I (Pastor Manny) was asked in a recent Q&A, “What is the greatest threat to the church in our culture?” Compelled to answer pastorally, I sought to show that there is an interconnectedness and progression to several great threats that Christ’s church faces today. To be sure, the church is in the world (though not of it) and will feel different challenges and assaults in different cultures. But in the end, her threats are more transcendent. I propose the following as seven of the greatest threats facing Christ’s church today.
1. Lack of Shepherding
The church is in great danger from the lack of Christ-centered shepherding. In the apostle Paul’s last meeting with the Ephesian elders he tells them “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock, and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things to draw away the disciples after them.” (Acts 20:28-30) Again, Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:16, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” The church needs Christ-centered shepherding, leadership that cares for the flock and upholds the doctrine.
2. Changing the church
There are many today who make much of the church rather than Christ. They would remove distinctions between the church and the world, thereby losing sight of her commission and passion for missions and evangelism. It is a great threat to the church when the church changes the church.
3. Skewing the image of God
This can go one of two ways and both are deadly. One way is to deify man, making him out to be more than a humble creature. Many cults and false teachers go this way, saying that you can be a little god. The other way to skew the image of God is by diminishing man, his dignity, and the uniqueness of humanity among all creation. When we change the church we change our understanding of who we are corporately. When we change the image of God we change our understanding of who we are individually. The two go in tandem.
4. Forgetting heaven and hell
We do this in many different ways. We forget it in the message because we want to soften the message; we forget it in our conscience because we don’t think we need that; we forget it in our materialism, for we have become very comfortable, especially in our culture. We forget because we have become too comfortable with the curse.
5. Drifting from the Word of God
Each of these builds on the other, and underneath them all is a drift away from the Word of God in two key dimensions: its trustworthiness and its truth. It is a drift from its reliability, its supremacy, its inerrancy, its sufficiency, and its infallibility. When this happens we have no authority on which to define humanity or what happens after death. The threat is of losing the gospel. The church is the “pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15) and she is ever in danger of losing what has been entrusted to her.
6. Eclipsing love for Christ
What is the greatest threat facing the church? The lack of a true, passionate treasuring of Jesus Christ, her Lord. Abandoning her love for Christ (Revelation 2:4). Being easily distracted and preoccupied with other things. Neglecting to make much of him in everything. I believe that is supreme.
7. Having no fear of God
The church today does not fear God. When the fear of God is absent everything else goes. The holiness of God is forsaken. It is unfelt, unseen, and men no longer tremble. This is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10). It is the beginning of every threat whatsoever.
Each of these remind us that the greatest threats the church faces today in our culture are internal, not external. The church will never be truly threatened by those powers and forces without. Her greatest dangers are always from within. So we need not worry about the world, other religions, atheism, pandemics, natural disasters, end times circumstances, or even the powers of hell. Nothing can penetrate the fortress of Christ’s church. Her greatest threat is inside.
You can hear this answer (at minute 29:14) and others on the “Questions and Answer” message below: