Reformation & The American Church

I’m not so sure Christianity is dying; so much as only a certain kind of Christianity is dying. The kind of Christianity I’m referring to is the American kind of Christianity.

Some might know it as Evangelicalism others might have seen it in their mainline denominations, either way, or either form of tradition, American Christianity is nearing its end, it’s quickly losing its power, it’s steam, and it’s appeal.

This politically charged, fundamentalist, religious right is fading out. It’s no longer the bandwagon to jump on. Quite honestly, I don’t think that’s bad. Though Mark Driscoll would disagree as he writes in his upcoming book, A Call To Resurgence: Will Christianity Have A Funeral or A Future?:

“Christians are ostracized. Gay marriage is celebrated. Abortion is literally destroying an entire generation. The bandwagon has stopped carrying us and has started running over us. The church is dying, and no one is noticing because we’re wasting time criticizing rather than evangelizing.”

I want to be clear, I agree, to a large part, with what he’s acknowledging, but from a far different perspective. What I think he’s missing is that the Church is not dying, it’s only his version of Church that’s dying, and it’s not that we’re not noticing, it’s that many of us are hoping the ship will sink faster.

For instance when he says that, “Christian’s are ostracized,” I’m not sure it’s that, so much as it is that the fundamentalist religious right is being ignored. We’re tired of arguing over ordeals (homosexuality and abortion) that Jesus never mentioned, focusing on creating political agendas that quite frankly oppress rather than free…

So as American Evangelical pastors are shouting from inside the four walls of their church, “The Church is dying, and no one is noticing because we’re wasting time criticizing rather than evangelizing…”

We’re shouting:

People are dying (literally), and yes, you are wasting your time criticizing and politicizing while we have left Sunday morning programs to focus in on evangelizing (that being serving, loving, and caring for the poor, powerless, and oppressed).”

People have slowly but steadily caught on to the fact that what we’re teaching, preaching, and living within our churches is a sham. It’s a false doctrine. It’s not Christianity. We’re seeing that biblically Jesus is not a God of oppression, but rather one of liberation (Galatians 5:1).

We begin to read the bible and discover that the same Jesus found in the New Testament is rarely found within our American Churches. We begin to see that, though Sunday morning programs are not bad, it is bad when Sunday morning programs become the whole of your faith and walk with Christ. It is in fact terrible, when our tithes, go first towards a building project, and only later (if at all) towards the poor and needy.

Theologically and practically speaking, we’re beginning to notice that this Americanized version of Christianity is more closely centered on us than it is on Christ.

So we’re not walking away from Christianity; many of us are simply realizing that what we grew up in might not have ever actually been Christianity. We do not want to destroy or abolish the Church and it’s institution, we simply want to reform the Church and it’s institution. 

It seems the only two types not openly willing to accept this are:

  1. Those who have thrived, or are currently thriving off of careers from American Christianity.
  2. And Those who have never read the bible, yet attend these country clubs churches.

Again, I want to be clear, my goal is NOT to destroy the Church; I am dedicated to serving the Church for the entirety of my life. I am simply seeking a reformation of the Church.

The Church is not dying it’s thriving. I truly, whole-heartedly believe that the Spirit of God is stirring in our Western Church more than it has in the last 50 years – but you know how the saying goes… “Sometimes things have to get worse in order for them to get better.” 

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Jerry Roller

    Well said. A conversation I recently had with a “christian” on Disqus illustrated every point in your article. Of course, it will go over his head and, if he reads it he will probably be submitting his self-righteous and pompous objections, including questioning your Christianity (which seems to be a popular, though thoroughly ineffective tactic used by some to disqualify your opinion) shortly.

    God Bless you for caring enough about the church to be join the chorus of remnant “voice(s) crying in the wilderness,.”

  • Jerry Roller

    Well said. A conversation I recently had with a “christian” on Disqus illustrated every point in your article. Of course, it will go over his head and, if he reads it he will probably be submitting his self-righteous and pompous objections, including questioning your Christianity (which seems to be a popular, though thoroughly ineffective tactic used by some to disqualify your opinion) shortly.

