Whenever I find myself lamenting a problem in church, I try to ask myself if I’m being too critical. I don’t want to overlook the positive aspects of things. But lately I have noticed some real problems in churches that hinder the ministry and often go unaddressed.
Below is a list of ten problems that I have noticed in modern-day churches that leadership often overlooks. This list is not exhaustive, but I do think it begins to address the problem of the anemic state of many churches. My intent is not to simply point out the problem but also to help find the solution. If I could summarize the solution to the problems below in one statement, it would probably be: Get back to the basics. We must return to the Word of God.
1) We Are Too Busy
I don’t know about you, but I feel exhausted. Race here. Race there. Get this done. Get that done. Then start the cycle all over again. I find that I’m a much happier and peaceful person when I can slow down, recharge, and reset. It can be so refreshing to have some time to read, rest, and reflect. I’m convinced that we are so busy sometimes that we miss what life is really about.
We must learn to say “no” to some things. We can’t do it all. We need to say “no” to things that will take us out of church on Sunday mornings. That likely means sports. I’ve been very frustrated with all of the youth sports that are scheduled on the Lord’s day. I find that my week goes better when I start it in the house of the Lord.
It’s possible, though, to be too busy at church. We can get run down when we spend nearly every night at the church and leave no time for family, rest, or recreation. I guess you could call it too much of a good thing. If we are to serve others, we have to make sure our cup is filled or we will find ourselves with little to offer them.
If we want the Lord to speak to us, we have to be quiet and still and open our Bibles. This requires slowing down by necessity. I think we would see a lot of our stress and anxiety melt away if we would take this simple, but sometimes challenging step.
2) False Doctrine
There are many false doctrines out there, and I cannot list them all here. But I do want to address some of the bad ideas that are currently sneaking under the radar of many churches.
Wokeism, social justice, Critical Race Theory (CRT), and cultural marxism are probably more popular in churches than you realize. The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has largely surrendered to these horrible ideas with the passage of Resolution 9 and the appointment of woke leadership. Other denominations like the Methodists and Lutherans have been struggling with them as well.
The best resource I’ve seen on this topic is Jon Harris’ book, Christianity and Social Justice: Religions in Conflict. He gives the historical background of these dangerous ideas and calls out current leaders who have succumbed to them. Harris also does a good job of showing how CRT and social justice contradict the Gospel and seek to establish an entirely different religion.
The best way to combat error is to know the truth. It is imperative that church members know their Bibles or they will find themselves unequipped to fight false doctrine. The Bible speaks of a falling away or apostasy in the last days. We must be vigilant against teaching that does not line up with the Word of God.
3) The LGBT Agenda
Nothing has shocked me more about the state of the church than its acceptance of the LGBT agenda. There are still a few faithful churches who have not bowed the knee to Baal, but they seem to be getting fewer with each passing day.
Even if a church doesn’t accept the LGBT agenda, its silence on the matter is nearly just as bad. Preachers need to be bold in addressing this issue in a Biblical manner. The first duty of a pastor is fidelity to the Word of God.
The Revoice conferences have wreaked havoc in the Presbyterian Church in America as they have sought to normalize the Same-Sex Attracted agenda. In the SBC, former President, J.D. Greear, preached a sermon on Romans 1 in which he said God whispers about sexual sin. Greear also said in his podcast that he would use someone’s preferred pronouns if a transgender person visited his church.
The church needs bold clarity on this issue. Too often the church leaves doubt in people’s minds about what the Bible says about homosexuality. We must seek to please God, not man, and speak the truth in love.
4) Entertainment Instead of Worship
It probably comes as no surprise to anyone that many churches these days have brought in worldly entertainment to their services in order to appear hip and cool and attract more people. In some churches, it’s hard to distinguish between a concert and a worship service. Hymns have been jettisoned for watered down, modern worship songs which repeat the same words throughout the song.
We need to make sure we are honoring the Lord in our worship services. We are not there to please unbelievers, but God. How can we foster a worshipful environment when we import worldly music and videos into the services? If we have loud music blasting over the speakers before the services, that does not not set an appropriate tone for worship.
One of the great things about hymns is that they encourage everyone to participate since they are all contained in a hymnal. Even if someone is unfamiliar with them, it won’t take them long to learn it. The music is right there on the page. And the lyrics of hymns often teach doctrines and theological truths as opposed to the shallow emotionalism of modern-day praise music.
5) Watching and Listening to Impure Things
I remember years ago pastors would preach against ungodly entertainment like inappropriate movies, TV shows, and music. Now it’s considered legalistic, and rarely do I hear sermons on the topic. But few things, in my opinion, are harming the vitality of churches than the impure things that members are putting before their eyes and ears. And with the internet, it has become even more serious than ever before.
Remember that old song, “Be careful little eyes what you see?” It’s a simple message, but it’s very true. A verse in Philippians comes to mind:
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”
Philippians 4:8 NKJV
6) Chasing Money Instead of God
Jesus told us we can’t serve both God and mammon (wealth). Yet many churches and Christians are seeking to do just that. It is rare to hear a sermon against the love of money these days. The reason why this is so serious is because money, like few other things, has a way of stealing our hearts and loyalties. It prevents us from being fully devoted to the Lord and makes us worldly minded.
