2018 is a dangerous time for the church. It’s swimming against the moral tide of culture, and is, frankly, struggling to keep its head above water. There’s no denying it. There’s no point burying your head in the sand. Every church is in danger - and that includes yours.
In Revelation chapters 2 and 3, we read about seven churches and the dangers they faced - the very same dangers that we still face today. It’s both a warning that we need to be on our guard and - much more importantly - an encouragement that we can trust fully in our all-powerful, all-conquering Saviour.
As you read through these seven dangers that could be facing your church, I hope you are challenged but not disheartened. Do not forget that God is with us, God is for us and God guides us through his Word.
1. Loveless orthodoxy
Right doctrine and right church practices, while important, do not in and of themselves make a church a healthy community, or a faithful witness to the surrounding area. As Paul reminds us, if we do not have love we are "a noisy gong or clanging cymbal" (1 Corinthians 13:1)
2. Fear of Suffering
It's easy to forget or overlook the fact that God permits Christian suffering for his glory and our good. We must learn to endure all things, safe in the confidence that we will be conformed to the image of Christ. There’s a real danger that instead, we will do our best to avoid suffering and live a comfortable Christian life. If we do this, we'll miss out on God’s refining work in us.
When our faith is challenged, will we continue to believe that Jesus’ words are true and good, or will we turn to the words of someone else? We must not compromise on the truth. Is your church in danger of having its faith chipped away - whether by the opinions of society around them or through false teaching?
When it comes to speaking the hard truths of the Bible to those we love, we are far too often willing to tolerate sin. Could this be true of your church?
5. A Good Reputation
Do you care more about what people think of you or about doing and saying necessary hard things in love? We might be in danger of getting our priorities completely back to front and valuing man’s opinion over God’s. Too many churches have chased name recognition, but not cherished the gospel.
Many churches are small and unimpressive in the world’s eyes - and in danger of becoming discouraged because of a lack of visible success. We must remind ourselves that God values our faithfulness to him and he looks at our hearts, not the size of our congregations.
Affluence and prosperity so easily deceive us into believing we don’t need anyone else: not even God. One of the big dangers faced by the Western church is that we stop relying fully on the risen Christ for everything we need.
How your church is doing?
We are all weak in some (or lots of) ways, but we have a mighty saviour who cherishes us, graciously warns us of pitfalls, and who has won the ultimate victory on our behalf.
I wrote Seven Dangers Facing Your Church for every pastor and elder, and anyone committed to playing their part in helping their local church thrive in an increasingly hostile environment.
Together, we can live as Christ’s faithful, hope-filled people in a changing culture.
Juan Sanchez is Preaching Pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, Texas. He is a member of The Gospel Coalition Council, and an influential leader in the Reformed movement in Latin America. His book Seven Dangers Facing Your Church is available now at thegoodbook.co.uk