I recently posted on social media that my heart was weeping over the state of the church in America. I was quite sure at the time that people would misunderstand my feelings. Here is just a small example of what happened in a church several years ago. At that time, God had blessed my many years of youth ministry by giving me the most wonderful group of young people that a youth pastor could ever long for. Don’t get me wrong, all of the youth groups that I had been a part of were awesome, but these plus or minus 55 young people who were regulars and the additional 30 to 50 coming in as visitors at our Friday night praise and worship services were “one hundred percenters.” They loved God with all their hearts. The only problem we had was that many parents were complaining because the services were supposed to be over at 9:30 at night and many of the youth wanted to stay to pray and worship at the altars well beyond that time. I know that there are at least five of the young men who were a part of that move of God that are today in full-time ministry. Only God could do that, through His Holy Spirit!
My heart was weeping during that time because many of the visiting teens were coming in on Friday nights from another church across town which also happened to be one of the wealthiest churches in the area! Sad but true, the parents from that church were not too happy that their teens wanted to come over to our youth group to be a part of what God was doing among their peers. Within a very short time period, they decided to take action. They remodeled a large room into an $85,000.00 youth center with pool tables, foosball, ping pong, and a soda bar. Oh, it was beautiful, and if you know me you know that I am all for putting in youth centers. I constructed at least two with volunteer help through the years. One was in the Youth for Christ Center in Elmira where I was the Executive Director. I also eventually built one in the home that I designed and built to house and service teen ministry. What broke my heart about this particular church building youth center was the fact that they did so to pull the kids away from the spiritual move of God on one side of town back to the “fun and games” center on the other side of town. Yes, sad but true, and my heart rained tears when I learned about this.
Sadly, however, the story did not end there. Over the next year, when the complaining parents, who were some of the top contributors within the church that I was working in, eventually convinced the leadership to implement more of a “fun and games” youth group policy with less of a spiritual emphasis, I respectfully resigned. I told them that I was doing so because I was not called to be a gym coach, even though every youth ministry I ran of course included some fun activities
Allow me to return to the introductory statement of this article and to the title. Right now I am in the middle of a unique calling as a God-called author/journalist. I am writing my first novel. I have been called to do many very difficult things in my life but for me, a naturally active alpha male, sitting for hours behind a keyboard and writing a whole book is a chore! One of the first things that God called me to do in the ministry was to spend my life employed in “tentmaking” type “day jobs.” He showed me that He never wanted me to be controlled by any church or religious organization that would try to limit what I would teach and preach. Therefore, I first followed my lay minister grandfather’s trade of carpentry for a few years. However, I realized later in Jacksonville Florida that I could make a lot more money per hour as an electrician. Because I had taken some classes in electrical wiring in the community college that I attended for carpentry it was an easy crossover for me. I now work as a Head Electrician at a college to help provide for my daily needs.
Somewhere through the years, I started wiring new churches which were being constructed. This was often in conjunction with whatever regular day job that I had at the time, plus whatever youth ministry I was running. These hours and hours of very hard work meant I was always needing to pray for strength to be able to do it all. Many days started early in the morning and ended at 10:30 or sometimes it was even midnight before we finished.
One of the more recent jobs was a 30,000 square ft. Christian conference center which, because of financing, stretched out over three years. I always offered churches half the hourly rate of the going commercial electrical rate in their area and let them purchase their own materials at a discounted cost. They were also to provide my meals and housing if I was out of town. In addition, I would train a group of volunteers from their own congregation to do basic electrical work, such as drilling holes and pulling flexible metal conduit. This freed me up to concentrate on building the more complicated electrical services, running the conduit, and doing the other more complex installations. The savings to each church was huge. The last conference center saved over two hundred thousand dollars compared to the lowest local commercial electrical contractor’s bid! Needless to say, however tired I was at the end of the day, I was a much appreciated Christian businessman in their community.
Over the years, however, it became harder and harder to find the in-house volunteers needed to complete these large projects. Recently, as a matter of fact, a church that needed a smaller project done was unable to find any volunteers at all even for two to three Saturdays in a row, which would have saved the church a large sum of money. This was a young congregation that ran a lot of people on Sunday morning. To be fair, it is true that it was a job that sort of came up suddenly, requiring them to try to find volunteers quickly. Still, though, I thought to myself “Nobody?”
To conclude this article, the truth is that volunteerism in America is on the decline. Even small-town volunteer fire departments which have never lacked in finding help are struggling to offer needed protection in their communities. What is the culprit? Well, I’m sure we could point to several, but the number one thing right now in America is that people are just too “fun” conscious! People are working two and three jobs to be able to afford all of their luxuries and toys, their fancy homes and automobiles, their trips to faraway places and even to close by places on weekends just so that they can have “fun!”
Many pastors in America and some around the world have caved to this demand and, like that youth group, start to try to make their services more “fun” and less spiritual! They struggle to find volunteers for weekend projects or even outreach ministries because people are busy out having fun. God help the man, probably me, who dares to take this to a pulpit and preach against his absent congregation who no longer can hold extended revival services because people are just too busy! They are either having fun or working to pay for more of it to be able to come out to church for revival services! I always remember that when I was raising my family, if there was an evangelist holding nightly meetings, we attended every one of them! This was because I was an evangelist myself! This meant that each night you got another spiritual shot in the arm and by the end of the week you were “REVIVED!”
Satan no longer has to be dependent on the tools of blatant immorality or trick people to fall into alcoholism or drug addiction to destroy the family unit which is the bedrock of this nation. All he has to do is just keep inventing new toys! It seems to be working quite well. Again my heart weeps with Jeremiah! As his heart wept over the spiritual state of the Jewish people, my heart weeps over the spiritual state of the church in America! THINK ABOUT IT!