 

This article will provide numbers 10 through 6. Next Tuesday’s article will provide the final five.

CHRISTIANS-GUNS

  1. The Christian’s Right to Bear Arms: To Bear or Not to Bear?

Dr. Jerry Falwell, Jr. recently supported the Christian’s right to arm themselves. Falwell’s statement seemed to ignite a firestorm not only in secular media outlets, but also in the church. Many leaders supported Falwell’s claim that Christians had the right and responsibility to defend oneself and one’s home. However, others such as John Piper condemned Falwell’s comments. That we are even having this conversation demonstrates the great cultural changes that have taken place since the days of the American Revolution. Nevertheless, the right to arm oneself, particularly that of the Christian, is not one that will be disarmed in 2016 (pun intended). With 2016 being a Presidential election year, anticipate this topic to find itself even greater ammunition (again, pun intended).[1]

How to combat:          Leaders will need to stress their views and explain why they feel the way that they do. Warning: it has been my experience that this issue can bring out great hostility by those on both sides. A spirit of comradery and openness will be necessary for advocates on both sides to allow for proper discourse and dialogue.

entitled-kid-494x328

  1. Entitlement: Ask Not What I Can Do for God, but what God can Do for Me.

The issue of entitlement is one that is beyond the scope of race or gender. Entitlement has become a phenomena for many individuals in modern culture. By entitlement, I mean the person’s belief that they are owed something. Perhaps the issue of entitlement stems from individualism gone wrong. While I am a capitalist, Socrates warned that extreme capitalism could lead to an individualized society where every person becomes his/her own island.[2] The Christian worldview is one that stresses the value and importance of community. Thus, this issue can become problematic, especially since the entitlement philosophy inherently opposes charitable endeavors. The philosophy of entitlement is focused on the self and not the needs of others.

How to combat:          Involving youth in missions work is a great way to demonstrate the impoverishment of the poor and afflicted. Charity and love for others must be emphasized.

Apathy-I-dont-care

  1. Apathy for the Lost.

Apathy has found its way on the top-ten list before. It is no stranger. By apathy, I stress the lack of concern that many Christians hold for the lost and downtrodden…particularly the lost. Other issues noted in the top five may hold a key in understanding the lack of enthusiasm that some hold. I am a congruist[3] and have many Calvinist friends. However, I do believe extreme Calvinism, especially that which espouses antinomianism, allows for such apathy regarding evangelism. This is certainly not true of all Calvinists. Many of my Calvinist friends are among some of the greatest of evangelists that I know. However, one must avoid views that negate the importance of the Great Commission regardless of one’s soteriological viewpoints.

How to combat:          Stress the Great Commission and the responsibility that Christians hold. Forgiveness does not excuse laziness and unholy living.

racism

  1. Race relations.

2015 has demonstrated just how problematic and deep the racial divide still remains. We have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. Let us be clear. Racism and Christianity are incompatible. Racism and Christianity are oil and water. They do not mix. Unfortunately, fears and anxieties tend to diminish unity found in Christ. Instead, fears and anxieties elevate such tendencies.

How to combat:          Stress God’s impartiality[4] and that heaven will be full of various nationalities. Make an effort to befriend individuals of different ethnicities. See the value in all people. Dr. Derwin Gray is doing a great job in this area with his church Transformation Church in South Carolina.

unwavering-faith

  1. Trusting in God despite chaos.

With the increased “craziness” of the world, people—even believers—can succumb to negative thinking, conspiracy paranoia,[5] and alarmism. Hey, it happens to the best of us. Nonetheless, we must all remember that God is in control. In the midst of the chaos there exists a grand weaver orchestrating an elaborate tapestry that will in the end be for the best for the children of God.[6] While studies and surveys are useful. It is more important to trust in the sovereignty of Almighty God.

How to Combat:         WE MUST STUDY AND TEACH BIBLICAL and SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY!!! I keep coming back to the wise words of Dr. Daniel Mitchell. Dr. Mitchell is the Professor of Theology at Liberty University School of Divinity. Dr. Mitchell said, “The more I study God, the bigger God becomes.”[7] When we study the attributes of God, we come to realize just how mighty our God really is. So, to Dr. Mitchell I say, “Amen!”

Next week, I will provide the top five challenges facing the church in 2016.*

 

*Click here to read the second installment.

 

© December 29, 2015. Brian Chilton.

[1] In full disclosure, I must acknowledge that I support the Christian’s right to bear arms as I feel it is part of a person’s responsibility to protect one’s home. I do, however, readily admit that background checks should evaluate a person’s mental and emotional stability, as well as one’s ties to known terrorist agencies.

[2] See Plato’s Republic.

[3] Meaning that I believe both in the sovereignty of God and the free will of humanity. For a good explanation of this view, see Norman Geisler’s Chosen but Free: A Balanced View of God’s Sovereignty and Free Will (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2010) and Millard Erickson’s Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998), 356.

[4] Romans 2:11 and Acts 10:34-35.

[5] That is, seeing every minute thing as a conspiracy. For instance, “the weather is especially rainy. The government must not want the sun to shine!” Such a mindset provides governmental institutions a god-like status. Whether or not conspiracies exist is moot in this regard. Paranoia is antagonistic to faith.

[6] See Romans 8:28.

[7] Daniel Mitchell, Video Lecture, Liberty University.