The truth pastors need to know about the serious situation of today's churches and the solution for her maladies is a subject that God has given me the desire to write about and possibly even publish in either book or booklet form in order to help equip and encourage those who find themselves desiring to see the church function as God designed and yet finding themselves in a major battle to bring it about. While I am no expert on the subject, God has graciously given me the opportunity to be involved in studying His Word and applying it in the context of the local church where I pastor. God has graciously shown me the serious situation that many of today's churches are in and the solution for her maladies.
I also want to say upfront that turning a church around so that it begins to function as God designed it is a long and difficult process. There are no "magic-bullets" (magic sermons) that will cure the church's maladies overnight. However, a steady diet of good, solid, systematic expositional preaching will, over the long-haul, cure the church of her maladies and equip the saints for the work of ministry.
My desire is to inform the God-called pastor from God's Word what the root of the problem is and what he should expect both positively and negatively as he begins to lead the church to function as God designed.
In this post and possibly the next several posts I want to deal with the root of the problem before we move on to dealing with what to expect as we begin to deal with the problems.
First, in most churches the people are unrestrained because of no revelation (Proverbs 29:18). Most of us are familiar with this passage of Scripture and know it to say, "Where there is no vision the people perish; but he that keepeth the law, happy is he." It is by misinterpreting this verse that many pastors have been taught that it is their responsibility to create and cast a vision for their churches. They have been taught to formulate a plan to grow the church and then stategize how to fulfill it while bringing as many along in their vision as possible. However, this isn't true to Scripture and never will be. We are never given the liberty or the luxury to lean on our own understanding and attempt to do God's will our way. On the contrary we are to "trust the Lord with all our hearts and lean not on our own understanding" (Proverbs 3:5). Even the passage we have under consideration doesn't give us the right to come up with a vision for the church. The text literally says, "Where there is no revelation the people are unrestrained." You could interpret it like this, "Where there is no word from God the people do that which is right in their own eyes and get out of control." So you can see how it is possible for many churches to be out of line with God's guidelines for how the church is to function - and that even with a "vision."
This means that there is a great need for systematic exposition - "Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint" (Proverbs 29:18a ESV). Preaching straight through books of the Bible has been a very profitable and rewarding experience for me and my congregation. God will to purge and purify His church through His Word being preached in a systematic fashion. He will bring order out of chaos and bring the people under control by instructing and restraining them through His Word. It is through doing systematic exposition of God's Word that we truly learn how the church is to function and also guard against taking passages out of context and twisting the meaning. Systematic exposition of God's Word is part of the solution for curing the maladies of the church.
There is also a great need for and great reward in abiding by God's guidelines - "but blessed is he who keeps the law" (Proverbs 29:18b ESV). Those who obey God's Word find themselves blessed because they are doers of the Word and not hearers only. God is the creator and designer. When we function as He created and designed then we function properly and this brings Him glory. So the two go hand in hand - systematic exposition of God's Word and obedience to His commands. Any church that would dare trust God and do church His way will find itself the recipient of God's blessings. That doesn't necessarily mean a bigger church but it does mean a better church!