TODAY’S READING: Jeremiah 10–13
I recently visited a campus church of a larger church body. The campus pastor had a sweet spirit and it was evident he loved Jesus and his flock. But my heart wept for him as I sat in the service. Cultural Christianity being what it is, it appeared to me that the people came to be entertained by gifted musicians who were set up to perform no matter how hard they fought to worship. I sensed a disconnect from the video sermon, and despite the warm and sincere invitations of the shepherd, only one or two people responded for prayer as everyone else filed out. There was no mention of missions, but there was a produced plea for funds to complete phase two of the next campus. Hear me, I am not comparing this sincere pastor or flock to the pagan, backsliding people of Judah in Jeremiah’s day, but I am saying that the Church in America is in trouble.
The plan has always been holy covenant (11:1–5). Jehovah revealed His missionary heart to our fathers, brought them from an iron furnace to be their God and they His people, so He could bless them and through them bless all nations, but they disobeyed. In fact, God considered their non-compliance in missions as a conspiracy to go after other gods (vv. 9–10). Rather than proclaiming Jehovah to all nations, His people adopted the ways of the nations, broke covenant, and incurred God’s wrath. God essentially told them that the mess was their own fault, that He had forsaken His house and left His heritage (12:7).
God’s intention for His people was that they would glorify Him in all the earth among all peoples—not to devolve to look just like the nations around them. He wanted us to shine for His renown, His praise, and His glory, but we wanted our own (13:11). The consequence is that God will ruin great pride (v. 9). Forgive me for the harsh, admittedly unfair critique of men and women who love Jesus and are only doing what they were mentored to do. I mourn a church that advances either into age or pride, a church that loses its way, a church that glorifies itself more than it seeks to glorify God among all peoples. Yet, I hold to the God who always makes a way and always has a remnant, and our God promises that if we will learn carefully His ways, He will bring us back and have compassion on us.
Admitting that blanket statements are unkind and grief sometimes causes imbalanced words, I stand by the reality that the American church is in decline; and that decline is directly linked to self-glorification at home over God glorification among the nations. There is one way back, one hope: If we will again learn God’s missionary ways, He will have compassion on us. If not, we will be destroyed and descend into darkness (13:14, 16).