By just about any main-line statistic you could choose to use, churches are dwindling here in the United States. The reasons are myriad. We can discuss the reasons, but let me we put that aside and first suggest we do what we’re called to do about it. As Christians we are a “royal priesthood” are we not? Do we not have the power to go before the Father unlike the priests of old? Absolutely we do. And thus this applies to us:
Between the vestibule and the altar
let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep
and say, “Spare your people, O Lord,
and make not your heritage a reproach,
a byword among the nations.
Why should they say among the peoples,
‘Where is their God?’”
– Joel 2:17, ESV
With our churches in decline, we are in a similar situation as to what Israel faced during Joel’s time. Joel 1 talks about devastating famine due to locusts and drought. It reminds the people that such a delivery is due to the sinfulness of God’s people. As a result, there is a call to repentance before the coming day of destruction. This passage happens after that destruction, when the Lord Himself calls His people back. These are the prophet Joel’s words, telling us how to act, how to return to God again.
If we look at how ineffective our churches are, if we consider that we are in the longest drought in this nation’s history with respect to revival, the question is, “How do we get to where we should be?” Joel says we should weep. We should weep for what we’ve become and for what we’ve lost. And then we should petition the Lord to remember His people, to remember His Church, to let us not be a reproach and to let it not be said of us that God is not with us. Things are not okay in our churches. Let us stop pretending that they are and instead turn to the Living God for restoration and, hopefully, revival.
Here’s what we need: Humility and surrender; an acknowledgment of our sinfulness and disobedience; and a desire to be forgiven and be right before a holy and righteous God. We need to have a brokenness over our lack of effectiveness, over our lack of desire to reach the lost, over our lack of effort to help those in need, and our disobedience of being loving and edifying towards one another. When we, the Church, are broken they the conditions will be ripe for revival. This is historically what we see. But that means we need to be broken to the point that we can’t help but weep for our current deplorable state and we call out to God to restore us and to show Himself mighty among us again. Think about what your church could be doing. That about what you personally should be doing. Is your church making the most of its resources and opportunities? Are you measuring up as a good steward of your own? No? Then come with me among those who have found that we are so far from what God wants us to be and let us weep together.