    God Bless you for caring enough about the church to be join the chorus of remnant “voice(s) crying in the wilderness,.”

  • http://andrewsteven.com andrewsteven

    I like this

  • http://andrewsteven.com andrewsteven

    I like this

  • Pastor_Cho

    Seminaries have failed in equipping and training. It’s time to look critically at how we got here.

  • Kevin

    To the contrary, SOME seminaries are failing. There are other, non-evangelical/conservative seminaries that are providing an excellent education and equipping potential pastors with the kind of reformed viewpoint being illustrated in this article.

  • Pastor_Cho

    Seminaries have failed in equipping and training. It’s time to look critically at how we got here.

  • Kevin

    To the contrary, SOME seminaries are failing. There are other, non-evangelical/conservative seminaries that are providing an excellent education and equipping potential pastors with the kind of reformed viewpoint being illustrated in this article.

  • Karen Slappey

    andy. thank you for articulating, so well, what i have been wrestling with for a while. this piece has been an encouragement to me. i just want to respond, though, to rev. cho, and suggest another aspect to where we find ourselves, today. as a seminarian(and obviously, i only attend one seminary, so i can only speak to my context), i find that i am being equipped to live out the mission of the church as mr. gill has described. somewhere, there is a disconnect between the classroom and the praxis in the congregations where i serve. i am learning about social justice and theodicy and biblical responses. i think the problem may lie within the realm of burn-out (which is a problem within seminaries with the ridiculous workload that can create work-a-holics). i have had this discussion with some of my classmates. some serve in parishes where the pastors have lost the will to fight against the political and institutional politics that suck the life out of clergy. some of them fear for their ordination and jobs if they buck the system regarding sexuality and other such issues with which certain denominations are still grappling. concomitant with the church in the west becoming less and less like ‘the church” is that the church has become about perpetuating itself as an institution.

  • Karen Slappey

    andy. thank you for articulating, so well, what i have been wrestling with for a while. this piece has been an encouragement to me. i just want to respond, though, to rev. cho, and suggest another aspect to where we find ourselves, today. as a seminarian(and obviously, i only attend one seminary, so i can only speak to my context), i find that i am being equipped to live out the mission of the church as mr. gill has described. somewhere, there is a disconnect between the classroom and the praxis in the congregations where i serve. i am learning about social justice and theodicy and biblical responses. i think the problem may lie within the realm of burn-out (which is a problem within seminaries with the ridiculous workload that can create work-a-holics). i have had this discussion with some of my classmates. some serve in parishes where the pastors have lost the will to fight against the political and institutional politics that suck the life out of clergy. some of them fear for their ordination and jobs if they buck the system regarding sexuality and other such issues with which certain denominations are still grappling. concomitant with the church in the west becoming less and less like ‘the church” is that the church has become about perpetuating itself as an institution.

  • Deana Nall

    Excellent article that I would love to share, except for the grammatical and punctuation errors. I’ll check back later!

  • JenellYB

    Ah, pass of the forest because of noticing a few imperfect leaves?

  • http://www.www.patheos.com/blogs/andygill/ Andy Gill

    haha, agh! I know, my apologies about the grammatical errors, grammar is 100% not my thing – :)

    (feel free to point out any grammatical errors in the future. Seriously, i appreciate all the help in that area I can get)

  • Deana Nall

    Excellent article that I would love to share, except for the grammatical and punctuation errors. I’ll check back later!

  • JenellYB

    Ah, pass of the forest because of noticing a few imperfect leaves?

