Every third Sunday evening for the past year I have enjoyed the company of a growing number of folks that gather together at Bill Hullander's farm near Apison, as we sing the wonderful Gospel filled songs of the past from what is known as "The Red Book Hymnal". As I have witnessed this assembly grow over these past months from a few dozen to nearly 200 or so, (and still growing) I am reminded of God's admonition to us from the Book of Hebrews which says "not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching."
I wonder why so many churches are closing, and those that are still open, are for the most part only half full at best on Sunday mornings. We can blame this "falling away" quite easily on the breakdown of the family in our culture, but I feel we can look even deeper to those that stand in the pulpits as "leaders of the flock". Those leaders have been swept up in a national focus of appealing to the desires of the world for an entertainment approach, rather than one of sacred worship to our Lord. Or to put it another way Sunday morning in our churches has become a place to satisfy the theme of "what's in it for me" rather than "what's in it for HIM".
This generation of clergy leaders are taking to the pulpit with a focus on numbers to keep the tithes and offerings coming in so as to support these bloated salaries, benefits, and programs. In my own denomination, the executive staff at the national level has not disclosed their salaries and benefits for over 10 years, and have even required each officer to sign a non disclosure form to prevent local churches from knowing what these leaders of "The Program" actually make. In some cases even local church leaders have "packages" that their flocks will never enjoy.
Yet these church leaders are closing their doors to worship on Sunday evenings and relegate the time honored Wednesday evening service to a classroom or some other small place, just to appease the "silver haired" members that still want to honor God the way we have for generations. After all, these folks are for the most part the real backbone to the financial programs (and their salaries and benefits) in the church.
In fairness however, I will say that not all of our church leaders are focused on "entertainment" rather than deep spiritual preaching and worship. I will say though that 2 Timothy 4:3-4 is clear in its prophecy of "a great falling away", and according to their own desires (people) will be drawn to teachers that will turn away from the truth, not preach sound doctrine, and only deliver fables (or entertainment). It is easy for even the most well intentioned pastors to be drawn in to this new approach to "worship" when they see their colleagues building big congregations where money flows freely in support of entertainment and coincidentally their own salaries and benefit packages.
This article is not to condemn all pastors and clergy, as most of them are Godly men, but to remind them that their "calling" is to God's Word and admonitions, rooted in a focus on preaching sound doctrine with compassion and conviction. As we see God slowly being taken from every aspect of our culture, if we don't get back to the true meaning of "worship" even "One Nation Under God" could soon disappear from our pledge to this wonderful country.