Is the light of Jesus that we shine before people growing dark?
Has a storm cut us off from our power source?
Is the church of Christ disappearing into a dark night?
Those three questions on the back cover of Storm by Jim Cymbala caught my eye. Our local Christian bookstore was going out of business, and as I perused the shelves, looking for ways to spend a gift card I had, those words caught my eye.
I’ve read other books by Jim Cymbala, so I knew this one would probably be just as good. I wasn’t disappointed. The truth is, in recent times, the Church’s light seems to have grown dim in our culture and society.
Storm points out the warning signs that the Church is in trouble, the current problems within the church, and things both church leaders and members can be doing to fix or reverse those problems.
Throughout the book, Cymbala shares personal stories of members of his own Church who have seen God work in and through them. While I enjoyed the entire book, the stories were some of my favorite parts.
Out of all the chapters, I found the list of warning signs to be some of the most alarming. Cymbala points out three warning signs. The first is dwindling numbers. While some statistics list almost 80% of Americans as being “Christian,” the real data doesn’t back that up. In fact, the real percentage of true believers in America is shockingly between 7 and 8.9%.
The second warning sign Cymbala mentions is that personal transformation is rare. A recent Barna Group survey found that 46% of regular churchgoers said that their life had not changed at all as a result of attending church. Yikes.
Finally, the third warning sign Cymbala shares is that Biblical literacy is declining. Americans who are hostile to the Bible rose from 10% in 2011 to 17% in 2013. Those numbers continue to grow. While lack of Biblical knowledge or even hostility is understandable for non-believers, only 1 in 5 self-proclaimed Christians actively read their own Bibles.
The two other chapters in the book that really resonated with me were “Tempest Within,” which discusses the failure of church fads and trends, and “Storming Heaven,” which talks about the power of prayer.
In “Tempest Within,” Cymbala touches on some of the most popular trends of the church. He also points out something very interesting. “In the last twenty years there have been more conferences and more books published on church growth than in all the prior history of our country. As new models of how to grow your church have increased in popularity, we have actually witnessed a precipitous decline of Christianity in America.” Makes you think doesn’t it?
“Storming Heaven” was a chapter that reaffirms a message God has been teaching me all year – the importance and power of prayer. One of my goals this year was to fully realize and live out what it means to be a daughter of the Living God. The one thing God keeps bringing me back to again and again is prayer. It is something that is conspicuously absent in many churches.
If the vast changes you are seeing, not just in the culture around us, but also inside the Church have you feeling bewildered and anxious, Storm is an anchor in the swirling waters of change we now find ourselves in.
What book have you read this year that has really made you stop and think? I’d love to hear about it!