  • http://www.www.patheos.com/blogs/andygill/ Andy Gill

    haha, agh! I know, my apologies about the grammatical errors, grammar is 100% not my thing – :)

    (feel free to point out any grammatical errors in the future. Seriously, i appreciate all the help in that area I can get)

  • Jonathon Edwards

    I wouldn’t be too quick to lay the “blame” for what’s happening at the feet of seminaries and clergy. I attended a great seminary that equipped me for ministry in the 21st Century and then got into the “field” only to discover that the only churches that were available were stuck in 1957. Or earlier. And no matter how hard I tried to share the amazing, liberating, wonderful theologies and ecclesiologies I had learned in seminary, the people in the pews just simply didn’t want to hear it. Despite dwindling numbers – of people and money – they were content to have the ship head for the iceberg, thank you very much, don’t bother me with your alarm bells. After 8 years, I walked away. I disagree with Andy on one point here: the institution is, in fact, dying. The Church as the Body of Christ, the faithful followers of Jesus, is eternal, but the institution is not. There will always be those who follow Jesus. There won’t always be an institutional structure among those followers and I think that’s what’s passing away. In many respects I think the institution, at least in Europe and North America, is like a zombie. It’s dead, it just won’t lay down. And unfortunately, there are a whole lot of faithful Jesus followers trapped inside that corpse thinking that it’s not what they signed up for.

  • JenellYB

    I very much agree, Jonathon. It is the PEOPLE. The CONGREGATIONS, the churched culture and the enculturated that populate it.

  • Jonathon Edwards

    I wouldn’t be too quick to lay the “blame” for what’s happening at the feet of seminaries and clergy. I attended a great seminary that equipped me for ministry in the 21st Century and then got into the “field” only to discover that the only churches that were available were stuck in 1957. Or earlier. And no matter how hard I tried to share the amazing, liberating, wonderful theologies and ecclesiologies I had learned in seminary, the people in the pews just simply didn’t want to hear it. Despite dwindling numbers – of people and money – they were content to have the ship head for the iceberg, thank you very much, don’t bother me with your alarm bells. After 8 years, I walked away. I disagree with Andy on one point here: the institution is, in fact, dying. The Church as the Body of Christ, the faithful followers of Jesus, is eternal, but the institution is not. There will always be those who follow Jesus. There won’t always be an institutional structure among those followers and I think that’s what’s passing away. In many respects I think the institution, at least in Europe and North America, is like a zombie. It’s dead, it just won’t lay down. And unfortunately, there are a whole lot of faithful Jesus followers trapped inside that corpse thinking that it’s not what they signed up for.

  • JenellYB

    I very much agree, Jonathon. It is the PEOPLE. The CONGREGATIONS, the churched culture and the enculturated that populate it.

  • W.K.M.

    American Christianity needs to die. It needs to be buried. While it is in the grave it needs to go down to Sheol and be purged from greed, materialism, manifest destiny, colonialism, racism, the heresy of the “prosperity” gospel, the gospel of bondage, and pride. Then, maybe God will raise it from the dead.

  • http://www.www.patheos.com/blogs/andygill/ Andy Gill

    I like when you said, “Then, maybe God will raise from the dead.”

    Well said.

  • W.K.M.

    American Christianity needs to die. It needs to be buried. While it is in the grave it needs to go down to Sheol and be purged from greed, materialism, manifest destiny, colonialism, racism, the heresy of the “prosperity” gospel, the gospel of bondage, and pride. Then, maybe God will raise it from the dead.

  • http://www.www.patheos.com/blogs/andygill/ Andy Gill

    I like when you said, “Then, maybe God will raise from the dead.”

    Well said.

  • Roger Glynn Richardson

    1 Corinthians 6:9
    Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men
    Ephesians 5:3
    But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.
    1 Timothy 1:10
    for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine
    Revelation 2:20
    Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.

  • JenellYB

    And just what does any of that have to do with the price of tea in China, anyway?

  • Shlomo evenheimer

    I see his point clearly. The author champions a more “biblical” version of Christianity, one that is not concerned with these pesky moral issues. Yet, the Bible (and Jesus) are very concerned with such moral issues. You can’t jettison concerns like sexual morality and abortion and have biblical Christianity at all. You can call that “reformed,” but it is really just classic liberalism, which is the form of Christianity in America which really has died.

