I think the Christian church in America is in trouble.
While statistics always have variants, many show that some denominations are in dramatic decline while others, at best, are stagnant.
The reality is we may never know exactly why this is the case. If we don’t make any changes, however, I fear that in another generation or two Christianity in America could become a cultural relic of the past that holds very little significance in the present.
One of the problems I believe we are dealing with is that over the course of time, some lies have crept into our faith. Slowly, subtly, we grow to accept and believe them as if they are Gospel-truth. Give it enough time, and the entire group treats them as if they are Gospel-truth.
I believe these lies are part of what is killing the church.
While there are probably far more lies than I could ever imagine or identify, I’m going to be blogging my way through lies that I think are killing the church today. Here is the first, and perhaps one of the most deadly lies so much of the church believes:
LIE: Church is something you do on Sundays.
That thing you attend on Sundays? That’s not church– that’s a corporate worship service, and they are not the same thing. It is part of the thing, but not the thing itself.
Church wasn’t originally about corporate worship as much as it was about doing life together. It’s about community. Helping one another. Walking together through all of life’s ups and downs. In fact, the early church was so dedicated to this that they practically met daily– they needed each other.
They shared meals together. They prayed together. They talked about their days, celebrated in the beautiful moments, and uplifted one another during the hard moments. They were inseparable friends, because Church was designed to be a committed community.
In this way, “church” has nothing to do with a building, very little to do with a worship service on Sundays, but is actually more about having a circle of committed friends who are dedicated to walking through life, together. It’s about having a group of people in your life who you know will never leave you stranded and alone, no matter how hard life gets, or how badly you screw up.
But that’s not what we see in American culture today– at least, that is not the typical expression of church in America.
America today is an individualistic culture. We pride ourselves on individualism and self-reliance. We live lives that are very isolated from one another.
That is the opposite of church. Many Christians, dare I say most Christians in America, have bought into the cultural value of individualism and thus have no perceived need to be church or to do church, beyond something we do on Sundays.
For those of us who actually do crave church, we often struggle to find a circle of committed friends who are willing to commit to walking through life together and never leaving us stranded when life gets hard.
Occasionally we get a taste of this– we find groups that at least seem like they want to be community and do life together– but then find ourselves pushed out, left behind, emotionally abandoned, or sometimes outright shunned.
And truthfully? That’s more traumatic than never finding community in the first place.
In my case, it’s usually been because of Guns n’ Gays (shunning one but welcoming the other), but the reality is, many communities are formed around a commitment to shared belief and ideological purity, instead of a commitment to relationship. When the beliefs begin to shift or come into doubt, the commitment to actually being church ends and the relationships are severed.
If the church in America is to survive, we must repent of the lie that church is something that you do on Sundays.
That’s not church at all.
Church is having a group of committed friends who do life with you and won’t walk out on you when the going gets tough, or when you begin to ask questions about what you believe and why.
I pray, from the deepest parts of my heart, that true Church will come to America.
I desire this for so many reasons, form the theological to the practical.
But mostly, I pray for the Church to come to America because I ache for it and would really like to experience it.
Dr. Benjamin L. Corey is a public theologian and cultural anthropologist who is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with graduate degrees in the fields of Theology and International Culture, and holds a doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. He is also the author of the new book, Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, which is available wherever good books are sold. www.Unafraid-book.com.