Pastors, Apathy, and the Church

Apathy is a glove in which evil slips its hand. ~ Anonymous. [1]

A few days ago I received a message from a young lady asking me to pray for a friend of hers who was in the hospital and today, I asked her if she would like me to go to the hospital and visit her friend to pray with her in person. The young lady was greatly surprised that I asked.  This distresses me.  When did it become uncommon for a pastor or minister to visit the sick in the hospital?  Don’t get me wrong, I am aware that there are still many pastors that make the hospital rounds, but it appears to me that less do so than when I was a young man.

What has happened?  Have we become complacent? Do we ministers think that our prayers aren’t powerful to heal and to comfort? Or are we “too busy” to make the visit?

There is a growing apathy in the American church today, and much of it begins with the Pastors.  This concerns me.  More and more churches have stopped holding discipleship classes.  Independent churches have all but stopped Sunday School classes altogether and many churches in the U.S. have only one service a week.

It concerns me when a church that has one service a week refuses an offer for a Wednesday night Bible study and says, “I think the people don’t really want another Bible study right now.”  It concerns me when a church says, “I don’t think our people really want to hear from a missionary right now.”  It concerns me when a church says to a couple that is going out on Saturday to visit people who have been absent from the church, “I don’t think this church is ready for your level of enthusiasm.  Perhaps you would be happier attending somewhere else.”   (These are all things said directly to me; they are not made up scenarios.)

And I am hugely concerned that a church decides not to have a Christmas Eve or Christmas Day service so that people can enjoy their time with their family.  And this doesn’t even begin to address Good Friday services which are all but extinct in most Evangelical churches.  To this I can only quote my atheist friend who said, “Aren’t those holidays the most basic of days of faith?  If you can’t hold services on those days, you may as well close the doors of the church altogether.” (I ministered a Christmas Eve service this year in a church that normally has about 45 attendees-we had close to 150 for this service.  When I asked, many said their own church wasn’t having service and they didn’t want to miss on Christmas.)

The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of beauty is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, but indifference between life and death.

ELIE WIESEL, US News & World Report, Oct. 27, 1986[2]

When I was in university pursuing my degree in Biblical Studies, one of my professors had a saying that he wanted to stick in the minds of every would-be Pastor.  He regularly said, “So goes the Pastor, so goes the church.”  It wasn’t until later that I realized he was quoting Bible.  Just read Judges where the story is repeated over and over again how when a righteous Judge ruled the people, they followed and served the Lord.  But when the judge died, the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.  (Judges 2:11; 3:7, 12; 4:1; 6:1ff) And in my experience, this is true!  We really cannot say it is the fault of the congregation that the Pastor doesn’t have services on Christmas or Christmas Eve.   We can’t say the congregation made a decision that they did not want anymore Bible training.  Now, some of us ministers might say the people won’t come, or too many services are a burden to the people.  No one says everyone HAS to come.  If there is one there, one craving soul, one person who wants to soak up God’s word and His presence, one person that needs training, that seeks deliverance, that is hungry for more of God, isn’t that reason enough for you to be there for him or her?

Heidi Baker said in her book, “Birthing the Miraculous:  The Power of Personal Encounters with God to Change Your Life and the World,” that before she was ever invited to preach at a church she found Alzheimer’s patients to minister to. [3] They didn’t remember if she came or left but they didn’t look at their watches either so she ministered as long as she wanted. [4].  I read where other pastors preached to empty chairs waiting for God to fill them.  Can we do no less?

Those who choose not to empathize enable real monsters, for without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves we collude with it through our apathy.

J. K. ROWLING, speech, Jun. 5, 2008[5]

I am concerned with the Pastors that don’t answer their cell phone or return their calls.  And I am concerned even more when a Pastor will not even make their phone number available and have their secretaries “screen” their calls.  And more-those who will not return an email…ever.  When I confronted one Pastor about this (and him I know personally) his reply was, “Oh, I really don’t check the email that is on our website.”  My answer to you is take the email off of the website if you are not going to answer it and stop giving us ministers a bad name!  Now please don’t think this is an aberration—I literally cannot tell you how many Pastors and Churches have failed to reply to me!  There are too many to count-and most within my own association!

