America's Church: Affecting or Infected?

America's Church:  Affecting or Infected?<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
By <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Lowell Scott
“All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord.” Proverbs 16:2
I really dislike going to the dentist’s office.  Nothing personal, I have a really kind, efficient and professional dentist with a great staff, I just dread going there. 
Maybe that is how non-believers feel about going to church, just not their idea of a good time. What’s a church to do?  They are lost out there in the world and we have what they need. We could go out there after them, but it really would be easier if we could just draw them in here somehow.  I know! Why don’t we become more like what they already have?  This is America after all and everyone knows that success is measured by growth.  What are the numbers, what must we do to get more to come, what must go, what do they want us to be, we can repackage the gospel of Jesus Christ – No problem.  It must be the organ, the choir robes, stained glass windows, the cross, pews, altars, or the traditional hymns that is keeping them from coming on in.   Our church is great, it is just, well, it is just too churchy.  No more scriptures on the sign out front, keep it cute and secular.
“Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that friendship of the world is enmity with God?  Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” James 4:4   
What?  Polling, focus groups, surveys reveal we are dull and boring.  Bring in the band; turn it up louder, LOUDER.  Where are those flashing lights?  Too theological?  Pastor, keep it short and positive.  You know practical application stuff and quit using those terms like sanctification, judgment, blood of the lamb, die daily to self, and take up your cross and follow me.  Matter of fact, do you have a more positive way of preaching about sin and eternal damnation? Never mind, just skip that part of the message.  IMAG’s, multiple video screens, stadium seating with cup holders, state of the art coffee shop, trendy bookstore, whatever they feel they have in the world and need in their church – let’s get it!
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.  If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of flesh, and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” 1st John 2:15-17
This is exactly what thousands of churches are doing all across America. They are driven by the purpose business model that has Pastors and their leadership searching for the latest and greatest ways to increase attendance.  After all, the experts say if your church is growing, God must be blessing it.  Really?  Is that how Jim Jones convinced 913 people to move from their church in San Francisco to Jonestown in the jungle of Guyana?  Was God really blessing his efforts right up till they drank the purple Kool-aid?  Growth is fine, but God is looking for spiritual growth not a number of tithing units.  We are instructed to go and make disciples not just converts, God desires holiness not happiness, repentance not recruitment, doers of the Word not just hearers.
“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Matthew 7:22-23
I have visited several churches that have bought into the church growth movement and honestly, they reminded me of my dentist’s office – pristine and sterile.  Smooth transition from parking lot to a padded seat, 20 minutes of sensual, happy-clappy music, void of doctrinal lyrics, a three point 26 minute positive life application message, 12 minutes of relation building small group opportunities and seamlessly back out to the car in under an hour.  Still plenty of time for the next crowd to arrive with ample parking available before another performance, I mean, service.  The staff was kind and efficient, the entire production was well organized and professional, but it was just that, a production.
“They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand.” Isaiah 44:18
It is not simply a question of traditional versus contemporary music that discerning saints are alarmed by.  It is the shift towards scripturally shallow teaching, stressing the comfortable, easy on the conscience, the emphasis on “felt needs” and unity, over the true Gospel that leads to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.  Unity, tolerance and diversity are lynchpins of humanistic multicultural groupthink and as we compromise with the world and try anything and everything to attain mega-church status, I wonder; is the church affecting our culture or is the culture infecting the church?
“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Matthew 7:13-14

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