I had the opportunity to have an insightful discussion with one of the most respected and admired Pastors in the State of Michigan, Pastor and Author Jake Gaines Jr., who is the pastor of Synagogue Baptist Church in Detroit. He is the Author of three books entitled, God and My Car, Looking Down the Barrel of My Faith, and his latest book Praying with Your Eyes Open.
First I would like to thank you Pastor Gaines for your time. As you are fully aware, the Church has a powerful influence on society, but over the years perception of the church has changed.
Why is it that the church in today’s society, doesn’t hold the same meaning to people as it did in the past?
One of the main reasons that this phenomenon has occurred is because of the structure of the family. When I was coming up in the early fifties we were blessed with the product of the “nuclear family.” There was mom, dad, and the kids. Most mothers were able to stay home and raise the children while fathers went out to work. There was a lot of teaching and nurturing that went on, that doesn’t go on today. Children were taught by people who knew them and loved them. These people had a vested interest in the welfare of these children. Today children are taught in a variety of ways. TV, radio, magazines, videos, etc. are their teachers now and these mediums have no true investment in their audiences. Therefore, the results of their teachings are only important as it relates to their profits.
Most children are not taught the importance of “the church” and knowing God in a personal way. So many single parents are doing all they can just to survive from day to day. Children are teaching themselves, and like children they teach themselves the things they enjoy, from movies to their choices of music and forms of recreation. Since this younger generation of parents does not have an interest in church, neither do their children.
We are living in a time that the Bible prophesied would come. 2Timothy 4:3 tells us:
“For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”
These times are upon us. People need to take responsibility for their attitudes and actions and recognize that “something is dreadfully wrong” with the way we are doing things and maybe, just maybe, we need to listen to God and get this thing called “living” corrected. Everybody wants what’s pleasing to hear regardless of its consequences. People can say all the negative things about God and church that they chose to, but one thing for certain, our way is not working!
What is the true meaning of church? Why is the overall view changing so much?
So many people see the church as just this formal institution designed to create rules of right and wrong, while they themselves flounder in their own living. While this is true to a certain degree, the church should not be defined only by the mistakes of other human beings.
Yes! It is imperative that the people of God live according to the “Word” we believe, but keep in mind; we are people and will never be perfect. True people of God DO make a difference in our society. The word church comes from a Greek word called “ecclesia”, which means “called out ones.” Not “perfect ones.” The church is not just an institution to adhere to but a people who have been “called out” to live for God, and not according to the ways of the world. Because this is a people first and an institution second organization, it will never be perfect, but it can and will introduce and nurture people toward the knowledge of God and His perfection.
God is the change agent in the lives of people, not the church itself. The church, through the power of the Holy Spirit, is institutionalized agent to help people understand and live by the ways of God, whether each particular person in the church is adhering to it or not. You cannot judge “all” Christians by “some” Christians. People have no problem criticizing the church without studying the “Word” of God for themselves.
People’s views of the church changes because they are not interested in understanding the history or the nuances of the church. Therefore they draw their own conclusions from a very small sample of the Christian community, without doing any research on their own of all the millions of committed people who have sacrificed their lives and possessions for the “cause” of Christ, throughout history. Most people’s opinion of the church is formulated from a huge chunk of ignorance.
What does the church need to do to gain the interest and draw more young people and what has driven them away?
First and foremost, we need to be, as people of God, better examples for our critics to observe. We as the church need to commit ourselves to the ways of Christ, and hold fast o what we believe. Nothing is more convincing than commitment. Nothing is more galvanizing than a “faith manifested.”
We must not be afraid to adjust and become indigenous to our community. I am an advocate of changing our methods while not altering the truth of the Bible. Tradition has its place, but not to the detriment of those who need to know the truth about God. We must be as willing to suffer the pangs of change as we ask others to suffer the pangs of growth. The church has been the product of change every since the “Pentecostal ‘experience in Acts 2.
We cannot expect today’s society to except the presentation of the church to be congruent to the past and not the future. We (the people) as the church need to listen to the issues of those we are trying to reach, no matter how foreign or confusing they may be. We MUST hear them from where they cry out and not from where we desire them to be. Every generation’s confusion is legitimate. We must NEVER alter the truth of God’s Word, but we cannot be afraid to alter the method in which we present it. The church of today looks nothing like the church of Acts, and the church of tomorrow will look nothing like the church of today, but the MESSAGE will be the same, and the commitment should always be clear. “Live your life God’s way.”
What should college students do to stay focused on their spiritual growth now that they are on their own as independent adults?
First of all, they must trust their roots in the Lord. God is best experienced through experience.
Psalms 34:8 say “Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.”
You must experience Him for yourself in life’s day to day issues. Young people who are away from their parents are still responsible for their actions. This is a prime time to try God for them as they go about making crucial decisions without their significant others with them… It is imperative that young people realize that they are responsible for their experiences with God.
“Taste and see” implies that we must experience God for ourselves and make a decision about Him. Trying God for you is a mandate to all to get to know Him and make their own decisions about Him. Being away from our parents is not a freedom to do what we please, but a freedom to choose to make the right decisions based on the Word of God. Young people need to realize that responsibility is not an option but a mandate.
I’d like to thank Pastor Gaines for his time and for his insightful thoughts on the state of the Church and his advice to the young people as they struggle with the life’s issues.