I want to preface this post: This is not the list to end all lists. The church is made up of sinners. The church will have problems until the day Christ comes back for us. But here in America, the church has some serious problems that need to be addressed. Here are three of them.
The Church is not a Business.
I sat down with a friend and his father to have lunch. His father has been in evangelism and missions for a while (I don’t want to guess how long because I don’t want to offend him). His father shared some wonderful insights. He told of a pastor friend who came to him excited that the church could hire a music minister for $50,000 a year. “We can have Easter and Christmas plays!” says the pastor. “Well that’s great, pastor, it really is,” says my friend’s father, “but how about this instead: You go before your elder board and you tell them ‘we are about to make a $50,000 decision.’ You say ‘we can either hire this new music minister, and have an Easter program and a Christmas program. Or we can take that money and single-handedly fund an orphanage in India.’ See what they say.”
The American Church has strayed so far from the pure religion that James exhorted us to. How many pastors can say, like Paul, that they preach the Gospel free of charge (2 Cor. 11:7)? If you want to know where a church’s priorities are, follow the money. Is the church investing in lights and sound, or in missions and charity work? (More reading here.)
Decisions are not disciples.
The modern American church is obsessed with numbers. We get all OCD about our headcount. The church will do almost anything to get the masses through the doors. Seriously, almost anything. Finish retching and ask yourself: Why should we be pandering to people’s palette to be entertained (aside from the pragmatic failure that if you had to entertain them to get them here, you have to entertain them to keep them here)? I hear the droll response “because it works! People are flocking to Super Mega Hip Church like never before!” But the problem lies in the presupposed definition of what “it works” means. If by “it works” you mean “it gets people to show up to a building on Sunday mornings to be entertained in a pseudo-Christian environment by a group of people using pseudo-Christian language,” then yeah. Works great. But the Bible has a pretty different understanding of what “works” regarding conversion. Biblical conversion looks so different from the “I see that hand” altar call. It looks like economic upheaval as people have a huge bonfire to destroy the books of witchcraft that they once served (Acts 19). But what does the Bible warn us will happen? “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions” (2 Tim. 4:3). Preaching to people’s felt needs is exactly what the Bible warns us a false teacher will do. It doesn’t get any more clear than that.
The Bible actually means something.
For some reason the modern evangelical church that so adamantly defends and believes in the sufficiency of Scripture has abandoned it entirely. We have people who preach and teach things directly contrary to Scripture, and yet they are received and revered by the Christian community at large. People such as Joel Osteen, who abuse the promises of God, are accepted because “we’re not supposed to judge people.” For some reason we forget that discernment of spirits is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and is just as important to the Body as teaching. 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 tells us to test all prophecies and hold on only to those that pass the test. We should be actively rejecting false teachers, false prophets, and false doctrine, and yet the Church is not doing this. We have abandoned our post as followers of the Way, to follow any way that seems right to us. This is, of course, destruction.
As I said before, these three problems are not the only things wrong with the visible American church. We’re full of problems, and we always will be. But these are three big ones, that should be rather easily addressed. How do we fix these problems? It’s simple: We get back to the Biblical model for churches. We start living as Christ did, by taking good news to the downcast — to the widows, the orphans, the homeless, the blind. We start striving for regeneration, that Christ be formed in us. We start actually pursuing God and who He is and what He says about Himself, rather than our image of Him. We must abandon “church as it always has been” for “church as God says it must be.” Until then, we’re not the Church.
How about you? What problems do you see in the church that need correcting? Do those problems start with you? What can you do to help drive the church to a passionate pursuit of Christ? Let me know what you think!