The church today appears to be more lost than the world it’s trying to save. One reason is that the church has so wedded itself to western culture that Christians today look and live more like the culture around them than the Christ before them. The irony is, while the church almost continually rants against the culture, it has in fact embraced it, as well as its values.
For example, what difference do you see between the values on Wall Street and those on Church Street? There is no difference. In both, there’s an obsession with money, wealth, and the symbols of power and success – they go by different names, but it’s the same obsessions.
There is a surplus of preachers today defending and preaching a gospel of prosperity. While they live in palaces themselves, their subjects, known as church members and television audiences, make personal sacrifices to enable them to do so. It is madness but it’s happening in spite of the fact that their spiritual leader said, “Foxes have holes, birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Explain that anomaly to me. Further, in the last decade alone, churches in America have spent billions and billions on buildings even as 400 million people have starved to death.
And, what of the sex scandals? Almost daily now, you’ll read or hear about the church condemning gays and lesbians and doing everything within their legal power to drive them back into a closet. And this while hiding clergy pedophiles in their own closets.
But, there’s more. In the last several decades, the church has become insanely obsessed with what I call the “We’re right, you’re wrong” syndrome. Listen to almost any Christian or church leader and about all you hear anymore is that “We’re different,” by which, they really mean, “We’re right, everyone else is wrong.” “We’re in, they’re out!” “We’re God’s chosen ones, they’re not!”
The consequence of this madness has been disagreement, debate, and eventual division. Wouldn’t that describe much of Christian history? Today, for instance, there are more than 20,000 different Christian groups, each obsessed with its version of truth, believing that its beliefs are just a little more “right” than the beliefs of 19,999 others. Tell me this is not madness!
What the church has forgotten is that its purpose is not unlike the purpose in any religion – and, that purpose is to make God known. That’s it. Nothing more; nothing less. But, instead of staying with this purpose, the history of the church has been to argue, debate, defend, and, until recently when laws were enacted to limit the powers of the church, it was not uncommon for the church to persecute and kill anyone who disagreed with its doctrines, dogmas, and declarations. In this regard, the history of Christianity is not entirely unlike the radical fundamentalism we encounter in some Islamic groups today.
So, the bottom line is this: Until the church and indeed all religions, return to their central purpose—to make God known, the church will continue to be marginalized and eventually disregarded and ignored altogether. Many churches have achieved that status already. And, strangely, the only people who don’t seem to know this are Christians themselves. They think they’re still a vital voice across the cultural landscape. What they do not know is that today, the church is little more than a faint whimper in an urban forest.