Saturday, September 11, 2010

Top Ten Reasons Why The Church Is Broken

note:  I'm amending the blog based on point ten.  No where in the New Testament is tithing required.  There are examples of the Chuch giving of its means, but not a strict tithe.  I feel that giving to missions, the local church, and to anyone that God lays on your heart to give to is the right thing to do in following the Holy Spirit's leading.  Too many in the Church hoard their money, not realizing that it does not really belong to them.

The Church seems to be exploding in third world countries today. Part of the explosion is due to persecution. According to Tertullian, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” I agree with Tertullian, but see another reason why the church is exploding in third world countries. Charles Spurgeon said, " The Word of God is like a lion. You don’t have to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion loose, and the lion will defend itself." Coupled together, the Church has found great success throughout history. But, what seems to be hindering the Church in the West, and more specifically in the United States? I would like to offer ten reasons for why the Church is broken in the West.

10. A lack of giving - The Church need to give of its financial means that God has blessed it with. Your giving is dealing first and foremost with your income. The primary passage used is Malachi 3:8-10. The sad fact of giving is that so many individuals simply do not trust God. Malachi 3:10 asks believers to trust God in order to see what he will do. There are other ways to give, such as your time, but many times giving has been understood from the standpoint of giving of one's means. Ephesians 4:28 seems to imply the reason we work is to share with those who are in need.  Ultimately, all belongs to God, so individuals should give with a grateful heart as God moves them to give.

9. Denominational fighting and legalism - This may not be a huge factor, but some groups (even those who claim to be non-denominational) seem to fight only for the denomination or local church. Legalism as defined by is, "adherence, or the principle of adherence, to law or prescription." The religious leaders of Jesus day-the Pharisees- were notorious for a legalistic form of worship (see Matthew 23). Legalism hinders an individuals relationship with Christ and others by causing the individual to focus solely on laws, as opposed to one's personal relationship with Jesus.

8. Church hypocrisy - Hypocrisy is "when you profess something that you do not really believe."[1] The main problem with the American church is, in many ways, the Christian's life doesn't match his/her beliefs or profession of beliefs. There is very little difference between the lifestyle of the Christian and the non-Christian. In the book, Unchristian, data was given to show that 85% of non-Christians could see no difference between their non-Christian values and their friends Christian values.[2] In the same book, a staggering percentage of Christians saw nothing wrong with activities such as: cohabitation, sex outside of marriage, using profanity, getting drunk, and viewing pornography.

7. A lack of knowledge - Hosea 4:6 states, "my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. " One of the major problems in the West today is the Church's inability to articulate and defend the Christian worldview. Christian apologetics is desperately needed in the Western Church. The essential Christian doctrines are being left by the wayside and the typical American Christian is not only spiritually illiterate, but unwilling to do his/her own study concerning God's word.

6. A diminished view of sin - Sin literally means, "to miss the mark." A sin is a transgression of God's law. Cornelius Plantinga defines sin as, "the smearing of a relationship, the grieving of one's divine parent and benefactor, a betrayal of the partner to whom one is joined by a holy bond."[3] It seems in the Church today sin is minimized. Too many are willing to justify sin, as Christians in America conform more and more to a worldly viewpoint. When sin is pointed out, there is actually a resistance by some in the American church that you are being judgemental without a realization that you might possibly be offending a holy God. Sociologist James Hunter points out the minimizing of sin by saying, sin "now finds its home mostly on desert menus. 'Peanut Butter Binge' and 'Chocolate Challenge' are sinful; lying is not. The new measure for sin is caloric."[4]

5. A lack of prayer - Simply put, when God's people don't pray, God will not act. 2 Chronicles 7:14 states, "if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." Prayer is integral to the foundation of the Church. As stated in second Chronicles, God's people must be willing to cry out to him. It seems the only time some pray is when they need something from God or they are at the end of their rope. Prayer is a critical component to a healthy church.

4. Judgmental - One of the common themes expressed toward the Church today is that it is too judgmental. The compassion of Christ seems to be lacking in many ways as the Church is too quick to condemn others. A survey of non-Christians finds that 87% of them believe the Church is too judgmental.[5] Jeff expresses a common sentiment by saying, "Christians talk about hating sin and loving sinners, but the way they go about things, they might as well call it what it is. They hate the sin and the sinner."[6] Suggestions for creating dialogue include: 1. Listen to the other side before speaking, in other words, be willing to dialogue., 2. Don't label individuals., 3. Don't be a know it all., 4. Be empathetic., 5. Be genuine., and 6. Be friendly without preconceived motives.[7]

3. Too accepting of post-modern philosophy - By far the most dangerous philosophy of post-modernism is the "rejection of objective truth."[8] If truth is not objective then it is up to community or individuals to construct their own truth. So, what may be true for me, may not be true for you. This view is know as relativism. The bible presents itself as a grand meta-narrative. A grand meta-narrative would be an all encompassing view that the whole of the bible is objectively true and speaks of necessary truth for all humans. Unfortunately, this view that truth is relative is being accepted by some in the Church today, more specifically with a movement called the "Emergent Church." Not all who belong to this movement would espouse the view of post-modern relativism, but a segment exists, none the less, that seems to adhere to post-modern philosophy. If truth is relative to individuals or cultures, then ultimately the bible as God's word can't be trusted.

