As more and more people publicly walk away from the Christian faith, pastors must urge their congregations to have deep, personal encounters with God and bring “sacredness” and “reverence” back into worship, according to pastor and author Francis Chan.
“I am seeing so many people, friends of mine who were in ministry, who are just saying they don't believe, or they're walking away; ‘I don't know if I believe that anymore,’” Chan said during Exponential's Reset Summit this week. “And I just think that's crazy. We're seeing people that we look up to, leaders fall. We're seeing the world look at evangelical Christianity as an absolute joke right now … it's every day you can just jump on Instagram … and someone is saying, ‘I'm not a Christian anymore.’”
TheUntil Unityauthor lamented that there’s a “lot of Isaiah 29:13” going on in churches and denominations across the country today. The verse reads, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.”
“In other words, it wasn't an encounter [with God],” he said, explaining that true, lasting faith doesn’t come from simply hearing a message, but spending intentional, one-on-one time with God.
“Don't get away from your own encounter with God,” he said. “We have to make sure we get people to encounter Him, and that their fear of God is not just a commandment that was taught to them by us.”
“This is a new season. And all of this, people walking away and fighting and angry about everything and so opinionated, is because they've spent too much time in our presence, and in our evangelical talk, talk, talk, talk presence and not enough time before a Holy God and sacred and reverent, silence and awe and just recognizing their oneness with Him.”
To have more unified horizontal relationships in the church, there must be a deeper, vertical relationship with the Father, Chan stressed.
“The world is going to get worse; persecution is going to get worse. And when they're alone with Him, is there enough of this awe and enjoyment of Him, and a fear of Him that they can survive anything?” he asked.
“I think this pandemic showed us that there's just way too much of this horizontal going on. And now we're trying to keep these people with us, and it's more like we have to direct people to Him. We have to do a better job of bringing sacredness back into our worship.”
A recent study found that 43% of millennials stated they either don’t know, don’t care or don’t believe God exists, and 16% of millennials believe that when they die, they will go to Heaven only because they confessed their sins and accepted Jesus as their savior. Yet, 57% of millennials still call themselves Christian.
In an interview with The Christian Post, Michael Youssef, pastor of the 3,000-member Church of The Apostles in Atlanta, Georgia, warned that more and more pastors are “falling into the trap” of woke culture because it’s “popular and appeals to the flesh.”
“Bowing to woke culture allows you to avoid rejection by culture and society,” he said. “It’s a very, very popular message that is now being preached from many evangelical pulpits; traditionally Bible-believing, Gospel-preaching churches. We have gone so far that it just grieves me to the point that I literally sometimes just weep tears.”
“I’ve always believed, as goes the pulpit, so goes the pew. As goes the pew, so goes the culture," he continued. "As a pastor, I put the full blame on us, right in our laps, because we want to be liked, loved, and followed on social media by millions of people. Pastors are the culprits. We need to be about Jesus, not about being liked, because that is deadly as far as the Gospel of Jesus Christ is concerned.”
Youssef urged those who love Jesus to be “encouraged and motivated to stand up and not to be afraid,” and compel those “teetering” to find the strength and courage to stand for the truth of the Gospel.
“We must take charge,” he said. “Christians have abandoned so many areas of society, from media and the classroom. Instead of withdrawing, we need to go and invade these areas and take them for Christ and not be afraid. We are on the right side. We have read the last chapter, and it says we will win.”