Traffic was bad as we navigated the freeways of Central Texas on a, particularly stormy day. We were trying to get to a tea house where my young friend and I would celebrate her high school graduation and her upcoming journey with YWAM. Along the way, she asked THE QUESTION that has been well visited by nearly every Christian leader this century.
“What do you think is the biggest problem in the American Christian Church today?”
In an effort to give myself time to think and of course, be a good mentor, I deflected the question back to her… “What do you think the primary problem is?”
We spent our time together that day chewing on good food and this insurmountable problem. We discussed the usual issues like, a push toward performance-based worship, lack of community connection, the pain caused by individuals going on mission unprepared, lack of honest, open communication, loss of spiritual disciplines, individuals and families finding more community at fitness and sports clubs than their local church and the church’s “rejection” of individuals living an ‘alternative’ lifestyle. As we dug a little deeper into the heart of these very real challenges, we discovered they were all attached to one specific root. A root issue so deeply ingrained into our U.S. culture that it is incredibly difficult to separate where it ends and Western Christian culture begins. It’s what makes us a STRONG nation and why so many people from around the world risk everything to become one of us.
In the US we pride ourselves in the belief that anyone with a good work ethic will be “SUCCESSFUL." We have a deep belief in the “you got this” mentality of we are the best.
We hear in nearly every State of the Union Address — “The State of the Union is STRONG."
We see it on the T-ball field as parents prod their children on with a belief that they start young enough, train hard enough, pay the right trainers, and sacrifice all their free time their child could MAKE IT!
We feel it in church on Sunday when the worship pastor flawlessly leads us through an experience that leaves us excited and empowered. Their transitions were seamless, the slides were on point, the songs built on each other perfectly and created a POWERFUL worship experience.
It’s this deep sense of pride and the love for achieving the “Bigger and Better” dream that truly has made America great, right? But how does this same belief impact the church?
I wonder if, in an effort to make sure the local church is effectively using resources and manpower to "be the body", we are counting our weekly salvations, tithes, attendance, small group participation, life transformations, prayer team engagements, those filled with the Spirit, and the number of missionaries we are sending out and what kind of impact they are making on the world. I once served as a lay leader for a church which took time each week to look at these kinds of things. We called the recording of these facts WGW (Watching God Work) sheets. Don’t get me wrong, I do think we as a church need some way to discern where we are going as a community. But I wonder if we’ve taken it too far…..
About 20 years ago a famous evangelical pastor utilized a saying by President Bill Clinton and coined the term, “It’s all about Sunday, stupid." For about 2 decades now many pastors have operated from this ideology — if we want to see the church grow and be impactful we must “ACE” Sunday mornings. This formula has worked for mega churches who can afford to pay childcare staff, professional musicians, and develop a strong technology teams. Unable to keep up, small community churches are closing their doors and becoming community theaters or gyms. While the megachurch continues to grow and, in true American fashion, are streamlining programs like discipleship, children’s ministry, and missions/outreach into well-oiled machines. Filled with efficiency and “success”, but lacking in depth. Which, in my opinion, has led to damaging the name of Jesus and the way the world views the western church.
Could our strength as a nation also be our greatest weakness as church? How do we confront this truth? You know my answer.... It starts with me and you pushing deep into the heart of God and living an Overflow Life. Because it is only in the Overflow Life that we are truly STRONG.