Yesterday, I began a two-part series looking at six things the American Church is doing right. In the day since I posted the first part, I’ve added one more positive I feel needs to be listed, so the total now comes to seven.
So without further delay, four more things the American Church is doing right:
4. Addressing major American social ills positively
Much has been made of the culture wars, and there are good people on both sides of the engagement/disengagement battle. Yet no matter how much we shy away from discussing whether Christians should be engaging in those skirmishes, the reality is that some of our American social ills would be far worse if Christians weren’t out on the front lines.
Roe vs. Wade decriminalized murder in America. Christians were asleep at their posts in the early Seventies when this horror was enacted, but if not for Christians working hard against abortion since then, millions more human beings never would have been. Crisis Pregnancy Centers operated by churches and other Christian organizations have saved countless babies. Many mothers who were considering abortion ultimately found Christ through the ministrations of dedicated Christian workers. No matter where we stand on fighting culture wars, fighting against the abortion mills has reaped rewards. Just ask someone saved from being aborted how important it was that Christians got involved.
Other areas have seen Christians move in and bring life-altering aid. In a culture that lives to shop, millions of Americans have dug themselves a financial hole. God honors hilarious giving, but not ridiculous consumption. Many have been rescued from financial ruin by churches and individual Christians who stepped in as financial mentors and worked alongside the nearly bankrupt to pay off their debt in a responsible manner. That may not seem like much, but to a person buried under a mountain of credit card debt, having that free help might be the only thing that keeps some folks from homelessness.
At a time when nearly everyone in America has heard the Gospel, but fewer have seen it in action, Christians working to be salt and light in a dying culture have affected countless people. That’s impossible to write off.
5. Developing new evangelistic methodologies
As I just wrote, I’m of the firm belief that everyone in this country has heard the name of Jesus and had some minor education (whether wrong or right) in the Faith. This makes our situation today totally unlike that of Paul’s day, when no one outside of Jerusalem had heard the name of Jesus.
I believe this saturation has put us into a mopping-up mode when it comes to evangelism. People have heard some parts of the Gospel, but what they’re not seeing is us Christians truly live it out.
My former pastor, Steve Sjogren, has pioneered manystrategies for helping Christians put their walk where their talk is. While these methodologies cannot substitute for the Spirit of God bringing conviction into a sinner’s life, they create enough cognitive dissonance to blast through the walls people have erected against hearing the true Gospel. People can rail against talk, but seeing Christians actually living out their faith by serving others can’t be argued against. Christian scholars have definitively shown that one of the reasons the early Church grew exponentially in Rome was because Christians tended the sick when no one else in Roman society dared even touch them. People saw that and took notice.
No, I am not for many of the evangelistic ideas that many are championing that make concessions to worldliness, gutting the Gospel message and substituting nonsense. But serving others in a way that lives what we believe isn’t nonsense. It’s what we need to be doing—and fortunately, many are.
6. Rediscovering experiential faith
I know I’ll be branded a postmodern acolyte for writing this, but I’ve honestly thought that the Church in this country has been too rational and cerebral. I run across so many Christians who treat Jesus Christ as a theoretical rather than someone to be known as a real person. The Bible is the document of experiential faith, yet so many Christians are living out a set of beliefs rather than a real relationship with the Lord of the Universe.
This has been slowly changing in the last twenty years, a good thing, if you ask me. More and more Christians have a hunger for God, not being satisfied with being told about Him, but actually encountering Him themselves. In a way, this is a repeat of what happened during the Reformation. It’s what’s been happening in non-Western countries for a while now. I believe it’s one of the many reasons that non-Western Christians are so vital.
Now it’s coming to America.
And yes, it can be a bad thing if we jettison all common sense in search of experiences. Truthfully, some of the experiential bent needs to be reined in or tempered with the intellect. I’d be a fool to claim otherwise. The pendulum has moved the other way, and has, of course, overshot the blessed middle tension between experience and intellect.
Still, I’m hopeful that it won’t perpetually stay at either extreme.
7. Understanding that the Spirit of God is moving
Though I thoroughly endorse the charismata and will be seen by many to be a charismatic, I don’t jump on “fresh move of the Spirit” bandwagons. Folks in charismatic and Pentecostal realms have been claiming a fresh wind of the Spirit is just around the corner since…well, since Azusa Street. Needless to say, that’s been a hundred years now.
But I’m seeing real signs that the Spirit of God is moving, and sources not usually given over those proclamations are, too. People are tiring of the Joel Osteen flavor of “Christianity”; they aren’t satisfied with feel-good pseudo-Christianity anymore. They want meat. And God will give them meat if they repent and cleave to Him.
Many of the pseudo-Christian fads foisted off on unsuspecting Christians have been weighed in the scale and found wanting. People who got burned once aren’t willing to rush into the next fad quite so easily. They’re looking for honesty before God. And God will honor that kind of desire in people who truly seek Him transparently.
Aslan is on the move, as it was once said. I think that’s happening right now. We need to be prepared when God moves.
Those are my seven things the American Church is doing right.
What are yours?