How Did We Get Here?

After seven cancer surgeries and two heart attacks – I’m an old man who has nothing to lose by speaking his mind.  It would mean a lot to me for some of you to respond…

It’s my view that the average person attending the average church today is simply lost.  I recently asked a pastor friend of a large church to estimate the percentage of his people he thought were actually saved.  He guessed about 25% were true Christians.

Denny McClain was the last MLB pitcher to win 30 games in one season (1968).  He was washed up and on his way to prison by age 29.  Before sentencing the judge asked if he wanted to say anything.  McClain said, “Yeah, I don’t know how you get from where I was to where I am.”

1968 (McClain’s big year) was the year my wife and I started attending a church.  Many of us are asking McClain’s question.  How did we get here?

I observe that many who are actually Christians have stalled at John 3:16.  The writer to the Hebrews (6:1-2) says, “Therefore leaving the elementary teaching… let us press on to maturity…”  The problem is not that most church members have failed to get pastthe elementary teachings… but rather that they have not gotten to them yet.

Although expository preaching seems to be making a comeback, it is still true that the average sermon is a topical or light evangelistic message.  Anything that might offend or drive away a visitor is avoided.  It’s apparently better to have lost people in your church than to have them remain lost outside the church.  As I see it, either way they stay lost.  The cross is a stumbling block – as is the exclusivity of Christianity.  To vigorously affirm that Jesus is the only way (as well as a host of other statements) may reduce your crowd.  For some church planters it is a price they are willing to pay to fill a few more seats.

Major cultural negatives are often unaddressed.  Pornography is ubiquitous .  It is killing our young people – a majority of whom leave the church when they leave home.  Pornography is Achan’s gold under the tent in the church. Not my church; not your church, but THE Church.  This is not just a regional problem.  I have dealt with church planters in 48 States.  Brothers we don’t have to be a large church, but we do have to be a pure one.

We now have a generation of people filtering through our churches who are more likely to have parents who are divorced; mothers who work outside their homes, and fathers who struggle with pornography.  So kids are under pressure from dysfunctional families, epidemic drug use, radical leftist school teachers, and a popular culture where every movie or TV program they watch has the main characters sleeping together.

I am frustrated by the state of the country and the church.  I believe the degeneration of the country has its roots in the spiritual poverty of the churches.  Gallop says that about 40% of Americans (@125 million) attend weekly church services. If only half of these people were real Christians you could not be elected to a National or State office without our approval.  So those numbers can’t be right.

One very dismal observation…  No country that once had a Christian consensus – and lost it – has ever regained it.  Britain, France, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, and Spain once maintained strong public support for Christianity in some form.  Today, none of them give more than lip service to Christ.  Can we be far behind them?  C. H. Spurgeon spent much of the end of his life reproving what he called a “Downgrade” in the British church.  Within 125 years of his remarks UK church attendance has gone from 90% to now 3%.

My heart is broken for the church I love.  I know that God can work at the late hour.  But history’s lessons are painful here.  If there is to be another reformation it will have to be soon.  Regretfully, however, there are no Luthers or Calvins of whom I am aware to lead this movement.  Some of the most popular pastors in the US today have become so by diluting their message to appeal to the masses – so they can have a larger group of lost people in their buildings than their competitors.

The Church’s center of gravity has at one time or another been in the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, the UK, and America.  The next stop will very likely be China or South Korea.  The faith is expanding rapidly in both of those areas.  I’m told there are more Bible believing Christians in China today than the US.  “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.”  (John 3:8)  We will see.

I am at the tail end of my life and career in church planting.  May God lift up mighty men who will unashamedly start churches that will declare the whole council of God, keep themselves from the contamination of the flesh that is so readily accessible, and inflame our Nation with Name of Jesus.  My friends, there is no other tonic for 21stcentury America.  When blowing up a balloon, every child knows when it’s stretched thin and about to explode.  Can we not all see that the American church is like that balloon… large, but in too many cases just full of air and about to pop?  Can we agree that the size of a balloon doesn’t matter if it’s just filled with air?

I know this was too long.  Thanks for indulging one old man’s ruminating.  I really love you guys.  Do right.  Develop devotional intensity.  If you are the one harboring Achan’s gold dig it up and get rid of it.