While we recognise the hand of God in all we do, we also know that the Church is not without challenges. There is turmoil in Christian churches over a number of issues. There has seldom been a time when Christians were not embroiled in one noisy dispute or another, and unedifying though the quarrels were, their result in the long run has been to refine and clarify what Christianity is and what it is for. The saying might be true that, the church is always getting reformed; its reformation seems to go hand in hand with controversy. Some of the issues dogging the church include;
- Apathy is defined as, “lack of interest or concern” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). When it comes to issues of God, there are a growing number of individuals that have become apathetic. There is even a term for this called “apatheism.” Apatheists are just disinterested in issues pertaining to God. How does one reach such individuals? It appears that many church-goers have become apathetic when it comes to doctrinal truth. Others had rather “go with the flow” or simply do not care to know the truths of Scripture.
- Changing Ministerial Demands, The problem is that ministerial demands change with the times. The message of the gospel never changes, but the methodologies used to reach individuals for Christ must change. There are many issues involved in this problem. One, the society has become so fast-paced that one set time on Sundays and Wednesdays does not always meet everyone’s needs. It could be that alternative services need to be held.
- Youth Exodus; Recent studies have shown that 75% of young adults leave the church when they leave for college (USA), the same might be true for us even though the supporting statistics might not be there. A substantial number of these young adults do not return. The church must seek to minister to these young adults by providing them with the ability to ask questions and search the deep truths of the faith. Churches near educational institutions have especially a good chance to minister to collegiate adults.
- Anti-intellectualism is a rejection of higher learning and/or a rejection of learning deeper truths concerning the Bible. How many of us since college take time to read to expand our knowledge? The problem is that in order to properly conduct biblical exegesis, one needs to understand the history and languages of the text. More serious is the lack of ability for the anti-intellectual to answer the challenges of the skeptic.
- Marriage, The issue of marriage has become a “hot-button or is it potato?” topic in recent days. Marriage is being re-defined by organizations like the LGBTI and other organizations. However, the issue of homosexual marriage is not the only issue where marriage is being redefined. The next issue on the books will most likely be that of polygamy. My question is this: where does it end? The church must be clear where it stands on these issues.
As the church faces the above daunting challenges amongst others, it is my belief that God will see us through. For as the apostle Paul writes, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13, NIV). Let us prayerfully join together in unity to meet these challenges for the cause of Christ, drawing strength from his prayer for the church in John’s gospel.
In (John 17: 20, 21,22, 23) Jesus mentions unity three times in these four verses, underlining the importance of unity. Jesus in the final moments before his arrest he might have prayed for his own strength, that the eleven would support him, but instead he prayed for the unity of the disciples and eventually the church. He knew that the church could never make the impact on the world that he wished it to make unless spiritually the world saw in that church a oneness, a unity. How seriously have we as the church in Swaziland taken these words of Jesus.
We however, need not be afraid, we just have to realise that we receive our unity from God, making unity a gift from God through his spirit. Just as the Father is in the Son and the Son in the Father, we are to be so related in the church. We as Christians are drawn to one another because we are drawn to a common centre, Jesus Christ himself. The impact of a unified church is that the world believes God the Father sent Christ the Son ‘that the world may believe that you have sent me.’ Only the obvious, visible unity of believers will convince the world of the truth of Jesus’ message. Steve Andrews writes;
When a watching lost world looks at a body of believers, they see something that they cannot find anywhere else. They desire love, support, encouragement and acceptance and they will be drawn to the Saviour.
So the only weapon to compel the world to believe and for us to overcome the challenges faced by the church is a supernatural oneness in the family of God and in the church in the Diocese of Swaziland. UNITED WE STAND DIVIDED WE FALL.