The Apostle Paul, like Jesus, also spoke about the dangers of chasing after riches:
“Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
I Timothy 6:6-10 NKJV
One of my favorite Bible characters is King David. He had many flaws and personal sins, but one thing he did not seem to struggle with was the love of riches. Charles Swindoll points this out in his excellent biography entitled, David: A Man of Passion and Destiny. David’s heart was devoted to the Lord. After all, the Bible calls David a man after God’s own heart.
7) Following a Denomination Instead of Christ
The SBC is currently embroiled in all kinds of scandals and corruption within its national leadership. What has been very frustrating to me is to watch people’s loyalties to the denomination trump loyalty to Christ. No matter how bad things get in the SBC, leaders seem determined to stay in the denomination.
We must be willing to exit a denomination that no longer follows Christ. It is clear that the SBC has imported worldly ideologies like feminism, CRT, and the LGBT agenda. Its leaders seem unwilling to correct the problem. There comes a point when we must decide whom we will serve.
8) Out-of-Touch Leaders Who Lack Courage
We desperately need preachers who will boldly and unapologetically proclaim the Word of God. President Ronald Reagan talked about “raising a banner of bold colors, no pastels.” He was talking about the Republican party, but I think the illustration fits this discussion as well. A lot of pastors are using pale pastels. They deliberately keep things vague and murky so as not to upset any members, especially big tithers.
The moral morass that we find ourselves in calls for a clear proclamation of truth and righteousness. If our Christian leaders do not sound notes of clarity and distinctness, then how will the culture know the difference between right and wrong?
Our society has become so wicked that now kids are endangered by these radical ideologies of the Left. Places that used to be safe for kids like schools and libraries are no longer safe. Yet many preachers will not speak out on issues like drag queen story hour or inappropriate books in school libraries. If we won’t even protect the children, then our country is indeed lost.
Leaders are not just timid, but they are also out-of-touch with the saints in the pews. When people in the pews are concerned about moral issues of the day, they often get ignored by leaders. Russell Moore, former president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, spent his time in that position mocking conservatives for being concerned about the state of America while he was making videos about aliens and robots. Few things are more frustrating to lay people than being treated disrespectfully by those who are supposed to be fighting for them and with them, instead of against them.
9) A Corrupt Seminary System
We need to rethink the way we do seminary. We have preachers coming out of these institutions with advanced degrees who are more liberal and less bold for the truth than when they went in. The focus is often wrongly placed upon academic accolades and prestige instead of faithfulness to the Lord.
Churches seemed to be in much better shape when we had less educated preachers. They were less proud and out-of-touch, more willing to take bold stands for the Lord, and more likely to preach against sin. Few things hurt a church more than a preacher who lacks boldness. If he is more concerned with pleasing those in academia than the Lord, then the whole counsel of God will not be preached. Sermons will be soft and lack vitality.
No where in the qualifications for elders or pastors in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 does it mention a formal seminary degree. Those passages speak about character, family, the ability to teach, and sound doctrine, but not about worldly credentials.
When churches require their leaders to have advanced seminary degrees, it also prevents those who may have the gift to preach but don’t have a formal degree from using that gift. Peter was a fisherman, but he was also a bold preacher for the Lord because he knew Jesus and walked with Him. When you read Peter’s sermon in Acts 2, you discover that he boldly preached the Word. You don’t find the politically correct wishy-washiness in sermons that you hear now.
Perhaps it is also a good idea to tie seminaries to the local church instead of to a denomination so that they will be more accountable in matters of policy and doctrine. In the SBC, seminaries like Southeastern have embraced CRT and social justice. It’s hard for a person in the pew to do much about it, though, when the seminary presidents are accountable to a board on which sit members no one even knows.
I’m all for future pastors and preachers receiving the training they need. Seminaries are helpful when it comes to teaching subjects like Hebrew and Greek. But I wonder if more time needs to be spent in mentorships out in the field. Young preachers will probably learn a lot more from following a pastor around for a few months than he will in the years he spends at seminary.
It is painful to feel snubbed or not accepted in church. When we think of someone being rejected at church, we usually think of the person with a sinful past that is judged unfairly. That is indeed wrong, but it doesn’t have to be that. Oftentimes, the problem can be cliques in the church. If you don’t fit in with a certain group, you may feel left out.
James talks about showing partiality to people in church because of their wealth or the clothes that they wear. So, obviously snobbishness is nothing new. But when you are on the receiving end of it, it can be very disheartening.
What I find usually happens is that church members get into the habit of hanging out with certain people in church. They have their friends and their routines. When someone new comes in, often the effort is not made to reach out and include him. It doesn’t have to be a matter of malice, just one of neglect and carelessness.
Few things will harm a church’s effectiveness and witness like a smug, snobby attitude. People will not come to a church where they feel unwelcome. We must display the love and compassion of Christ to the lowly and outcasts in these matters.
My intention in presenting this list is not to just point out the problems. My hope is that by identifying these issues, we can do something to address these problems and correct them. I want to see the church have its vitality restored and be an effective witness for Christ. Let us all pray Psalm 85:6:
Will You not revive us again, That Your people may rejoice in You?