For every one person who was raised without God, who eventually came into the church, there are three people raised in the church who will leave it. Everyone coming in, there are three going out.
One observer said in the United States, we are closing 60 churches a week. What are they saying? They're saying this, who needs it? Why should I join that?
Why should I belong to it? Church, who needs it? That's not only the title for our new series here in Connect with Skip Weekend Edition, but it's also a serious topic that people struggle with. Does the modern world still need church?
And if not, what's to become of God's people? We'll find some answers to these important questions in this new series. But before we begin today, here's what's happening in the Connect with Skip Resource Center this month. You know those times you hear a sermon that really speaks to you? It's almost as if the pastor knows what you're personally going through, and he teaches a message like you're the only one listening. Well, it's not that the pastor knows you personally, it's that God knows you personally.
Here's Skip Heitzig. In nearly 40 years of expository teaching, I still love hearing that one of my messages spoke to someone personally, that it urged them on to know God better or become more like Him. But that's not because of me, that's just the power of the Word of God doing the work of God in the hearts of the people of God. Get to know the God who knows you with Pastor Skip's Picks, a collection of some of Pastor Skip's most memorable teachings, including Is the Rapture Real?
and Overcoming an Anxious Mind. This four DVD collection is our thanks for your gift of $25 or more to help keep this ministry connecting more people to Jesus. Call now to request your copy of Pastor Skip's Picks, 800-922-1888, or give online securely at connectwithskip.com slash offer.
We'll explore some verses in Acts chapter one and two today here in Connect with Skip weekend edition. So open your Bibles and let's join Skip Heitzig as he talks about our current employment. You know, we belong to the greatest company on earth. First of all, we have a product that works universally.
It's the gospel. It doesn't matter if you are from Rio de Janeiro or Rio Rancho. If you're from India or Indio or China or Chula Vista, it doesn't matter. It works in every life that's receptive. So our product works universally. Something else about our company that makes it really cool. We have a great benefits package. We have forgiveness from the past. We have meaning and purpose for the present. We have peace of mind for our future. Something else about our company. We have offices worldwide. You can go anywhere on the face of the earth and even in the most persecuted of countries, you will find some form of church, some group of God's people that meet everywhere on earth. And finally, we have the best retirement package going on. Because after it's all over with, we have face-to-face fellowship with God, eternal rewards that don't quit.
It's the best company in the world. The church. I have spent a couple weeks traveling to three different countries and principally I was with different churches, different expressions of the church.
Some of them very alive. In other countries, a bit more static. And in some places, the church is all but dead. In each of these places, and for that matter in all places around the world, each church is its own expression, marked by cultural differences or traditional variations.
But they're all unique and different. Example, in India, when you go into most churches in that country, it is customary that you take your shoes off before entering the building. It's just a sign of respect, which I was all over that. I love that. I got to preach barefoot.
It was so cool. That's just part of the cultural differences of that country. In Europe, they've got their own traditions and styles, and in America, we have so many different variations and expressions. I was given this some time back. It says, you know that your church is a redneck church.
If, ready? If people ask when they learn that Jesus fed the 5,000 whether the two fish were bass or catfish and what bait was used to catch them. You know that your church is a redneck church when the pastor says, I'd like to ask Bubba to help take up the offering, and five guys and two women stand up. You know that your church is a redneck church if opening day of deer season is recognized as an official church holiday. You know that your church is a redneck church if a member of the church requests to be buried in his four-wheel drive truck because it ain't never been in a hole it couldn't get out of.
I've known people like that. You know your church is a redneck church if a congregation of 500 members, there are only seven last names in the church directory. You know your church is a redneck church if the baptismal font is a number two galvanized washtub, and you know that your church is a redneck church if the choir robes were donated by and embroidered with the logo from Billy Bob's barbecue.
And you know your church is a redneck church if the collection plates are really hubcaps from a 55 Chevy. Well, all of that is probably fine for that group of people, but by and large that would no doubt turn a lot of people off. Moreover, I've discovered that most outsiders would evaluate most churches and think we're a lot like that. We lack that kind of sophistication. We're that backward. We're that awkward.
That's how they would think about us. I found something very fascinating this last week that for every one person who was raised without God who eventually came into the church, there are three people raised in the church who will leave it. Everyone coming in, there are three going out. One observer said in the United States we are closing 60 churches a week. What are they saying?
