Yet with all of this, many churches seem to be struggling. Statistics show us that there is a downward trend in church attendance and baptisms, which naturally reveals a decline in genuine conversions. In many areas, churches are struggling just to survive.
I know that there are many factors that figure into this complex equation. Our society as a whole is much less receptive to the Gospel. We are experiencing a generation in which many were not brought up in church and see no value in it. The course of our nation is heading in a direction contrary to the dictates of Scripture. These are troubling and difficult times, even for the well equipped church and pastor.
Now take a moment to consider the Apostles and their ministry in the days of the early church. They didn't have the benefit of volumes of commentaries, internet access, printable sermon notes, or iPads. They too faced a hostile environment regarding their faith and commitment to the Gospel. In fact, many early believers gave their lives for their faith. We may think we are facing difficult times, but the early church knew what adversity was.
Their daily lives faced enormous difficulty and yet they prospered for the Lord. Thousands were coming to Christ in single services. Whole cities and societies were shaken due to the influence of the Gospel. The church faced great adversity and yet she prospered and grew.
So, that brings me to our question: What is missing? What did the Apostles and the early church have that made the difference? It would appear that we are much better equipped today to engage the world for Christ than they were, but we are not seeing the results they did. As I ponder this important question, I am convinced they enjoyed one essential element that we lack. They possessed something so significant that all the technology and information in the world could never compare. They possessed power. I am not talking about general influence or the ability to persuade people with clever techniques; I am talking about the power of God upon their lives. The Apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit and the Spirit moved and worked in power among them.
We may have all the latest technology, well planned outlines (I will admit, I love a good outline), beautiful facilities, and abundant material resources, but all of that is vain unless we have the power of God in us and on us. We need the Spirit to move in our midst as He did in days of old. We need a genuine stirring of the Spirit within the modern church. It is possible to obtain the missing ingredient, but it will require sacrifice. We must get to the place that we realize we need His presence in our midst more than we need anything else. Preachers we need the anointing of God upon us every time we step behind the pulpit to preach. We need conviction among us that only the Spirit can bring. We need His power to enable us to fulfill the work we are engaged in. If the church is to prosper in our day, it won't come through more technology or the cleverness of men, but through the power of God bringing profitable change through the Holy Spirit.