When did the Pastor stop becoming the servant of the church?  The Good Shepherd knows his sheep by name.  (John 10).  He cares for them and makes them safe.  (Psalm 23).  Is that you?

Have you read the words of Ezekiel 34 when he addressed the “shepherds of Israel?”   “Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves!  Should not shepherds feed the sheep? (v. 2).  The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, …(v. 4).

I am concerned that those Jesus is talking to in Matthew 25:42, 43 when he says, “For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did no visit me” is the Pastor.  (How can you visit the sick if you won’t answer your phone and find out what is going on?). And Pastor, so goes the Pastor…so goes the Church.

Apathy is the death knell of any order. Once a system has degenerated to the point that apathy is the only thing holding it in place, it is in its twilight phase. Then one day the music stops.

JOHN BERLING HARDY, The Hidden Game Revealed[6]

I am concerned when the same Pastors that preach that the wealth of the wicked is stored up for the righteous, use the tithe to pay a mortgage to a worldly bank in order to build a new sanctuary or gymnasium or pave a parking lot.  I am concerned when churches, in order to be open to all, refuse to have a statement of faith and therefore water down the gospel to such an extent that many within the congregation have no firm foundation.  In standing for nothing they are open to everything.

I am concerned with the amount of churches that follow the popular trend to become a “seeker” church instead of following the call for what God wants them to be.  (And while I agree that God can use a “seeker” church, I find absolutely no biblical model for the same.)

I am concerned when a church says they support missions and follow up that statement with “we send a team to Mexico once a year for a whole week,” but they do nothing to support an in country missionary or even a regular outreach within their own city or state.  I am concerned when twelve individuals spend $3,000 a piece to take that trip for a total of $36,000 but can’t even speak the language of the country they go to and don’t try and find out how to minister to a completely different culture.

I am concerned with churches that have big budgets and lots of money (usually in the East US), but don’t share any of it with church plants (usually in the West US) of the same association or denomination where Pastors struggle to meet the rent and have to work full time jobs.  Why not adopt a sister church as a mission?

And I am concerned with Pastors who refuse education, saying that the Holy Spirit will teach them—do you not think that the Holy Spirit taught those before you who studied so much—and that the plan is that the Holy Spirit would use them to teach you and then take you on further?  I find this no different than the Pastor who doesn’t study for a sermon because he is waiting for the Holy Spirit to tell him what to preach when he enters the pulpit—do you not think the Holy Spirit knows what he wants to say weeks ahead of time?

And so I find, within the church today, so many people tossed to and fro, without foundation.  I see so many of the flock that when confronted with things of the world that are so anti-faith, so oppressive and so corrupt, they respond with “Well, what can you do?” or with a heavy sigh, “There’s nothing we can do about it.”  Can there be a more apathetic response?

Have we forgotten the power of prayer?

Jesus said to the Church in Laodicea, “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot.  Would that you were either cold or hot!  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”  Revelation 3:15, 16.

So goes the Pastor…so goes the Church!  Which way are you taking us, Pastor?

(For you who are reading-don’t think I don’t take this to myself as well.  Lord, help us all!)
[1]

[2] Ibid.

[3] pg. 15, Charisma House, Lake Mary, Florida (2014).

[4] Ibid.

[5]

[6] Ibid.

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2 comments on “Pastors, Apathy, and the Church
  1. I feel as though all of the concerns that you mentioned can be addressed by the pastor if: he /she ALLOWS AND ACKNOWLEDGES his/her spouses role in the JOINT pastoral service; he/she allows any of the other ministers of their congregation to preach/teach/minister while he/she attends to the service of visiting/praying for the sick at the hospital; and that he/she allows lay-persons who have attended seminary/Bible college the opportunity to fill in where needed, and not be INTIMIDATED by their education!

  2. I do work for a Global salvage ortioizagann in Scientology In South Africa. For the simple reason I went to my church and ask were can I help to make a difference and serve my Father. I was told it’s under control. I sunk ed into apathy. How I got to work for Scientology Africa is a long story. But they asked me to help. If I could join your Ministry to reach lost souls and lead them to christ. Would be my greatest honor and my biggest dream. Could you help me making it a reality. Hope to hear from you soon. Have a Godly inspired day. ML. Maurithus

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