2. Idol worship - As the saying goes, "The more things change, the more they stay the same." Today's Western culture is saturated with idols, they may not be the personal idols of old, but idol worship continues even within God's church. Herber Schlossberg wrote an excellent book describing the problem of idol worship within the American Church called, Idols for Destruction.[9] In his book, he lists five categories of idol worship: 1. Idols of humanity, 2. Idols of Mammon, 3. Idols of nature, 4. Idols of power, and 5. Idols of religion. The over arching problem with idol worship is that it promotes humans as gods. God no longer receives the the place that he rightfully deserves. Schlossberg says, "Humanitarianism was the term originally applied to the followers of a group of eighteenth-century theologians who affirmed the humanity but denied the deity of Christ. It was later used when speaking of the Religion of Humanity, and it carries the subsidiary meaning of the worship of the human race."[10] Today's idols are wreaking havoc on the American Church, from pornography, to an increased appetite for money and power. Schlossberg adds that, "the anarchy of humanism (ultimately) brings enslavement"[11] ; enslavement not just to the individual, but enslavement of the church to the world.

1. Spectators - From my viewpoint as a pastor, the American Church is far too apathetic and willing to participate only as spectators. Not all American Christians are like this, but many are far too willing to sit on the sidelines as opposed to following the great commission. Part of the problem is that pastors are simply not disciplining and training the church in a proper way, but again, there seems to be a spirit of apathy within the Church. Other problems that exist could be strongholds of Satan that the local church needs to be in prayer about, or possibly the Church in America is just too comfortable in its lifestyle to get involved in the Lord's work. From my perspective, much of the problem lies on an individual mindset within the Church that sees the Church as a ticket booth. Some see the Church as their way of punching a heavenly ticket and nothing more. Jesus said "Go and make disciples," not, "Come to church." The principle problem with the broken Western Church is that we have forgotten our mission here on earth. Christianity, rightly defined, is an action word, and not as many would have it being, just operating as a club for members to act as spectators only.

Not all is bad with the Church in the West or America. The United States has always been at the forefront of helping others around the world. The United States has also provided the world with an abundance of missionaries worldwide, and as a result, the Church is growing at its fastest rate ever[12], due in part to the efforts of Christians in America with God's help. The Church in the West, with all of its problems has done and continues to do much good.

The ten problems listed are by no means exhaustive. Many would not rank them in order as I presented. This is not meant to be a bashing of God's Church, but a realization that if we don't address these problems, the Church of the West will be further weakened. God's Church will survive and thrive until His return as promised by Jesus, " I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. (Matt. 16:18)" Finally, as Christians we all need to remember the advise of the Hebrew writer, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2);" for when we do so the Church will truly see with clarity the task of the bridegroom (John 3:29).

[1] Kinnaman, David and Gabe Lyons, Unchristian, p. 41
[2] Ibid, p. 48
[3] Plantinga, Cornelius, Not The Way It's Supposed To Be, p. 12
[4] Hunter, James as quoted in Not The Way It's Supposed To Be, preface-p. x
[5] Kinnaman, David and Gabe Lyons, Unchristian, p. 182
[6] Ibid, p. 181
[7] Ibid, p. 194-95
[8] Moreland, J.P., Kingdom Triangle, p. 67
[9] Schlossberg, Herbert, Idols for Destruction
[10] Ibid, p. 51
[11] Ibid, p. 87
[12] Ibid, Moreland, p. 166-68


failedatheist said...

Great article, however I simply don't agree with point 10 regarding tithing. Tithing doesn't change the heart, anyone can give 10% what matters is understanding good stewardship taught in the NT, IE that 100% of what you have is Gods not that 90% is yours.

May I ask why do you teach your congregation to tithe but not stone adulterers since they are both part of the 613 Mosaic laws? Yes I know that Pagan tithed even before the Mosaic law but they also had multiple wives etc but we wouldn't argue for Christians to do that. Malachi 3 is one of the most abused and misused chapters in the Bible, and I speak from experience. I do give as-well, usually around 10% sometimes more sometimes a little less but I am under no obligation to tithe just like as I'm not expected to be circumsized as a non-Jew. Sorry for the long comment just interested to see how someone who is interested in Apologetics would defend modern-day tithing bearing in mind that it is nothing like OT Biblical tithing.


Shelby Cade said...

Hi Dan,

You make an excellent point, tithing does not change the heart. In reality, all belongs to God. The point I was trying to make is some in the Church are so consumed with money that they feel that nothing belongs to God. Tithing is biblical (see 1 Corinthians 16:1-2, 1 Timothy 5:16, Ephesians 4:28) but it in no way is requirement for heaven.

As a pastor, I see many who just go through the motions and think nothing of giving to support the works of the Church (missions, helping the poor, etc.). But again, as you stated, one could give 10% or more and still have a heart far from God.)

Andy Wrasman said...

I'm curious; have you read The Emerging Church by Dan Kimball? I really like his approach and understanding to the "emerging church". From what I understand, he doesn't throw away absolute truth and actually encourages more teaching of absolute truth in the emerging culture. He shows that postmodernism has effected more aspects of culture than just absolute truth and so if the church is only functioning in a modern mindset the church will miss connecting with the postmodern group.

I've also heard though that some in the group that calls themselves emerging have now gone astray into the problem you are mentioning, as well as many Christians (which I think is a sign of the shifting times from modernism into postmodernism).

Andy Wrasman said...

Oh, but, BTW I think this list is really good for many of us to hear. It's very convicting.

Anonymous said...

That about sums it up.