My OPINION on Church Decline [PART ONE]

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I'm really not sure where to start on this topic. However, this will most likely be a two to three parts series if I can't finish the list tonight. Speaking of list, I'm only going to focus on some key points - not all. A perfect congregation is one that knows they don't have all the answers and as such, continues to rely on the scriptures for guidance towards a continued growth instead of creating man made doctrines to look perfect.

Abraham InetianborI'll let everyone draw whatever conclusion they choose. Like I said in the title, this is my personal opinion but it is also based on facts and some research. When God's Church is being treated like a personal business, things are bound to "go south." Members will start feeling less of a part of the body, and the actions of those "running" things will be seen as a "take it or leave it" kind of atmosphere. We all should know by now that not every good intent produces good results. A group of "good" people doesn't always equals a "true" church and Cornelius' family is a great example (Acts 10 & 11) of "good people". The bible also talked about lukewarm and fallen churches in Revelation chapter 2. We've often heard that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is the true definition of insanity.

When you find yourself in your car facing a "dead end" sign on a dead end street, you can sit there and complain about it and hope that the sign will change in time for you to make it through the road block, or you can just look for an alternate, more efficient route to get where you need to be. Although, this is a matter of opinion but not all matters of opinion produce the same or efficient results. This is why an open mind is needed especially when something else is not working. I'm writing this based on extensive travel resume visiting various congregations for almost a decade now, interviews and observations that all point towards almost the same conclusion. Even when I didn't have my "crap" together (not that I do now), I still made it a point to continue my search for answers as to what happened to the Church that Jesus built. Why we all have our different opinions on what is causing the decline in our churches, we must also remember to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace in our disagreements.

Abraham Inetianbor
This is almost obvious to be on the list. I'm in this category too because I have a 5 year old and I know the struggle of constantly having to remind myself of what my priority should be besides God. "Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain...." in Psalm 127 is not referring to a brick and mortal building construction. It's mainly talking about including God in the growth of our households or family. You will need to read the entire chapters 127 and 128 to fully understand the power of this quote in Psalms 127:1. If God is not included, then we are definitely building our family in vain. Until we start thinking spiritually for the future of our kids, we will always find it hard to understand God's word and his plan for us. Our primary responsibility when we decide to have a child is to be a parent. Being a parent is more than working to put food on the table. We still have to work even when we are not parents. Work and everything else is mandatory but secondary. It's just part of caring for the child that we decided to be a parent to.

The last time I checked, there is no rule that prevents us from talking to our kids about the Bible at home in addition to what they hear in church. Spiritually healthy households creates a spiritually healthy church and in turn crates a spiritually healthy society. Most parents rely on others to be the primary spiritual instructor for their kids. We often forget that we don't need to know the entire bible to become the spiritual leaders of our own households. Does this make the already tough parenting job harder, you bet your tail it does especially if you have a busy work schedule. If we do our very best raising our kids in God's way and it did not turn out as we hoped, we can sleep well at night knowing that we did all we could. We can continue to pray for them while hoping for the best and leading by example.

Abraham Inetianbor
I did't realize how big of a deal this was until we had two very controversial candidates (Hillary and Trump) running for president this year. The stage was set and the devil was ready to pounce but sadly some preachers of the gospel got their hands caught in the political cookie jar. There's nothing wrong about talking politics but things go wrong when you start looking for ways to defend evil acts being committed right in front of your face simply because the person is your political candidate. Hillary could do no wrong in the eyes of most democrats and Trump was delivered directly from heaven by God in the eyes of most Republicans. Most congregational leaders found a way to not only carry out a sleek campaign for president Trump earlier this year but things got worse after he won last month.

They now feel obligated to defend his erroneous actions, which do not reflect Christian values. Election is over, it's time to let it go and move forward but some church leaders just couldn't help themselves. They had to find every way possible to defend ANY and ALL actions of their pick by invoking grace. These were the same preachers at gospel meetings years ago who unofficially sentenced Bill Clinton to hell for lying about an affair; these same preachers are now the biggest defender of Donald Trump's affairs.

This is exactly what Jesus meant when he talked about a spec in someone's eyes versus a tree in yours. Jesus did not compare a speck to a speck, or a log to a log; His comparison was a disastrous log in someone's eye who is being critical of a spec in another's. Hypocrisy at its best. He already knows that we all are identically sinners, specks or logs. He knows we will find ways to diminish sin whenever it favors us while throwing others under the bus.

The excuses continues to grow bigger as those who were supporters of Hillary found a way to call their church leaders names like "sellout" and now some people don't want to see eye to eye. If we focused on the Word instead of the world, we will not be using God's name to try and score political points that has now created divisions among members of our local congregations nationwide and even worldwide. A lot of people already left Christianity as a result of this and many brotherhood relationships have soured. The damage done will never be fully known but we continue to see more people leave their local congregations as a result of this.

