Four ways the church could die in America

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Four ways the church could die in America.

History can be a frightening mistress.  In seminary we had a class called Global Christian History.  As we peered through the pages of time we could see why Christianity collapsed in certain areas of the world.  It’s eerie.  The historical church died because…

1.     Warfare among different variations of Christianity.

Africa experienced devastating divisions that greatly diluted the movement and caused lateral warfare instead of a unified front within Christianity.  Sound familiar? Our best and brightest are really busy fighting each other instead of creating a unified movement to engage culture.  I would love to name drop here, but I will refrain!

2.     Refusal to go indigenous

As cities grew more difficult for Christians to live in they would embrace variations of monastic (monastery) living.  Instead of trying to engage the rapidly changing culture, they ran from it by creating their own types of communities totally separate from the “dirty” world.  They created their own schools and instead of training up the next generation on how to engage the world they ended up focusing primarily on separation.  As a whole, they didn’t save cities—they abandoned them.  Eventually they became irrelevant and died off.  I fully believe in Christian education.  However, we must remember the purpose is to prepare them to run into society not from it.

3.     Christianity is associated with a civil/social party vehemently pursuing power

It’s really easy to shift our passion from the hearts of individuals to just social control.  I get it!  It’s easier to measure external actions.  A nation can look more Christian when we make Biblical laws civil laws.  This doesn’t mean the heart of the individual is being won at all, though.  In fact history teaches a nation can increase Christian civil obedience all while the hearts of the people are growing ever more cold towards political Christianity.  Don’t forget our primary target is the hearts of the people, not just civil control!  The early days of the church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia teach this well.  I am not saying we need to avoid politics!  I am just saying don’t forget the heart is MOST important.

4.     Centralized religious institutions and the removal of Christ from the center of Christianity

Sound far-fetched?  Think again!  You may do this and not realize it.

We are always trying to make men into God and God into a man.  The historical church is notorious for trying to reconstruct Christianity with a new teacher or fresh perspective.  It is imperative that the church keeps Jesus at the center.  When Jesus is minimized and a new teacher is elevated, trouble is right around the corner!  In addition, when the inevitable ethical failure happens it confuses thousands of churches and possibly millions of people.   John Wesley is a hero to me.  The other day I caught myself justifying his actions that were less then holy.  I stopped myself.  Wesley wasn’t perfect and that’s okay. I can enjoy Wesley’s work, but I refuse to deify him.  Jesus stays at the center!

So let me ask you.  Do you think Western Christians struggle with these?  What do you think is the answer? 

9 thoughts on “Four ways the church could die in America

  1. “Don’t forget our primary target is the hearts of the people, not just civil control!”
    Great sentence…I would even go further and say it without the “just”…”Don’t forget our primary target is the hearts of the people, not civil control!”

    Good post Mike.

  2. Kerrykind… I think the question should be “let me know if that’s ok?”

    At any rate, you hit on one of my pet peeves in the Christian world… home schooling kids for the sake of protecting them from “evil teaching”: “However, we must remember the purpose is to prepare them to run into society not from it.” That is right on target! Is the public school system full of people trying to promote evolution and secular teachings? It sure is. No denying that! But what exactly are you teaching your kids about dealing with the real world? That it’s better to withdraw rather than to engage. It always comes back to Jesus 🙂 Never once did he teach people to withdraw. He told us to be a light in the world. What good does a light do in a room full of other lights? It makes the world darker… that much I know for sure. All you’re propagating is a darker world for your kids when they step out on their own!

    Not to mention all the teaching moments that are denied by keeping them sheltered.

    Thanks for this post. We should all take these ideas as warning signs in our faith and learn to react to them appropriately. And in the case of our kids, promote and seize teaching moments.

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