The Starving of the Church -- By: Jim Elliff

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 01:1 (Winter 1992)
Article: The Starving of the Church
Author: Jim Elliff


The Starving of the Church

Jim Elliff

The church is swelling like the belly of a starving man. Any thoughtful anatomical survey of evangelicalism reveals a critical deprivation in the intake of substantial biblical content. Simply put: doctrine is out! The starvation resulting from this fact has produced at least two serious embarrassments: (1) The lack of a substantive moral difference in the lives of our hearers—we are simply not behaving like the Christians we profess to be; and (2) The mammoth disparity between the numbers of people reported as “new believers” and the facts. The church is swollen with numbers, yet sick with emptiness; inflated, yet famished! We have been eating and distributing more packaging than real food, but what colorful and extremely clever packaging we have produced!

Just consider how the church’s numbers of “professed” converts have expanded our girth in recent years. Various campaigns have reported anything from tens of thousands to as many as 3.5 million converts, all in a matter of a few days. (Such figures, if true, would have already been evidence of the greatest revival in history) Admittedly, there are exceptions, but it must be agreed that, to a great extent, what is believed to be church extension is, on the whole, church distention.

Who can say that reformation is not needed immediately? Do we not all lament this problem of uncontrollable bloat? It is not as though we have put nothing into our mouths, but whatever we have eaten has obviously failed to produce much in the way of hardened muscle and strong bones.

Recent Western Christianity has on the whole invested its zeal either in efforts at organizational brilliance, playing “catch up” with the business world, or (perhaps as a reaction) in an emphasis on recovering the Holy Spirit’s power. Some have blended the two. Because of the former, our advertising acumen, our technology, our recruitment, and

our creativity have reached their apogee. In many churches and para-church groups a level of professionalism has been attained undreamed of in earlier days. “Excellence” has become the new code word. Yet there is an increasing cry for substance amid all the hype and structure, for form without content does not feed the souls of hungry men.

But has the move toward the Holy Spirit, whether charismatic or otherwise, been any better? There are deficiencies here as well; certainly not in the Holy Spirit, but in how such sincere believers have characteristically handled the Bible. In fact, a separation has resulted between the Holy Spirit and the Word. Sadly, in many such cases, the Holy Spirit has been understood only in t...

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