There is a great schism in the American Church today. When I say “Church”, forget denominations, I am talking about everything that belongs to the Church of the Living God. When I was young, growing up in the late 70s and 80s, the church house was a revered and special place. Unfortunately, not everyone attended church, and the majority of the attendees were women...faithful women who covered their households in prayer, in church work, and in ministry. Although many of the men I knew, at that time, did not attended church, nor spoke publicly about things of the Lord, when they were confronted with the Gospel they would usually say something like, ”I know, one of these days I’m going to come to church”. Everyone I knew at least had a default respect for the Church.
Now, let’s fast forward to today. In my own little corner of the world, I DAILY converse with people who not only have no history or knowledge of the church, but they have no FEAR or RESPECT for the church either. Lines have clearly been drawn between the Church and the Secular world and, at the present, I see these lines only becoming clearer and more pronounced. In one way, this has the possibility of being good for Christians, because we can easily see those we need to be praying for. However, it is also a sad reality because we can see the degradation of our society, right before our eyes.
Things have indeed changed in the last several years. Today in America, the mega-church is the archetype of what most churches would like to become. The smaller, local church is being reduced to minimalism, evidenced by many church closings around the nation. The mega church has become very alluring for its ability to provide ministry in a way that small churches can only dream of. There are MANY larger churches in America that preach the gospel and provide ministries that are wonderful examples of Christ. However, if the TV programs provided by “some” of the extremely large churches in America are any indication, we have allowed the secular world to influence the Church. Unfortunately, instead of us being conformed to the “likeness” of Christ, we are becoming conformed to the “likeness” of the world. Admittedly, there is nothing wrong with big or small churches, per say. My concern is that anytime our focus is on numbers, growth, and gratification of self, we stand to lose our true focus. We can become enamored with the pursuit of success and adopt tactics that will promote a “numbers measured” success. We must be reminded and encouraged that Jesus told us there was a large path that many find, and a small path that very few find. I want to see the church grow the right way!
Allow me share an illustration that examples the divide between what I refer to as the “modern” church and the “true” church. A few sermons ago, my Pastor told a story concerning one of his good friends in the ministry. This particular minister is pastoring a church up north. He shared with us that his friend called recently to share that one of the “mega” churches in his area had begun a campaign to reach people by boldly proclaiming that God’s number one goal is to “make the individual happy”. Personally, I have heard this very thing on various religious TV programs. This is a prime example of how many churches out there are trying to reach people by promising earthly happiness and material treasure. Now, God does want us to be eternally happy, but as you are well aware, real life is full of troubles and trials and temptations. I find this teaching particularly disturbing in light of the fact that all one has to do is flip on the news and see Christians being martyred all over the Middle East. The idea of “now happiness” that is pervading our society is just one example of how the ideas of the world can creep into a body of believers.
One of the surest ways to stunt spiritual growth is to adopt the methods of the world into our churches. The scripture clearly provides guidance on how we are to conduct ourselves with an “in it, but not of it” approach. I would like to say that the standard for the American church is not the American church, but rather, it is the living Word of God.
The concern of the world infiltrating the church is not a new one…let’s look at Ezra 4.
1When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building a temple for the Lord, the God of Israel, 2 they came to Zerubbabel and to the heads of the families and said, “Let us help you build because, like you, we seek your God and have been sacrificing to him since the time of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.”
3 But Zerubbabel, Joshua and the rest of the heads of the families of Israel answered, “You have no part with us in building a temple to our God. We alone will build it for the Lord, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia, commanded us.”
4 Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building. 5 They bribed officials to work against them and frustrate their plans during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia and down to the reign of Darius king of Persia.
Does this passage of scripture not shake us to our very core? Here we have an example of the “world” approaching the Jewish people and wanting to participate in the building of the temple. Surely, if they had been allowed to participate, their ideology would have crept in and tainted the work. The enemy would have slowly but surely damaged the work of God. We see that after being denied the chance to participate, the enemies of God then set out to stop the work completely. We do not need to be caught unaware of the enemy’s methods. My friends, we should be encouraged today that “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”.
Here is the finality of my point. The world has changed. Just as Paul recognized the need to adapt in order to further the message of Jesus Christ, we too need to be ready to change and flow with what God is doing. However, Paul also taught us that the message NEVER changes! The TRUTH never changes and is never compromised. We must go forward with Truth, in boldness and clarity. When the world tries to change or compromise the gospel…that is when the truth needs to shine the brightest. ”Let God be true and every human a Liar”! Rest assured that if we refuse the world’s methods and “advice” for our churches, they will not be happy, nor want to participate. You may even be persecuted for it. But that is ok with me! We are charged to deliver the truth, and that truth is The Lord Jesus Christ. Child of God, let the light of Christ shine in you today, for the entire world to see!
Be blessed and keep on seeking and practicing the TRUTH!