Over the years I have seen more and more of the following observations and assessments to be true of our churches, including our own:
One of the greatest signs of sickness in the Christian church today is the widespread lack of hungering and thirsting after God. One can often gauge this by dwindling attendances at evening services. Many churches have dropped an evening service altogether because of a lack of interest. I heard of one church in the United States which had done so even though the normal Sunday attendance was over 1,000. Preaching in Scotland on one occasion, I was told of a local church which debated whether to close down for June, July and August in order to give its members a break. Surely this lack of appetite is a sign of sickness? The same sickness shows itself in the behaviour of some people when they do come to church. They seem restless, fidgety, or listless. They barely sing the hymns, rarely open a Bible in order to follow the reading and often seem to treat the sermon as a lullaby. Others seem more interested in musical presentation or ‘drama’ than in the preaching of the Word. A pastor friend of mine in the United States once told me, ‘For many people in our churches today Christianity has become a spectator sport.’ He was speaking of those who attend church not so that their spiritual hunger might be met by the living God, but so that their religious feelings might be massaged, preferably to music. Is that a sign of sickness? This is how Thomas Watson addressed the issue: ‘If a man were invited to a feast, and there being music at the feast, he should so listen to the music that he did not mind his meat, you would say, “Surely he is not hungry” [John Blanchard, The Beatitudes for Today (Surrey, England: Day One Publications, 1999), 142-43].
How hungry are you? How thirsty are you?