My wife came to me today with some very deep questions, that spawned a conversation about the modern Church in America and how it compares with the early Church in the New Testament.
This conversation really affected me on a deep spiritual level and led me to write this article. What has become of the Christian Church in America today? Is it truly a reflection of what God expected His Church to be when Jesus ascended to his throne almost 2,000 years ago?
Let us compare the two side by side and see if they line up with one another. Church for the vast majority of Christians in America consists of a visit to a particular building every Sunday morning. During this “worship service” some common practices include: Shaking hands and greeting/socializing with other Christians, group prayer, listening to a sermon by a Pastor, singing Hymns or contemporary Christian songs and partaking in communion, Baptisms, invitationals, offerings and other ceremonies. Generally a Sunday Church service lasts between 1-1.5 hours.
The hard truth of the matter is that for most of these Christians, that is the extent of their spiritual walk with God. After that one hour in Church they go back to their lives Monday through Saturday, and sadly many lead completely different lives than the Sunday version of themselves. Is this the Church that God wants? Is this the same Church that was responsible for Christianity exploding on the scene in the first Century?
For answers to these questions we have to go back to the beginning when Jesus left the Apostles with some very specific instructions before his ascension.
Luke 24:46-48 (NKJV)
46 Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 And you are witnesses of these things.”
Through just those eleven men the Holy Spirit was able to spread the Gospels to every nation on Earth, across every continent and throughout thousands of years winning countless souls. Did they have their time of worship? Singing songs and giving praise in the synagogues and temples? Of course they did! But what they did between worship services is what made all the difference.
So what’s the difference?
If we look at the Apostles we find men that spent three years of their lives in the first and greatest Christian Bible school that ever existed. Their Professor was Jesus Christ Himself and he personally taught them everything they needed to know to “go out and make Disciples of ALL Nations”.
They walked with Jesus, listened to His lessons, watched him perform countless miracles and then passionately led others the same way. This is what Discipleship is all about. Preparing others to go out into the world and boldly proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To give them the knowledge they need to answer the tough questions and live as an example so that they can emulate your behavior.
When I look at the American Christian Church I do not see true Discipleship being fostered within its ranks. In fact, very few American Churchgoers have even a basic understanding of Bible Doctrines. The other key area lacking in Americanized Christianity is a “sense of urgency.”
Let us go back to the first century again, just after Jesus ascended into Heaven right in front of the Apostle’s eyes. Did they have a sense of urgency? Or did they all go home and take a nap before dinner? Jesus promised them that He would return and they would not know the hour of His coming. So they went to work, and look at the explosion of the early church that followed… even as they all faced persecution and certain death for spreading the Gospel.
Contrast their attitudes with the modern church and what do you find? Stark differences. Many people believe that if they just go about their business and live their lives in a Christ-like fashion, they have done their part. That their “walk” will be noticed by others and change the lives of the countless people they interact with. There may be some truth in these thoughts, but at the end of the day we must always ask ourselves… are we pleasing God?
There is a common word used to describe Christians who go about their lives in this manner… “Lukewarm”. This is what Francis Chan wrote on the subject in Crazy Love:
“Lukewarm people think about life on earth much more often than eternity in heaven. Daily life is mostly focused on today’s to-do list, this week’s schedule and next month’s vacation. Rarely, if ever, do they intently consider the life to come.”
Of course, there are also warnings in scripture for the church that is lukewarm:
Revelation 3:15,16 (NKJV)
15 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.
This is a difficult truth to accept, especially as an Americanized Christian… but God needs us out in the world building His kingdom! I read somewhere that there are two types of Christians in the world… Missionaries and Impostors. Now I don’t agree with the simplistic nature of this idea, but in a broad sense it is true. We are ALL called to be missionaries in one sense or another. I used to think that just living my life was witness enough… but the more I grow in Christ the more I learn to acknowledge that He wants a whole lot more out of us. He came to this earth and paid a great price for our salvation, we belong to HIM!
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I want to encourage you to take some time to reflect on your life and witness for God’s Kingdom. Are you more than just a Sunday Christian? Do you find yourself pondering eternity? How does it make you feel to imagine heaven? God has made us some amazing and unimaginable promises of the life to come, but right now, here on earth we have work to do.
Are you ready?