Recently a church in Eugene, Oregon has completely revamped their weekend services, with a huge campaign around their town to go with it. This church has decided that, in order to invite more people into their church, they are shortening their services and utilizing secular music from the likes of Katy Perry and Maroon 5 as part of their "worship" service. The pastor doesn't even seem to focus on preaching, but instead having a "conversation" with the congregation.
I do not intend for this to be a post bashing a certain church for what they have chosen to do. Instead, I hope that this serves as a diagnosis for the American church today. This sort of mindset, to certain degrees, is prevalent in many churches all throughout the States today. Unfortunately, most of these churches are the ones that are financially thriving and have megachurch-sized congregations.
You know why this is, right? Because these churches look just like the world.
The main problem in the American church is that we have sought so hard just to bring people in that we have forgotten the real reason why we want them there in the first place. The church ought to expose people to the Gospel that Jesus preached nearly 2000 years ago. But in many modern churches, the entire service is centered around entertaining those in attendance and telling them that they are just fantastic the way that they are.
Can I share something with you? I can legitimately say that I would not be here if it weren't for the fact that Christianity is the only religion in the world that reveals us as we truly are. My father came to faith in Christ while he was in high school, after realizing that all other religions portrayed a false image of humanity. Only the Christian faith shows us for who we are: broken beings without an ounce of good within us on our own. If my dad had never come to that realization, he probably would've never married my mom, and my brother and I would not be here. And that is why my parents exposed me to the truth of the Gospel very early in life, so that I might come to the same revelation that I am nothing on my own.
The reason the Church can meet and share life together in the way that it does is because of our mutual realization of our brokenness, and the saving work of Christ on the cross. His death paid the price necessary for our sin, and His resurrection proved to us that the debt is paid in full. When we realize our total depravity and repent of our sin nature to the Father, we share in the grace bestowed through the cross and the empty grave.
These days, however, churches all over the United States are watering down the Gospel so that people do not see themselves as the utterly sinful human beings that they are. Nobody likes talking about sin. This church in Oregon is revamping their services so that they will not focus on sin as much. The problem is, when you stop talking about sin, two things happen. First, the Gospel of grace loses its power. If we really aren't that bad, ten why did God have to send His Son to die for us? Secondly, it causes the church to lose sight of the sins they are committing every day. We talk about sin in the church to remind ourselves from what we have been saved and to warn against sinful tendencies within the church.
The gospel of basically good people really appeals to the world because it means that they don't really have to do anything different. Then the world begins to permeate how the church works, and soon the church has no distinction from the rest of the world. They are not shining the light of the glory of Christ into a darkened world; they have snuffed out their candle.
But here's the best news -- all hope is not lost.
The Gospel is counter-cultural, because the culture is utterly immersed in sin. James says it best when he writes, "Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?" (James 4:4) We do not have to stoop to the level of the culture to draw them in; by doing so we only make ourselves enemies of God. By shining the light of the true Gospel, people will see the difference. It will intrigue them more than the church that caters to their every needs; they can get that treatment anywhere.
The Church must choose its side. We must decide where our loyalties truly lie. Will we cater to the culture, or will we stand out as a light for the Gospel? "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Joshua 24:15).
(Afterword: I do not mean that the church should always talk about sin, because that can be a major stumbling block as well in the life of the church. All I am saying is that we cannot forget or choose not to acknowledge the full potency of sin that is still raging within us. The moment we forget or ignore who our enemy is, we have lost the battle.)
A simple servant of the Master.