They're saying this. Who needs it? Why should I join that? Why should I belong to it? Willow Creek Community Church outside of Chicago did a survey, their own survey, door-to-door survey.
They knocked on doors and they just asked people this question. If you don't go to church, what are the reasons for it? There are five reasons. Reason number one, it's boring. Reason number two, people said, church is irrelevant. Reason number three, they said, they're always asking for money. Reason number four, people said, I'm too busy already.
And reason number five is I feel awkward when I come to church. So what is this outfit, this company, what is it supposed to look like? What's it supposed to be like? What are its defining characteristics so that anyone would need it? Why should any person join it? How relevant is the church in modern or should we say the postmodern era? I've asked you to turn to Acts chapter one because I want to begin with this question that is our series question, the church who needs it. And I simply today want to, as an introduction, look at the question and the answer to that in part, just as a kickoff, just as an introductory. It is a good question. It is a recurring question. It's a question that has been asked a long time ago.
It's a question that is still asked today. It was asked from the very beginning of the church in the book of Acts by the onlooking world. In Acts chapter one, we see how it all started. Verse 12, they returned to Jerusalem, they being the disciples, from the mount called Olivet.
They had just watched the takeoff. Jesus ascended into heaven, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey. And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying. Peter, James, John, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James, the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus and with his brothers. And in those days, Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples.
Altogether, the number of names was about 120. So that's the first church group of 120 in some building somewhere in Jerusalem meeting. Chapter 2 verse 1 says, when the day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
You know what happened. They were filled with the Spirit. They spoke in different dialects. People who were in Jerusalem visiting saw and heard this and here's their reaction. Verse 7, they were all amazed and marveled saying to one another, look, are not all these who speak Galileans? Now the text doesn't reveal the subtlety of that statement, but Galileans were considered the redneck church. They were the hicks, the unsophisticated group, especially to those high class Jerusalemites.
Listen to these Galileans. They know more than one language. How is it that we hear each in our own language which we were born Parthians, Medes, Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, parts of Libya, adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs. We hear them speaking in our own language or tongues the wonderful works of God. So they were all amazed and perplexed saying to one another, whatever could this mean? Others mocked and said they're drunk or they're full of new wine. They got the good stuff. So here essentially is a group of outsiders observing the church saying who needs this?
These people are crazy. Now that is the very beginning of this question and this idea and it continues as the pages of the book of Acts are turned we find the same sentiment occurring with one Saul of Tarsus who became Paul the Apostle, but while he was Saul of Tarsus in chapter 9 verse 1 and 2, Saul still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus so that if he found any who were of the way, notice that is the description of the first church. They were called the way, not first Baptist, not Calvary, not Methodist, just the way. Whether men or women he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
Why? Because he was saying who needs the church? We don't. They've upset our religion.
We don't want them. In Acts chapter 12 verse 1 the reigning political leader agreed Herod the Great or Herod the King at that time. Verse 1, now about that time Herod the King stretched out his hand to harass some from the church. Who needs the church?
We don't. We don't have room in our political agenda for those crazy right-wing believers and that is the story throughout the book of Acts as it spreads through Galatia and Antioch of Pisidia and Iconium. Same sentiment by unbelievers, by outsiders, by religious people toward the church. This is chapter 14 verse 2, they stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brethren.
This is what I want you to see. The Jewish religious world reacted to the church by ostracism. The Roman political world reacted to the church by persecution and the Greek philosophical world responded to the church by arrogance and indifference. We didn't read Acts 17 but when Paul goes to Athens they call him a babbler.
They call him a babbler and they start mocking him and his message. So what I'm driving at is this, all of the various voices of the world joined in unison to say the church who needs it. It's always been the case. We are far from the moral majority.
We are the minority and that is typically what people ask. Now let's fast forward from ancient times to the modern era, this culture, this country, our world, especially those of us who live in the West. There is a dramatic disinterest today in all things church.
You know I've got to confess something to you. For years I used to quote different pollsters who would say that really Americans are very religious. They all believe in God. 96% say they believe in God. 80 some percent say they're very spiritual and I have come to find out that that is not quite as accurate as I wanted to believe. That it's very skewed in their statistical reporting and inaccurate and far from being an increasing majority, the church in this country is a quickly declining minority. I read a book on my way to India.
You know when you're on a plane for 16.5 hours from Chicago to New Delhi you got time. So I was reading a book. It was written by Dean Merrill, the vice president of the International Bible Society.