Abraham InetianborHUMAN TRADITIONS
For the life of me, I can't seem to figure out why human rules take priority over God's truth in the Church. Only if we put as much effort and enthusiasm on God's truth as we do when it comes to human traditions or man made rules. You should see how enthusiastic some people are when talking about following human traditions. I don't think this point needs much explanation but I'll chip in my two cents. We focus on the choreographed part of worship more than we focus on spiritual growth. This is the simple reason why some members get upset when changes are made to things like "human requirements" or even things like the "order" of worship. Some people literally get angry if the sermon is preached before communion or the other way around. This is because they most likely saw the same old choreographed process take place all their lives and couldn't tell if it was biblical or not. These kinds of rigidity in human practices creates the assumption of something being scriptural even when it is clearly a human tradition with no biblical backings. If congregations focus more on spiritual growth instead of human traditions, things like these will be less of a problem.

Speaking of "rigidity" in these human traditions, just take a look at how we treat bible studies like a school curriculum. Most bible studies are practically "sermons" labeled as bible study. The atmosphere at most congregation is intimidating and over controlled to the point where people feel like asking questions/making comments would bring them shame or make people view them the wrong way. Almost zero healthy debates because we've "crowned" some people to the point that their words or unintentional mistakes cannot be challenged or corrected by anyone. We rush through topics so we can finish the "curriculum" instead of just studying the bible to help people get a better understanding of a topic.

If most people already don't like schools in the real world, what makes us think that creating another "school" styled environment will be appealing to them in church? Like I've said on many occasions, it looks like we are more concerned about finishing a book, chapter and verse than we are about making sure people understand the bible. Having rules and guidelines is necessary and not always a bad thing as long as it is not contrary to God's word. The problem is in how locked-in we are with these rules to the point that we would rather follow them than follow God's word. We have made them a priority in our various congregations and are now practicing them as doctrines. "In vain do they worship me..." said the Lord because we teach, practice and cling to human traditions as if they are the doctrines of God.

Deserted youth turn into unwilling young adults. We tell our baptized youth to focus on programs like lads to leaders and "hopefully" one day they will be included in our worship services. The truth is we don't actually think they are good enough to "play with the big boys" or even close to being "professionals" on stage. We unintentionally look down on young baptized members among us who became Christians 5-10 years ago. Don't get me wrong, I love youth groups and was part of youth groups in the past. Youth group should not be an excuse for our young men (baptized) not to be a part of officiating in worship services. Yet, we wonder why these young adults think officiating in worship is for old folks only. Majority of them spend decades under the umbrella of youth groups and grow up thinking that officiating in worship is not for them.

I don't see anyone holding back a 60 year old adult who is 5 years old in the faith so why limit a willing 23 year old who is 10 years old in the faith? Is it because the first is older in age or are we trying to tell the young ones among us that they didn't know why they got baptized? Aren't they also workers in the vineyard and should be given the opportunity to serve like everyone else if they want to? How long can you teach someone how to fish without giving them the fishing rod and taking them to the water to do so? These baptized youths continue to be fed the milk of the scriptures for up to a decade and when they "transition" to the "big boys club" they continue to be babied and "trained" because we focus more on their age than we do on their abilities.

Abraham Inetianbor
It hurts me to say this because I'm conflicted on Lads to Leaders. This program is a great great great platform and was created for the young among us to learn more about the bible. But sometimes it looks more like a "church" within the Church. The focus seem to have gone from growth and understanding to "glow and trophy stacking." The problem is we focus on the ability of our young ones to memorize, recite, perform and pass a quiz than we are in their actual grooming for understanding.

Yes, understanding. As I often say, knowledge is NOT understanding. If it was, we would have a Church full of young spiritual men and women. Instead, we glow over those that can recite and pass a quiz and in return we reward them with a trophy. These kids grow up with a constant expectation of a "trophy-like" scenario for doing what is right. Even as adults, the expectation continues for doing what they were called out to do. "Pat on the back" is great and I do it to my kid and others all the time but there is a difference between encouragements and unintentionally creating unreasonable expectations.

"Trophy stacking" should not be the primary reason we do the good that we do as Christians. We can create an atmosphere where these kids don't have or crave constant expectations for a never ending rewards for their good deeds because the best reward is from God. The understanding of God's word is mostly lost in all of these and going on stage becomes more of a "showtime" instead of being treated as a responsibility. Please, don't fill my inbox with those who have been baptized through this program; I'm more interested in the number of those who actually know why they got baptized and remained in the church because that number is way beyond your imagination. The primary goal should be to grow the Church spiritually and not numerically. Numbers will come through spiritual growth. The Lord adds to the Church those who are being saved. Let's worry first about truly saving souls before numbers.

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