The topic of the state of the Church has come up frequently in numerous places. Sunday school, devotionals, news stories, all over the place, even from non-believers commentary. There seems to be less and less difference between the world and the Church in their actions and mindsets. We know that the divorce rate in the Church is the same as the world's (although I would like to see some breakdown of those figures, I was divorced before I got saved, is that counted as a divorce in the Church?), a recent study tells us that almost 40% of children born in the US was born out of wedlock, (my first thought when hearing that was how many of those were in the Church), and STD's keep rising in our youth (and again, how many of those are sitting in youth groups?) We have churches ordaining active homosexuals, campaigning for gay marriage, and supporting other non-Biblical causes.
Looking back to the Old Testament, we see that God gave His people (Israel) a long list of rules to follow. Many of those rules concerned their diet, appearance and dress. The purpose of these rules was so that whenever an outsider saw an Israelite, that outsider knew they were seeing someone who wasn't like everyone else around them. God's rules were meant to keep His people separate from the rest of the world. Then Jesus came, and taught that His followers were no longer quarantined in their own little section of the world like Israel, but they were to go out of mix into the world, taking Jesus' words and teachings with them. In the world, not of it. The Church is not supposed to be mixing the world's yeast into it's bread, we are supposed to be mixing God's yeast into the world's bread. Watching the current state of the Church, we are seeing an awful lot of worldly yeast in many churches.
Some people take that to mean that believers need to be out in their Christian t-shirts, listening to their worship music on their local Christian radio station, talking nothing but Jesus all the time to the heathens around them. A recent column I read noted that Paul was knowledgeable enough about the Greek and Roman cultures he preached to that he could quote their own poets and philosophers in his letters and sermons. Being in the world means we are aware of what is going on around us. Not being of it means that we hold those things we see up to the standards God has given us, kind of like the way the Supreme Court is supposed to take the cases before it and hold them up to the Constitution to see if the laws are in line with that authority. Which conversation sounds more Kingdom oriented? "Did you see that movie 'Valentine's Day'?" "No, I don't go to any secular movies." or "Did you see that movie 'Valentine's Day'?" "Yes, I did, and I was so glad to see the high school couple decide that they should wait to make their relationship physical. It was such a nice change from the usual script."
I'm just as guilty as anyone of pointing out the horrible evils of our current culture instead of looking inward at the Church. One of the reasons why the culture has sank so far is that much of the Church has been taking in that worldly yeast, and it has made us a poor example to the world. We've gotten too nice, too afraid to offend, too inclusive, all at the cost of our own foundation. Look to the epistles and Acts. We see brethren called out publicly for their failings and false teachings. Nowadays, sure, we see talk against Westboro Baptist, but what about Reformation Lutheran here in Wichita? Who did Jesus call hypocrites and vipers? Was it the heathen Romans around Him? No, He called out the Pharisees and Sadducees, the most religious of the Israelites, the people who were supposed to not only know the Law, but follow it gladly, not mechanically.
Now, does this mean you should go up to that couple in the pew ahead of you next Sunday that everyone knows is living together and read them the riot act? Only if after much prayer that is exactly the unmistakable instruction God gives you. Does this mean that the Body needs to ignore the politics and activities of the world? No, but some of us need to move it down the priority list a couple of notches. What we need to do is get back to the Biblical examples that Jesus and the Apostles set. Clear the money changers out of the temple, call out the legalists, talk about the uncomfortable things, the offensive things from the pulpit, in Sunday school, at church dinners, in youth group, at home, at school, at work. Done in love, tough love when needed, following the instructions God gives us through the Bible and individually (which requires delving into, learning, studying, memorizing Scripture, having it ready to support those actions) these are the things that will get the Body back on track. These are the things that will bring real revival, set the Church on fire (spiritually), and get that fire spreading back through the world. The band No Innocent Victim had a great album cover several years ago, To Burn Again, not only was the outline of the man on fire, but behind him were burning footprints. That is the way the Body is supposed work. When we are on fire, everywhere we walk, we leave burning embers, waiting for fuel to create their own bonfires.