Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The problem with American Christianity

This excerpt from this article, encapsulates much of what is wrong with the American church:

However, I remain unconvinced that the right question is, "What's the most important thing you want from your church?" This emphasis on an individual's expectations and preferences reveals a core problem in American Christianity—the unchallenged assumption that people can accurately evaluate their church based on whether or not it meets their needs. How does this prevailing attitude alter the biblical purpose of the Church in the world? We are a culture of Christ-followers who pay far too much attention to whether or not our needs are being satisfied. And we have become a culture of church leaders who spend far too much time orienting our ministries around the ever-changing preferences of our people.

A few years ago I was listening to WMUZ FM in the afternoon. The host of the show was asking for a full hour what people looked for in a new church. I heard the entire hour, and never once did a person talk about what the church was doing in the community, how it was fulfilling the Great Commission, or how it was meeting the needs of the dispossessed. It was all about how it met their needs, entertained their kids etc. It was a full hour of narcissism, and it drove me crazy. Side note - I have not listened to that show since.

The consumerist mentality that is rampant in the American church is horribly destructive. It is what leads people to shop for a church like the pick a television. Does it look good and make me feel good? We roll through pastors because they "aren't meeting my needs." Could it be possible that your needs are contrary to the Kingdom of God? Could it be that your pastor is trying to fulfill the Great Commission, not massage your ego?

I have precious little time for people who continually voice this objection. By and large, the people who aren't having their needs met are treating the church like a lawn service- once a week is good enough. A better metaphor might be that of the gardener, who is out there every day looking for bugs, pulling weeds, training plants, straightening crooked stems, watering, feeding and tending. Not someone who shows up with a bunch of flashy machinery and is done in an hour.

I'll step off my soapbox now.


Benjamin Tomczak said...

It is incredibly disappointing, but not surprising. Didn't Paul warn Timothy about itching ears (2 Timothy 4)? And didn't Paul also say that the cross is foolish and offensive to the world, but the power of God for salvation to those who believe (1 Cor. 1)? Yes, I think He did.

That being the case, in spite of what the world wants, in spite of what we're pressured to sometimes provide, we continually fall back to the position of Paul which is the position of Christ, "I preach Christ crucified" (1 Cor. 2:5). "If you hold to my teachings," Jesus said, "you are really my disciples, then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free" (John 8).

It was Pastor Paul again with the great advice, "Watch your life and doctrine closely, persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself AND your hearers" (1 Tim. 4).

The Church's one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord. It may not be some people's felt need, but it's their one and only actual need.

So, despite what the world says, the Church chugs along with these foolish looking words, this sorry looking water, this weak looking bread and wine, because we have the promise of God attached to this things and to nothing else. "I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of the world" (Rom. 1).

Grace and peace,

Jeremy D. Scott said...