  • buzzdixon

    You guys didn’t get the deck chairs all properly aligned. Now hurry before the ship sinks

  • http://www.www.patheos.com/blogs/andygill/ Andy Gill

    lol

  • JenellYB

    flying stray bible verses. Was just thinking about that very thing earlier today. What to make of it when someone just up out of nowhere throws out a bible verse or two or three that for any reasoning I can imagine, don’t seem to have anything to do with anything going on or being said or done at the moment. Weird.

  • Roger Glynn Richardson

    1 Corinthians 6:9
    Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men
    Ephesians 5:3
    But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.
    1 Timothy 1:10
    for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine
    Revelation 2:20
    Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.

  • JenellYB

    And just what does any of that have to do with the price of tea in China, anyway?

  • Shlomo evenheimer

    I see his point clearly. The author champions a more “biblical” version of Christianity, one that is not concerned with these pesky moral issues. Yet, the Bible (and Jesus) are very concerned with such moral issues. You can’t jettison concerns like sexual morality and abortion and have biblical Christianity at all. You can call that “reformed,” but it is really just classic liberalism, which is the form of Christianity in America which really has died.

  • buzzdixon

    You guys didn’t get the deck chairs all properly aligned. Now hurry before the ship sinks

  • http://www.www.patheos.com/blogs/andygill/ Andy Gill

    lol

  • JenellYB

    flying stray bible verses. Was just thinking about that very thing earlier today. What to make of it when someone just up out of nowhere throws out a bible verse or two or three that for any reasoning I can imagine, don’t seem to have anything to do with anything going on or being said or done at the moment. Weird.

  • Jill Jae

    Well said. <3

  • http://www.www.patheos.com/blogs/andygill/ Andy Gill

    Thanks Jill :)

  • Jamie Lam

    Hi Andy, thanks for this post. I’m glad you wrote but I kindly have to disagree.I’m an agnostic. I’m a singaporean, I grew up with a fundamentalist mom. I didn’t know that her fundamentalism, which was of course influenced by her church, which is influenced by the american fundamentalist scene. Until someone told me that the fundamentalism I known is from the american side, when I heard that , I thought that’s weird, I thought this kind of craziness is everywhere. Then I read and found out. Yeah its true. I’m pessimistic but hope you’re right.I hope those unreasonable fundamentalists are dying out, the future generation don’t need that.

  • http://www.www.patheos.com/blogs/andygill/ Andy Gill

    Hey Jamie! Thank you for your openness, and vulnerability, I’m not sure about the statistics over seas, but I do know that in the states, “conservative” Christianity is doing better out of the more liberal Christianity (though arguably still not doing well). I think this post is less about a “fundamental” Christianity as it is about an american Christianity… (arguably there’s a ton of similarities – maybe i’ll write a post later on down the road on the differences)

  • Jamie Lam

    Hi Andy, thanks for this post. I’m glad you wrote but I kindly have to disagree.I’m an agnostic. I’m a singaporean, I grew up with a fundamentalist mom. I didn’t know that her fundamentalism, which was of course influenced by her church, which is influenced by the american fundamentalist scene. Until someone told me that the fundamentalism I known is from the american side, when I heard that , I thought that’s weird, I thought this kind of craziness is everywhere. Then I read and found out. Yeah its true. I’m pessimistic but hope you’re right.I hope those unreasonable fundamentalists are dying out, the future generation don’t need that.

