Guest post by Rob Powell.
The Christian church in America is confusing to me. But I’m not alone. It’s confusing to most Americans.
Let me explain.
The church in China is like a two year old hitting a growth spurt.
There are pains with such quick growth but the power of the gospel is undeniable and attractive in that area of the world.
The church in Europe, on the other hand, is like a 99-year-old paralytic with Alzheimer’s.
Its impotence and slow death means people don’t have to pay it any attention.
The church in America is mixed bag of both, which is the worst case scenario for the people in its pews.
Two Kinds of Churches in America
There are churches of all sizes and flavors in America, but in reality it boils down to two types.
In the one, God is worshipped, sin is revealed, repentant faith is called for, and Christ is glorified in redeemed lives.
In the other, there are churches of all sizes and flavors where God is never mentioned directly, sin is marginalized, Jesus may or may not have had some good things to say, and people never hear the good news.
We could argue about degree, but that’s not the point of this post. Stick with me.
Eh, Is This a Church?
For the later, take the steeple off the roof and put up a Rotary emblem because, in the end, it’s a nice social club that does some good things for the community but it’s not the church Christ died for.
The problem is it’s hard to tell where on the continuum between the two your church lies without some outside perspective.
Both can feel good and provide community but one is showing you ultimate reality while the other is blinding you to it.
Living in the first notch of the Bible belt we have a term for cultural Christians–or CINO’s to borrow a page from politics…
They are “vaccinated against the gospel”…
They have just enough Jesus to know what to say and keep real faith at bay but have never placed their faith in Him.
They are being misled to believe they’re okay with God when they are not. That in turn misleads others, which in turn misleads others, which in turn…well, confuses you and me and the American church.
What the American Church Needs
America needs a big fat dose of spiritual clarity. Why? Because it will help us determine what we need to do with the Gospel.
Do I need to witness to Sara in accounting even though she’s a deacon at Elm St. Methodist?
Does Gary the mailman believe he’s justified by his faith in Christ or because he spends an hour Sunday mornings in a particular building?
Spiritual clarity would show us that both Sara and Gary are targets for the Gospel. Here’s why.
Even though my parents and I are non-CINOs, we attend churches on differing ends of this spectrum.
Her church presents a wishy-washy, impotent, feel good, inoffensive gospel.
I told mom it would be better for her fellow congregants to stay home Sunday mornings and watch the NFL pre-game show than stay in that church and be misled as to their status in Christ.
At least at home with Pat Summerall they will know they AREN’T following Jesus.
Hopefully that knowledge will give them reason to pause when someone does bring up Jesus instead of allowing them to dismiss Him as already checked off the list.
They won’t be vaccinated.
What this doesn’t mean is that people should leave the church if they have doubts or theological disagreements.
Thomas doubted and disagreed with the disciples about the resurrection of Jesus (John 20:25) but if they had ostracized him he wouldn’t have been in the room to put his fingers in the scars and believe (v27).
Here’s Where the Rubber Meets the Road
The bride of Christ must first and foremost love, honor, and obey her groom.
If genuine Christians would allow the Holy Spirit to fill them with grace, love, patience, mercy, humility, and forgiveness the rest of the world, churched or unchurched, would sit up and take notice.
If we really believed the way to gain life was to lose it and we lived zealously for the things Jesus died for, cultural Christians would see we have something that they don’t…
Then they would either be drawn to it or disgusted by it–but there’d be no room for lukewarmness.
Here’s the Hard Part
I’m not only part of the solution, but I’m also part of the problem, too!
I love my cushy life and I don’t want to really give it away. I’m okay with who I am and don’t feel the weight of my sin.
In fact, I’m afraid the ocean of God’s love won’t be as grand as this mud puddle the world lets me play in. That’s why I need your help.
What I Need from You
So here’s what I need from the church (that’s all of us, not just the paid professionals) and I think it’s the same thing the unbelieving world needs: I need you to preach the gospel to me.
See, the gospel is not something even my mature Christian brothers and sisters graduates from.
I need daily, hourly, moment by moment reminders of the glorious love of Jesus…I need you to show me the planks in my eye and call me again and again to repentance.
I need you to tell me this world has nothing for me and to put my hope in the next.
And do it with zeal!
So, easy enough? Now what do you need from me? Looking forward to your thoughts.