Research shows that the “evangelical church” lost around 10 percent of her people in the last decade. There are many factors that are involved that have resulted in this decline. Further, most churches that are growing are just taking people from other churches, not converting people. The Great Evangelical Recession explores the factors involved in the decline of the church and offers suggestions for the future. I found the book helpful and thought-provoking.
The below is taken from Robertson McQuilkin’s book Biblical Ethics (512-14). I have found these general principles helpful:
- Is it for the Lord? Does it bring praise to him? “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1Cor. 10:31). (See also Rom. 14:6-8)
- Can I do it in his name (on his authority, implicating him)? Can I thank him for it: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God for Father through him” (Col. 3:17)
- Can I take Jesus with me? Would Jesus do it? “Whiter shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence?” (Ps. 139:7). “Christ… lives in me” should follow his steps” (1 Pet. 2:21). (See also Matt 28:19-20, John 14:16-17, 23.)
- Does it belong in the home of the Holy Spirit? “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify god in your body” (1 Cor. 6:29-20). (See also Eph. 4:30.)
- Is it of faith? Do I have misgivings? “But he who has doubts is condemned, if he eats, because he does not act from faith; for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). “Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God” (1 John 3:21).
- Does it positively benefit, build up (not simply, “Is it harmless?”) “Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” (Rom. 14:19). “Let all things be done for edification” (1 Cor. 14:26). (See also Rom. 15:2; 1 Cor. 10:8; Eph. 4:12-16)
- Does it spring from, or lead to, love of this world and its value system? “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). (See also Mark 9:47; 11:14-15)
- Does it involve union with an unbeliever? “Do not be mismated with unbelievers. For what partnership have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14)
- Does it come from or have the potential of leading to bondage? “All things are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up” (1 Cor. 10:23).
- Is the motive pride, or love? “We know that ‘all of us possess knowledge.’ ‘Knowledge’ puffs up, but love builds up. If any one imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know” (1 Cor. 8:1-2)
- Is a godly mind-set the context of my decision on the matter? “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil. 4:8). (See also Rom. 12:1-2)
- What does the church say about it? “He who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved of men” (Rom. 14:18). “For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things” (Acts 15:28). (See also Rom. 14:16)
- Would I like to be doing this when Jesus comes? “And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming…. We know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. And every one who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 2:28; 3:2-3). (See also Matt. 24:44-51; Luke 23:34-35; 1 Thess. 5:2-4)
All throughout the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, we see two distinct groups. God has called particular people from all nations. As James Hamilton has said, “People are either seed of the serpent, on the side of the snake in the garden, or seed of the woman, on the side of God and trusting in his promises.”
The careful reader of Scripture can see the enmity between the two seeds in Genesis and in fact through the whole Old Testament. There are physical decedents of Eve that are spiritually seed of the serpent. This is not just something we see in the Old Testament though. We see it through the whole of Scripture (cf. e.g. Matt. 13:38; Jn. 8:44; 1 Jn. 3:8). We see two distinct seeds with two distinct ends from the beginning of Genesis (cf. esp. Gen. 3:15) to the end of Revelation (cf. e.g. Rev. 21).
Notice that in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10 there are two groups: 1) those who did not believe and thus receive judgment and 2) those who do believe and thus enjoy the presence of God and marvel at Him. And notice Jesus separates the goats from the sheep based on what they did in their earthly lives (Matt. 25:32ff). People are gravely either goat or sheep, wise or fool, darkness or light, faithful or faithless, in Christ or damned.
As I have said, the Bible shows to different humanities, one lost and the other saved, one in heaven and one in hell. This is what we see throughout the story of Scripture and this is what we see reflected in other places in the early church’s teaching. For instance, the Didache (50-120AD) says, “There are two ways, one of life and one of death, and there is a great difference between the two ways” (1:1).