  • http://www.www.patheos.com/blogs/andygill/ Andy Gill

    Hey Jamie! Thank you for your openness, and vulnerability, I’m not sure about the statistics over seas, but I do know that in the states, “conservative” Christianity is doing better out of the more liberal Christianity (though arguably still not doing well). I think this post is less about a “fundamental” Christianity as it is about an american Christianity… (arguably there’s a ton of similarities – maybe i’ll write a post later on down the road on the differences)

  • buzzdixon

    Similar thots have crossed my mind in recent days as well…
    http://buzzdixon.com/buzz-dixon/the-church-the-church-and-the-social-club/

  • buzzdixon

    Similar thots have crossed my mind in recent days as well…
    http://buzzdixon.com/buzz-dixon/the-church-the-church-and-the-social-club/

  • FrZeile

    Your theology is suspiciously convenient for the 21st Century, embracing liberal causes while condemning conservative causes. Yes, you will go far as you leave all that embarrassing fundamentalist belief far behind. You can affirm that God is at work in changing mores, liberating people from obligations they find onerous, like tithing, chastity, and worship, in favor of helping the poor in common with Hollywood types who also have their favored charities. When you find the World, the Flesh and the Devil have invaded the Church, do you conclude that there is no difference between the Church and the World?

  • AtalantaBethulia

    Jesus made the marginalized of his day the hero in his parables. He challenged the pious and criticized hypocrites and the self-righteous for focussing on the letter of the law while ignoring the spirit. The Prophets of the Old Testament were murdered for challenging the status quo. Those that have ears let them hear.

  • chitox

    Yeah, you’re right. I should totally “show” people the kind of love where you either blindly agree with any theological point or block them from the discussion. Great example.

  • AtalantaBethulia

    I believe perhaps that you posted this on another thread by mistake.

    Blindly agreeing is not the goal.
    Sandboxes where people don’t throw sand are much nicer to play in.

  • FrZeile

    Your theology is suspiciously convenient for the 21st Century, embracing liberal causes while condemning conservative causes. Yes, you will go far as you leave all that embarrassing fundamentalist belief far behind. You can affirm that God is at work in changing mores, liberating people from obligations they find onerous, like tithing, chastity, and worship, in favor of helping the poor in common with Hollywood types who also have their favored charities. When you find the World, the Flesh and the Devil have invaded the Church, do you conclude that there is no difference between the Church and the World?

  • AtalantaBethulia

    Jesus made the marginalized of his day the hero in his parables. He challenged the pious and criticized hypocrites and the self-righteous for focussing on the letter of the law while ignoring the spirit. The Prophets of the Old Testament were murdered for challenging the status quo. Those that have ears let them hear.

  • chitox

    Yeah, you’re right. I should totally “show” people the kind of love where you either blindly agree with any theological point or block them from the discussion. Great example.

  • AtalantaBethulia

    I believe perhaps that you posted this on another thread by mistake.

    Blindly agreeing is not the goal.
    Sandboxes where people don’t throw sand are much nicer to play in.

  • Misty Rhett

    I completely agree with you and am VERY happy to have found this! It is almost as if the church has forgotten why we say “God is good”….

  • Misty Rhett

    I completely agree with you and am VERY happy to have found this! It is almost as if the church has forgotten why we say “God is good”….

  • Mathew

    Something Jesus said – “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.
    “But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!” Matthew 5:17-20
    The challenge to us all is how much are we prepared to wrap our entire lives, including what we aim for, what we think and what we do around our Father and the Son He gave to save us. It seems that too often our expectation is that He should be wrapped around us. This equally applies to the prosperity preachers who talk about blessings at the expense of His mercy and justice and to those who speak of His mercy without the need for His redemption from sin and the destructive influences of this fallen world.

  • Mathew

    Something Jesus said – “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.
    “But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!” Matthew 5:17-20
    The challenge to us all is how much are we prepared to wrap our entire lives, including what we aim for, what we think and what we do around our Father and the Son He gave to save us. It seems that too often our expectation is that He should be wrapped around us. This equally applies to the prosperity preachers who talk about blessings at the expense of His mercy and justice and to those who speak of His mercy without the need for His redemption from sin and the destructive influences of this fallen world.

  • Virginia

    I left the church years ago for the reasons you mention in this blog. I really appreciate that you are writing about this and I hope you get many readers! Thank you for this work.

  • Virginia

    I left the church years ago for the reasons you mention in this blog. I really appreciate that you are writing about this and I hope you get many readers! Thank you for this work.