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Spiritual AIDS: Connection Before God's Word

Letter to the Editor The United Methodist Reporter by K. Scott Merchant
July 24, 1998

Dear Editor :

I felt compelled to write after reading the editorial in the July 17th reporter entitled “The true meaning of connection” . The basis of this editorial was to look down on the Kingsburg Church for wanting to withdraw from the United Methodist Denomination, and shed a dark shadow on those congregations who are at odds over apportionment’s due to theological disagreements. According to the editorial as Church leaders “we must teach preach and model the true meaning of our connectional relationship-the ties that are meant to bind our hearts in Christian love”

This statement is evidence of the actual problem that has consumed the UMC . We have moved from teaching, preaching and modeling the Word of God, and now rely on connection first.

Anyone who can read a paper, operate a TV remote, or attend a United Methodist Church knows that something is slowly destroying our country and our Church. Some kind of hideous virus, some sort of deadly disease is racing through our cultural bloodstream. What are the symptoms of this sickness?

America is now number one in teen pregnancy, violent crime, and drug abuse, America is now number one in divorce, Every 47 seconds a child is abused, every day seventeen teenagers commit suicide, and everyday a new holocaust of 5000 unborn die, while pornography floods our streets like an open sewer.

In the our Churches, fewer and fewer people are attending, Churches are closing, members are leaving for other churches, As we see Churches are divided, upset, withholding, and withdrawing. If you attended high school in 1957 75-80% of your class mates attended Church, If your child attended kindergarten in 1997 less then 20% of their class mates attend Church. What is the problem? Why is this crisis facing us today?

When you bring the Bible to bear on the crisis facing our Church and Nation. We need to look away from human solutions and look to the sure word of God.

When you pass the problems through the filter of faith and the screens of Scripture, it becomes painful clear that the problem springs from a common cause, from a spiritual problem deep within our society and Church. In fact the symptoms look like the beginning of AIDS.

Society has fallen victim to a disease I call Spiritual AIDS. The bacteria of sin and the virus of lawlessness are running rampant through our system without being challenged because the immune system called the Church has been badly weakened. Our problems in society are not the results of corrupt politicians, racists, or feminists. Our troubles can be traced directly to ineffective Christians.

The tragedy today is not that sinners sin; that’s what they're expected to do. The tragedy is that the Church has failed to act as the salt and the light in this society. When Christians fail to live out their faith, then their families fail to function as Christian families. Failed Christian families make for ineffective Churches, and ineffective churches make no impact on the community they have been called to serve.

Where does the Church fall short? Do we not have enough Churches or money, or programs or leaders? No, none of these really explain why the Church is failing, Our problem goes deeper then these outward things. The problem that plagues the Church is a perfect parallel to Israel as described in 2 Chronicles 15:3, 5-6:

For many days Israel was without the true God and without a teaching priest and without law.... In those times there was no peace to him who went out or to him that came in, for many disturbance afflicted all the inhabitants of the lands. Nation was crushed by nation, and city by city, for God troubled them with every kind of distress.

Have you ever wondered how we can have all these churches in all these communities, all these preachers, deacons, superintendents, Bishops, and conferences, and still have all this mess? Perhaps its because the TRUTH is missing. Someone may say, “Oh I didn't like that sermon,” or “We must be careful to be politically correct.” This is the wrong response. The issue is whether it was true! Politicians need to be popular and politically correct. The Church needs to tell the truth.

Rather then being the Church in the World, we have allowed the World to invade the Church and help determine our thinking, actions and lifestyles. Rather then love the sinner and hate the sin, we love everything for the sake of getting along. When the rule of Gods law is missing, chaos replaces community. Ungodly people in our society want to intimidate the Church into silence so they can rule in chaos. So the Church becomes intimidated rather then stand for God and for the truth.

2 Timothy 4: 3-4:

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because the have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.

If a man is a sinner, a correct diagnosis disturbs him, but it is the responsibility of the Church to declare the truth to him. It is important that we speak the truth in love by describing what he will see in the mirror of God’s Word.

Unfortunately today the Church has become as confused about the truth as the unbelieving world. We are like lighthouses with the lights burned out, standing and pretending to give light while people crash on the rocks trying to find direction and certainty. In a world were everybody’s answers are right, nobody’s answers wind up right. When society looses truth it looses meaning. The church needs to stand out like a beacon proclaiming the truth of Scripture without stuttering, compromising, or apologizing.

Today the Church has been co-opted by the culture so we end up sounding just as confused as everyone else. I believe that the Church has contributed to the spiritual decline of our culture, while we have done an admirable job of cursing the darkness, we have done a poor job of spreading the true light of God’s Word. We have talked about being the family of God, while all along we have been a family in crisis.

The price tag for this drive-thru McChristian spirituality has been weak Christians, leading weak families, bringing about a weak Church. I believe the Churches greatest need today is not for sinners to accept Gods True Word, but for US to accept God’s True Word, and make it our daily lifestyle.

I’m convinced that until the Church changes and those who call them selves Christians change, culture will not change. As long as we fail to live out our faith in the marketplace, it will keep us weak and ineffective.

  • Not until we take the lead will culture have something to follow.
  • Not until we become the light of Gospel Truth, culture will not see us.
  • Not until we invite back the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit to our Churches and Denomination will we see our Churches truly connected.

If we who name the name of Jesus Christ are going to really do something for our communities; “Judgement must begin with the household of God “(1 Peter 4:17)

I applaud a congregation who is united enough to take a stand as a whole and say we would rather leave then compromise the Word of God. I do not however see this as the start of a mass exodus of Churches from the Methodist Denomination. Rather it will continue as it has been, a slow steady decline as one by one members leave, an aging membership dies and churches close. That’s how a disease works, slow but sure. Especially when you deny even having it.

There is a war going on in our nation, A spiritual war, millions of souls are at stake. You can’t be neutral when you stand in the middle of a battleground. In this war the United Methodist Church must decide whether its going to fight the fight of faith or stand by and watch our country destroy itself.

As church leaders at all levels we must teach, preach, and model the true Word of God and concentrate on making true disciples for Christ first and foremost. I chose personally to go for victory in Christ name by becoming his true disciple. I urge everyone to fight the good fight in Christ's army by being his true disciples.

Satan can handle Christians, But he’s no match for Disciples.

Pastor K. Scott Merchant  

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