When the Church Isn’t the Church

Written by Jeff Carlson on .

churchWhy is America falling apart when we have a church on almost every street corner?  America has the most churches per capita of any nation in the world. The Gallup organization tells us that over 70% of Americans identify themselves as Christians.  And yet, our nation is morally and spiritually crumbling before our eyes and most people see it. What happened? How do you explain this shocking reality going on today?

The Bible is quite clear that just before the Lord Jesus’ return the professing Church will have a “form of godliness without any power” (II Timothy 3:5). It will be a time of apostasy or a turning away from the historic faith into a counterfeit one that people will accept as the real one.  In other words, the Church will be a place where people have a religious belief, form, and practice, but it will be empty from the Lord’s perspective. This pattern is hardly new. It happened to Israel throughout her history.  Israel would go through the motions of faith, but in the end it was vain and meaningless to the Lord (Isaiah 1:10-15). The Lord Jesus addressed this same issue to the Laodicea Church in Revelation 3:16 where He said, “Because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”

Those are sobering words from our Lord Jesus, but few think it will happen to them or people they know.  It is almost as if the Bible isn’t relevant on this issue. The challenge is too close to home. Pastors, Christian leaders, and people in the pews think they are generally doing just fine.  If you doubt that, just ask most of them. Admitting a problem is the first step to solving it, but it is also the hardest part because you might have to change and do something different. The Bible calls that something repentance and it isn’t very popular anywhere in the American Church world today as we look to our Lord’s glorious, soon return.

The America Church is in crisis because it doesn’t understand what our culture has done to it.  We have spent a generation trying to “reach” people for the Lord, but we are looking back now and a few are starting to realize that we have been deceived.  The Church world has simply ended up feeding into the consumer culture of America by providing churches that give people what they want, but that largely fail to address real needs. Only the Lord can define our real needs in His Word.  No culture will ever get that right on its own.  The Lord tells us we need things like repentance, holiness, a serious commitment to discipleship, stewardship, Biblical literacy, and a spiritual depth that affects our behavior and those around us. Now if the Church only gives us what we want as American consumers, we just end up creating a god in our image. We miss the real one.  After all, how likely is it that a consumer-friendly, popular God is the real one?

As we watch our nation morally and spiritually imploding before our eyes, we can’t throw stones at Washington or blame someone else. The real fault lies with us, the Lord’s Church. If we can’t start to hear from the Lord and have a fresh encounter with His Word then we have no one to blame but ourselves. The hour is late friends, but the Lord still calls out for us to repent and turn to Him and live.