I really enjoy following Thom Rainer, former CEO of Lifeway and now church researcher/consultant/expert, etc. etc. He knows a lot, and he has studied churches and church people a LOT. Recently on his website — https://thomrainer.com, he shared an article by Chuck Lawless entitled “Ten Fears For The American Church.” Lawless created his list after visiting with many international missionaries. Having been a missionary myself, this list and his conclusions really resonated with me. In bold print, you’ll find his fears, and underneath you’ll see my thoughts.
I fear we go through the motions without really experiencing God’s presence. Yes. The times I have had personal quiet times or sat in worship services are too numerous to count, but the times I have really experienced God’s presence during those quiet times or worship services could likely be narrowed down to less than 100. When I ask myself “why,” the answers (and convictions) come flooding in.
I fear we get too hung up on things that don’t matter nearly as much as we think. Amen, and amen again. Put your weapons down, people. The worship wars are over. All instruments can be used for praising God, and any lyrics that are scripturally-based are good, useful and edifying. And, “the way things used to be done?” Don’t even get me started. Let’s do whatever it takes to bring more people into the Kingdom of God.
I fear we think too lightly about persecution. I’ve seen families have their water source cut off when they became Christians in Ecuador, and a woman who let us inside her home to share the Gospel in South Korea was then accused by her neighbors and family of letting evil spirits come in. Then, there are our children and grandchildren in schools today, trying with every ounce of sincerity they can muster to live Christ-like lives. Many of them facing teasing and bullying.
I fear we think we’re the most important church people in the world. We are just as important to God BUT NOT MORE IMPORTANT TO GOD than church people in every country on earth. We definitely have more resources, but so many others do so much more with far less.
I fear we think too little about Bible study and scripture memorization. I remember the illiterate women in Kenya who sat on benches under a tree listening to Bible stories and drinking in every word. Many had walked for miles to get there and several had babies on their backs. When questions were asked at the end of a study, they not only knew the answers, their hearts understood the application.
I fear we have little idea what power there is in prayer. In South Korea, we witnessed church people who came together at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning to pray FOR HOURS before going to work. When I remember those people, I understand why there has been such a tremendous growth of Christianity in their country. My short, hastily-spoken “God bless ______” or “Please help ________” are words heard by God but lacking in the power they could have.
I fear we tolerate sin far too much. Turn on the TV and in less than 15 minutes, it’s there. Go to a non-church function involving groups of people. The words, actions, attitudes quickly observed are sinful practices that have been absorbed into our culture. And, yes, those include vulgar, distasteful cheers at football games. Tide and Tigers, I’m looking at you.
I fear we’re not providing enough practical training for young ministers and missionaries. Before Steve and I went to Ecuador, we went through 7 weeks of training at the Missionary Learning Center near Richmond, Virginia, but we were both in our 50’s, had been Christians since we were children and in church long before that. Some of the missionary trainees were still in their 20’s. They desperately needed mature mentors before going on the field, while they were there and after they returned. No doubt about it.
I fear we sometimes get in the way of missionaries on our short-term trips. Yes. Yes. Yes. SEVERAL times while we were on the field, we were in the throes of language study, culture acquisition or relationship building, and groups from the U.S. came with their own agendas demanding/expecting our time, attention and help with no plans to respect us, to listen to what we needed from them or to get out of their comfort zones. It was really appalling. By the same token, after we’d been there awhile and were able to recruit specific teams for specific assignments that fit with our strategy, volunteers were extremely helpful and encouraging. Attitude is everything.
I fear we don’t pray enough for missionaries. The prayer support we received from our prayer partners was absolutely VITAL to our survival. I can give many examples of near-disasters that were avoided, and we knew those were the results of praying people. I encourage you to get to know several missionaries and seek to understand their specific needs, then be faithful in lifting those needs to the Father Who will hear and answer.
1 Thessalonians 5:17 — “Pray without ceasing.”
2 Timothy 2:15 — “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.”
I’m so glad I had teachers to teach me and the motivation to memorize those 2 verses as a child.