I spend a lot of time on the mission field working with missionaries. I LOVE the local church wherever it is, but I fear more for the American church every time I go overseas. Here are some of my fears:
1. I fear we go through the motions without really experiencing God’s presence. Seldom have I experienced in America what I’ve seen in some places around the world.
2. I fear we get way too hung up on things that don’t matter nearly as much as we think. That’s the way I feel about things like service times, worship styles, and building colors.
3. I fear we think too lightly about persecution. We think we’re being persecuted when we can’t erect the church sign we want, but believers around the world are facing much more than that.
4. I fear we think we’re the most important church people in the world. No question that the American church is influential, but most of the world has never heard of most of us – including those among us who are the best known.
5. I fear we think too little about Bible study and scripture memorization. I wonder how our ministries would change if the only Bible we had was what we’ve already stored in our head and heart. Some believers live under that restriction.
6. I fear we have little idea what power there is in prayer. Our “prayer meetings” hardly compare to some of the long, gut-wrenching, heart-rending prayer times I’ve spent with missionaries and nationals.
7. I fear we tolerate sin far too much. I’ve been with international believers who go too far the other way into legalism, but at least they’re talking about holiness.
8. I fear we’re not providing enough practical training for young ministers and missionaries. We send them out with our blessing, but not with our practical and personal DNA in their blood.
9. I fear we sometimes get in the way of missionaries on our short-term trips. That happens when we plan trips without even briefly engaging those who live on the ground and who best understand local needs and culture.
10. I fear we don’t pray enough for missionaries. In fact, I’m sure about this one. I know we don’t pray enough for them.
Just my thoughts today. If you agree with any of these, pick one and work on it. Strengthen the American church by beginning with your congregation.
This article was written by Chuck Lawless and originally published at ThomRainer.com on September 29. Thom S. Rainer served as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.