The name of his book, it's really a clever title, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Church, is the name of the book. And he said, on any given weekend about 37% of Americans show up in church. The other 63% are reading the paper, drinking coffee, sleeping in, playing golf, or engaging in some other form of recreation. Now I will grant you that church attendance is not the most accurate gauge of a person's heart, but it's a good place to start. Instead of looking at the pollsters who are saying, you know, 87% or 96% of Americans are very spiritual and believe in God, says Dean Merrill, the same author, if they can't be bothered even to attend church, their spiritual sentiments must not run very deep.
Here's my point. If 37% of Americans are showing up at church, that means 63% of Americans are saying every Sunday, who needs it? Who needs it?
Why should I do that? Now, let me ask you this question. Of that 37% of people that regularly attend church on any given weekend in the United States of America, how many of that 37% would you say are extremely devoted to the cause of Christ? Well, you can't answer that. It's impossible to judge that.
I suppose if we were to simply take the parable that Jesus gave of the sower and the seed, the percentage of people that are bearing fruit who are exposed to the same truths, it's only 25% in that parable. We don't know. I can't predict.
I can't say. But it does make sense that people would attend for a variety of motivations, right? Some people, no doubt, attend church out of guilt. Some people attend church out of their background, you know, their cultural expectation. I grew up going to church. Thus, I go to church. Other people, we could say, go to church because they're pressured into it by a spouse or by a parent or by a child.
They want to please them. It's probably safe to say that some want to go to church to be a good example to their children. They weren't attending church before, but now they have children and they say they need something, a moral underpinning, though I would never do it on my own. Now that I'm part of a family unit, let's go to church.
That's possible. Others may attend church to cold business contacts. After all, they might rationalize that it's better to do business with honest people that you would typically find at church than dishonest people. Still others might attend church for a potential date, husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend. I don't know.
I will quote this to you though. George Gallup, one of those pollsters, wrote a book called Saints Among Us. He said, though many Americans are religious in a loose sense, the core population, says Gallup, living deeply spiritual lives is 13%.
That's after all of his polling. Those living deeply spiritual lives in our country, not 86%, not 94%, not 96%, 13%. Now we are basically following where Europe and England has preceded us. Last estimate, since 1980, since 1974, every year in England, 85 churches shut their doors.
They close, 85 a year. It's big business over in England to sell off church furnishings. Get this, christening fonts or baptismal fonts. Look really cool in your garden. And people are taking the old furnishings and selling them and people are making them bird baths in their gardens or buying pews and they become seats in one's garden. Big business in that part of the world.
Now I will confess I'm only painting so far a picture of the West. This is a picture of what's going on in Western culture in our country and in developed countries like Europe and England. Elsewhere you ought to know this is not the case. In other parts of the world it's exactly the opposite. In countries like China and India, their church growth is out of control.
It's exponentially gone bonkers, hard to keep track of it so much. In sub-saharan Africa, church growth is estimated at 20,000 conversions a day. In Latin America the conversion rate is 10,000 people per day. What I want you to keep in mind is these are parts of the world where persecution is the highest. Parts of the world where political affiliations and political agendas are far from Christian and in a place where disease is rampant and the highest incidences of the AIDS virus is out of control. And yet the church is flourishing in that part of the world. Leith Anderson, an author from Minneapolis on societal change, writes this, we read the book of Acts and we celebrate the fact that on the day of Pentecost 3,000 people came to Christ.
But today if you combine mainland China, sub-saharan Africa, and Latin America there's nearly a Pentecost every hour. Meanwhile in the United States we are closing 60 churches a week. Well the real issue at stake here isn't if the church is going to survive. The real issue is what happens to our nation if the church doesn't survive.
The Bible and world history suggests we don't want to learn the answer to that question. We'll talk more about the state of the church in the 21st century when we resume our new series next time here in Connect with Skip weekend edition. Now for a copy of this teaching simply call 1-800-922-1888. You can also order online at connectwithskip.com.
CD copies are only $6 plus shipping. And come back next time as Skip continues to lay the groundwork for our new series Church Who Needs It here in Connect with Skip weekend edition, a presentation of Connection Communications. Make a connection, make a connection at the foot of the cross. Cast all burdens on His Word. Make a connection, a connection, a connection. .... connecting you to God's never-changing truth in ever-changing times.
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