“I say to you that likewise, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance”  Luke 15:7

“But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, some a hundred.”  Mark 4:20

“Come you blessed of My Father….I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in……..Assuredly I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these, My brethren, you did it to Me.” Matthew 34, 35, 40

As I start out, as I have sometimes done in the past I want to state what this post is not about.  It is not a diatribe against mega-churches or some aspect of large versus small churches.

What this post is about is the pervasive fear that I hear foretold about, read about and even, at times, hear preached about as far as the decline and risk to the future of Christ’s Church.  That there is diminishing population of church goers in many countries can not be disputed.  It is also true that the influence of the Christian church in societies as far as laws that are passed and social norms that are considered acceptable are also on the decline.

Yet what I find the response within the church, especially from leadership; which I at times will freely admit to being and having this reaction, is a great fear concerning the very survival of the church.  Is that the correct response?  Does the world have the power to stop or destroy the church?  Sadly, in response to that fear, I’ve found individual and entire groups of churches who are willing to greatly modify and sometime abandon significant truths and Christ’s doctrines in order to be more inviting and welcoming to the world.  In the western world and especially in America, for most of our history, we seemed to be affiliated with the Christian church, even with a doctrine of separation of church and state.  Now that the affiliation is waning to a certain extent; we seem all the more frequently to be filled with doubt and fear for our future.

The fear seems to come from the belief that numbers are what drive church power and influence and diminished numbers is a symptom of impending death.  I’ve seen churches go to great lengths to have membership drives, which I have no problem with at all.  The trouble comes when they were hoping for triple or big double digit increases and find that perhaps only a handful have come and given their lives to Jesus Christ and they are deeply disappointed with that result.  Really?

What did Christ teach us; extol for us to do and warn us not to?  As far as numbers are concerned; Christ seemed to be very clear.  In His very first parable, He made crystal clear that the Word was not going to take hold with everybody.  Now nothing states that the four soils were exactly 25% each; but what is clear is that the majority of soils were not going to bear fruit.  Time and time again; whether it was the wedding guest parable or the ten bridesmaids parable, entering in through the narrow gate; Jesus prophesied that the majority would not commit to following the way of Jesus Christ.  Yes thousands in Jerusalem joined the church in days, but not the majority in the city, nor in Ephesus or Galatia or Corinth or Rome.  That large churches may be brining in scores of believers every week is awesome, given that they are only preaching the true gospel of Christ.  But that in no way diminished the cheering and rejoicing in heaven; when the one person, or family sincerely repents and accepts Jesus Christ.  If heaven is rejoicing; why are we afraid?

I see a modern day parallel to the disciples experience in the boat.  In the Gospel of Mark we read that they had watched Jesus preach to thousands.  They partook in the miracle of feeding 5,000. Then following Jesus’ command they enter a boat and take off across the water.  One imagines as the journey started they were feeling pretty darn good.  Huge crowds following Jesus, miracles galore and there were the disciples right in the thick of it. But then the storm came up.  Jesus was not right there and they became afraid.  Now understand, I’m not blaming them.  Anyone who has been in a violent storm in a small boat can understand their fear.  Where is Jesus?  There He is coming, walking on water and they cry out to him and His response is to Be of Good Cheer; it is I; do not be afraid!  Here’s the parallel.  We’ve seen a considerable success in Jesus Christ’s teaching in our countries.  We seen so very many and even been a part of so many blessings.  We decide to follow Jesus Christ and where He sends us.  But now the storm, in this case the world and its prince are rising.  The boat is starting to get tossed.  Some are even leaving the boat, not sure that it is the right vehicle to carry them to where they want to be.  What we must understand is Jesus Christ is still in control, He is walking with us, He is calling out to us be of good cheer and do not be afraid.

But Doug, what can we do with such meager numbers?  How can we make an impact with a congregation 3/4’s or 1/2 what it used to be?  Again numbers don’t matter.  When Jesus Christ told of those blessed by the Father, He didn’t say they fed everyone, clothed or housed everyone in need.  No; He said that you do it for one of the least of these is what makes the difference.

Dear Sisters and Brothers, we are not going to change the entire world.  We’ve not been sent for that.  We are to preach and be examples of the Word to the world.  Those to whom  perhaps some aspect of inspiration through our word and deed come to follow Jesus Christ, is the work of the Holy Spirit and not us.  We are not the King of Kings.  But we are the King’s subjects.  Let us please act like those.  Let us be bold in proclaiming, but not in harshness or pride, but in humility and loving, the Word of Jesus Christ.  Let us be fertile soil, feeding, clothing, sheltering, visiting when we can.  Finally and most, most importantly; let us be joyous and confident in Our Savior Jesus Christ and Our Heavenly Father; knowing that Their Power is sufficient to sustain Their Church of which we are such blessed participants.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are made humble that You would think to include us and gather us together; though we are sinners in Your Great and Wonderful Church.  Thank you that You sent Your Son, Jesus Christ to wipe away our sins and to allow us to come into relationship with You.  Forgive us when we become fearful that the majority of the world, though hearing Your message, refuse to follow it.  Pour out Your strength upon us that we would continue in love, humility and with boldness to proclaim Your Word of love to all whom may not have heard it.  Let us truly rejoice over each and every person who responds to Your invitation.  That all might see the supremacy of Your Church to this world.  We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

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