One writer has summarized a major theme of the
New Testament in these words: On account of abundant iniquity (evil deeds and un-repented sin), the love of many will grow cold. Only those who endure to the end will be saved (Matt.24,12-13; Mark 13,13; Luke 21,19).
Looking at many of what are called “main-line Churches (i.e. Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian), the judgment of “love has grown cold” seems to apply. Paul’s description of these Churches in II Timothy is that they “hold the form of religion, but have not the power of it.”
While the non-denominational and “mega” churches are not perfect either and have their own set of problems, members of the main line churches seem to lack excitement and enthusiasm about their religious belief. In fact, their version of “Church” is so un-inspiring that it is a low priority even for those who re “members” of these Churches; therefore, no new members are being added to these Churches, because it is the convincing example of those who are already members that brings new members.
Seekers, people whose hearts cry out for closeness to God, are looking for convincing evidence that those who claim to know God (the religious people) actually have found the transforming reality of a personal, experiential relationship with God. The lack of enthusiasm and excitement, and the evidence that their religious belief is not a priority in their lives, make present-day Church members unconvincing examples to seekers and potential Church members. In general, seekers would say “if there is no evidence your religious beliefs are making a difference in your life, why would I want what you have?”
What, you might ask, would characterize “convincing examples” of people whose lives have been transformed by their relationship with God? I would like to suggest at least the following five charfacteristics of Christians who want to be convincing examples:
1. the development of their relationship with God is the highest priority of their life, as evidenced by their commitment of time, energy and resources
2. they understand that regular prayer, daily Bible study and weekly Worship with other Christians are tools that God has provided for the development of their relationship with Him, and they prioritize and seek out opportunities to employ these tools and to expand their knowledge of Christian beliefs, understanding and application of Scripture and familiarity with their own Church’s beliefs, traditions and practices.
3. they can identify specific ways in which their relationship with God has radically changed their values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors
4. they talk with excitement and enthusiasm to other people about the transforming relationship with God that they have found
5. they know their God-given talents (spiritual gifts) and find their greatest joy in using them to serve God, to build up His Church and to engage in “good works” that are calculated to draw others to God