By Jeremy Mercer, Lead Pastor of Connection Church, Corona
CHURCH. What comes to mind when you hear that word? My guess is a few things. For some, hopefully, they are good thoughts. For others, I know it might be bad. I grew up in church, and now, at 41 years old, I pastor a local church and have done so for the past 5 years. I’ve seen a lot of things in the church and I’ve heard even more stories of what has happened in the church. Some of them are not so good but, having been part of the church for the whole of my life; I have seen and experienced so many more wonderful things.
Church attendance in America is on the decline, and has been for decades now. Why are Americans rejecting church more and more? Is it because church is such a terrible place? Is it because it became boring and monotonous? Perhaps it’s because of the hypocrisy some have seen, the famous scandals of the 1980’s come to mind. Is it the fulfillment of scripture in 2 Timothy 3:1-4 that says, “in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God…They will consider nothing sacred….and love pleasure rather than God.” I think the decline is a mixture of all the above and I lean heavily to the latter hypothesis.
The fact that Americans are attending church less and less grieves me, and no, not because I am a pastor and this is my job. I’ve read the scriptures and when it talks about the church and I see what church is supposed to be it is such a beautiful picture! In the church that I pastor, Connection Church in Corona if you’re wondering, I tell our people all the time that we’re striving to be the church that God intended for us to be…for every church to be; a place of love, healing, hope, joy, and encouragement. A place where people can be refreshed and know that they’re not alone, a place of community where we can help others and receive help when we need it…and we all need it at times.
Hebrews 10:25 says, “let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near” (emphasis added). With so much turmoil in the world, people are asking questions and they should. Jesus Christ is returning, I believe soon, and you and I must make sure we’re ready. If you don’t believe me, I’d be happy to show you prophecy after prophecy after prophecy, written thousands of years ago, that prove the Bible is true. I heard about these prophecies growing up in the church. To be totally honest, at the time (the 80’s), I thought some of them sounded a little crazy, definitely far-fetched, and possibly even like science fiction. However, as technology has rapidly advanced in my lifetime, it has been shocking to me to see things that I heard about growing up in church and that are prophesied about in scripture that at the time they were written would have been literally impossible. These scriptures have not only become possible but you can see how modern technology can make these scriptures not only possible but probable in the future. I don’t have time in this article to lay some of those out, but if you would like to know more about them, email me or visit me at my church, and I’d be happy to share them with you. I’m not a conspiracy theorist and don’t even like sci-fi. In fact, by nature, I’m a bit of a skeptic. However, saying it would be foolish to ignore the facts that are right in front of us would be a massive understatement. There are just too many scriptures describing modern events to be ignored.
I encourage you to find a good church and become part of it. This means more than just attending a service. Church is so much more than a service. The church is an extension of Jesus Himself. Colossians 1:18 tells us that Jesus is the head of the church, and the church is His body. Some people don’t attend church because someone hurt them; a pastor, a leader, a friend or just a regular person attending. But we don’t follow people, we follow Christ! There is no perfect church but there are so many good churches out there! Trust me, this is my business, this is the “industry” I’m in. I know a lot of churches and work with a lot of pastors. There are some great ones in this area!
Think about this; all of us have been to a bad restaurant before or have received bad food or bad service. We may choose not to return to that establishment again but I bet none of us have given up on restaurants. We just find a good one! And once we find a good one, we go there again and again and tell others about it. Why do we treat church any differently? Okay, so you may have had a bad experience, but don’t give up. Pray, and ask God to lead you to a good one for you. Trust me, He will. I’d be happy to help you find one as well.
Now, more than ever, we need to come together. We need to find the love, healing, mercy, grace and strength that can only come through Jesus Christ. The church is the vehicle God chose to help us achieve these things. So let’s be the church, the real church, the church that God intended for us to be. None of us are perfect, we can’t be. But, we can let God work in our lives and be better and be more like Christ. As we do, people will be healed, broken lives will be restored, we’ll live with peace that surpasses understanding, have strength for the the “day-to-day,” and begin bridging the divide in our nation and communities. That’s who the real church is.