3 problems with the American Church.

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!

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7 Comments

Filed under Ecclesiology, Theology

7 responses to “3 problems with the American Church.

  1. Johnny – I couldn’t agree with you more. I resisted God ,Christ and the Church for years because of these 3 reasons( among a litany of others) before finally being taught the truth in 2001. I believe the key is authority. Many have forgotten that biblical authority is the basis of all that the church does. Are there situations where God has given us liberty? Sure ,but by and large if we are to follow the precept set forth in Colossians 3:17 – we MUST have permission or “authority” from God to do so. Due to the lack of accountability that has seemingly been built in to many congregations , church has become big business ,a means of entertainment rather that worship and more lax in doctrine than ever to draw people in by the droves – all things the church was NEVER intended to be.

    We MUST get back to the model of the first century church. We MUST get back to the original purpose of the church. We MUST get back to the truth…

    Fight the good fight brother..

    Keith

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    • I agree: Authority is key in this discussion. Far to many people are looking for God’s authority outside of the Bible. I believe identity is also at play here. We no longer identify as ambassadors of Christ as we ought to.

      Thanks for the feedback, brother. Godspeed.

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  2. kristian

    Awesome discussion and thought provoking on so many levels. I just want to chuck a few things out. Not for controversy or anything but just some initial thoughts. All with love so please don’t take anything i say the wrong way.
    i think the main key is Jesus. we’re all nodding and saying ‘amen, yes’ as we do but i believe this is the only key. Totally agree that Authority is a key along with so many other things that the church needs but as we see authority in the wrong persons hands is detrimental to a lot of people on such a vastly huge scale that the damage caused is unseeable and long lasting. the same with any ‘thing’ we believe the church needs. Especially when “backed up” with scripture, the person moving in ‘authority’ with these ‘things’ is like a freight train that can’t be stopped. Thats when people get hurt. That’s when church becomes a war field….and everyone’s right because they all have scripture and authority to back themselves up. Jesus. first and foremost, Jesus MUST become first. Again, a simple and cliched statement but its true. i believe a lot of issues have resulted in when we have stepped away from Him. Such a simple statement and a simple act but with devastatingly huge consequences. When we walk with ‘Him’ and when we don’t. When we dream big dreams and move in big ways without His leading/presence/hand on it, its just a good idea that seems to work. Just because it seems like a good idea that could bring masses to Him, doesn’t necessarily mean it is a God idea. We could go back to the model of the first century church, yeah, and it could be awesome…but is yesterdays model of how “Church” worked and “succeeded”, todays solution? I’m just chucking it out there cos i’ve wondered about this over the years. The Church has progressed over the years and along with that, deception and false ideals and beliefs have crept in to the church also. “If we have bigger and better music/lights, it will all be better.” Probably. but for whom? Will Jesus show faster or more powerful if we set the atmosphere with nice music and beautiful lights? i can’t say but i know he shows when a people with an abandoned and hungry heart solely search Him and search for Him unreservedly. As stated above, the church is made up of sinners and along with sinners comes mess so MESS is going to happen anyway. Even if we try to avoid it.
    What did Jesus do to change that mentality/culture when He was faced with it?
    We could change back to first century church…heck, what if we changed EVERYTHING about church and modelled it from the first century church, would the “issues” that are stated above going to be “dealt” with, or just swept under the carpet like issues seem to be dealt with these days?
    Jesus. When we are in line with Him, He shows us the way, gives us the answers. A childlike faith and belief.
    The above problems are not just an issue in America but all over the world. but why are we majoring on the problems and trying to find ‘solutions’? there’s only one solution. Get back to Jesus. The Author and Perfecter of our Faith. We need to stop majoring on what the church is doing wrong and start majoring on what Jesus is doing right in the church and where we can become a solution in helping it to become more of a place where He is allowed to do whatever He wants without our closed box views and exceptions of Him. More of Him and less of ourselves. When need to start to allow Him to be fully who He is instead of questioning every little thing we don’t understand and because we don’t know, say it’s not of God. Yeah we need to be discerning and all that but the more time we spend with Jesus and The Father, the more we become like Him and see who He is, then the things that we don’t understand are seen thru His eyes and are easily accepted or weeded out. We can point that finger at certain people who have bungled it or are bungling it…but the bible is that. A collection of people who have completely missed the plot and stuffed it but by Gods grace are forgiven and moved thru.
    Just some initial thoughts from what was written above.
    The more we concentrate on what the church is not doing, the less we see of what God is doing. thats not right is it?

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    • Thanks for the comment Kristian! You raise some interesting points.

      I agree that Jesus should be foremost. I think that’s what we’re saying when we talk about authority, though: Jesus is the authority for the Church. End of story. We do things His way or no way else. You’re quite right in this.

      I also agree that if we get off track and start focusing only on what the church is doing wrong, then we aren’t focusing on what God is doing. The problem has been that people are saying that God is doing something, when He hasn’t been involved. Again, we need to be sure that what we’re supporting is a move of God, and we’ll know that by whether or not it lines up with Scripture.

      Again, I’m very thankful for your feedback! Please keep reading, and commenting.

      God bless.

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  3. Meredith

    Great post. I’ve been thinking bout these things a lot lately, especially the second problem. I’ve met some new Christians recently and when the subject of church comes up the first question always asked is, “how big is it?” or “how many people attend on Sundays?” It’s rather distressing.

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    • It can be kind of overwhelming. I think that we should use those opportunities to gently teach. I also think that sometimes people are just genuinely curious, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

      Thanks for reading! God bless.

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