I believe being a Christian in every era was not easy but particularly for 21st CE human beings it seems impossible. 99% of my congregation lives between Sundays for the world. They dont show up for Bible Studies, prayer meeting, often slacking in church, when asked about their prayer life most of them dont have one, they often responds they are too busy and have no time or little time for daily devotions and etc. I’ve been praying earnestly to see changes in their lives but most of them have no desire to change. I see them struggling with life, finances, strained and exhausted, even the worship leaders in our church are like this. Most of them do not want to give up on things, jobs and relationships that are obstacle between them and their fruitful relationship with Jesus Christ. They clearly have no evidenced of changed or transformed life. I am sure this is the story in every church regardless of the size, I wonder what is the role of a pastor in all this? Believe me I tried everything that is in the books but looks like nothing works.
@roze4jesus I can confidently say that there are Churches with transformed people inside - though I have never been the lead Pastor of one. I am sorry to hear of the struggle you are having and sincerely pray that the Lord Jesus might open eyes / hearts and grant you wisdom as you lead His people. I cannot offer any answers, but I would like to just ask some questions:
What does it mean to you for people to be disciples of Jesus? How come you feel that no one in your Church is really willing to follow Him? Do you think it is possible your expectations are unrealistic for someone who has to manage a family?
Is there any way you could engage people socially, emotionally or rationally? Have they been engaged on all three levels?
- social - people need to be socially engaged
- rational - people need to understand the why and how of their faith
- emotional - people need to be emotionally connected / invested in their faith
How would you rate your congregation as a whole on the Engel scale? Are they culturally Christian? Do they want to change but are not sure how? Do you need to be focusing cultivating, sowing or harvesting in this season of your Church? It sounds to me like there is a strong need for cultivating and sowing.
Tim Keller has some great sermons on how to change deeply - I think he is a great example of someone who is good at cultivating and sowing - cultivating the soil of peoples’ hearts so they can hear God’s Word and truly desire to change. I’ve linked some sermons below.
I hope that some of that is at least a little helpful I know from experience how frustrating it can be when you so desperately want people to know Jesus at a deeper level and that change does not seem to be happening.
Tim Keller - How to Change Deeply and Counterfeit gods
I do feel that it is a pretty complex question that you have posed, but yes, I do agree with @SeanO that people are transformed inside out, not the other way around.
In the story of the woman caught in adultery (and the Pharisees wanted to stone her), Jesus first gave her the gift of no condemnation FIRST, before telling her what to do NEXT.
Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:10-11)
I think this applies a lot in addressing the church congregation of today. Personally, I’d avoid focusing on “what to do” first (not to say that it is bad), but rather focus on the individual’s identity in Christ - that they are God’s beloved, and God sacrificed heaven’s best for him / her. Once this has been establish, the works will naturally overflow (serving, reading the bible, putting church first). Though a minor disclaimer would be, the individual will need to be filled till overflowing before the works can be seen.
I do feel the same as @SeanO that the engagement is one of the first steps in understanding what their struggle with faith is.
Some common areas that usually pop up are:
- I have sinned and lost favour with God, and therefore since I am a lost cause, why not continue sinning?
- I feel that church is no longer relevant in my life, because times has changed but it still holds on to very traditional beliefs, and I get laughed at my peers for being a Christian.
- I don’t think that christianity is tangible (or real) enough, because it says that God provides, but here I am strapped for cash barely surviving.
- All roads lead to heaven anyway, so why bother?
- Church is too troublesome, I need to pray, fast, read the bible, go for service, etc.
Though the list is not an exhaustive one, these are the more common thoughts that my circle of friends have.
However, the key is to properly meet the individual on their level to really understand their situation, just as Christ came down from heaven to be contained in a human body, rather than asking everyone to just “gain enlightenment” and meet Him up there.
The Christian faith is intended to work hand in hand with our lives, rather than having to give up a significant portion of our lives just to make it work. I think God is definitely much more capable to make up for our short fall, rather than say that we are not doing or sacrificing enough. I am pretty sure any normal minded father on earth would abhor the thought of their child needing to sacrifice for them, let alone our heavenly Father.
I do also think that it is crucial to know that everyone represents a different part of the body of Christ. I do notice some people who sometimes take full time ministry as “the highest calling” in some extreme cases. Full time ministry or working in the secular marketplace or anywhere else have their roles in contributing to the church of Christ. Not everyone is called to be full time, just as not everyone is called to work in the marketplace as well.
Lastly, something that I came across being in a more established larger church, I noticed that empathy is often overlooked when ministering to the individual. Many times when we are so well versed in the Word of God, we throw scriptures around whenever someone shares a problem. Many times, the individual already know what to do, but what they need is someone to acknowledge what are they going through at that point in time. Sometimes all they need is just a hug. And after that, they are more than ready to pick themselves us, self-minister themselves with the Word of God (or a pray to Him), and move on with life.
Just a little thought, hehe.
Rose, thanks for sharing this sincere question. Sean and Kyrie has shared some really wonderful resources and thoughts already. Your question reminded me of two resources, a question by Carson and a talk by Vince Vitale. Perhaps they will give you inspiration on questions to draw out conversation. Sometimes, the most helpful change we can enact in a person is to put a pebble in a person’s shoe, something that will make their hearts seek Christ’s prompting in their lives, long after we have finished speaking.