I’ve been in ministry for a while now, and I’ve seen, really ever since I started, that the Western ‘brand’ of the Christian faith has been in trouble. This is because we have been struggling to come to grips with the end of ‘Christendom’ – that is, when the whole world was basically run by Christians, and all the laws were weighted in favour of us.
The situation has (drastically) reversed, and now many individual churches, and many Christians who still adhere to this sort of faith are not seeing any growth or impact. They are focussed on the wrong things, on trying to get back into power to legislate more Christian laws, to undo all of the evil, oppressive laws that the liberals have put in place. This is not how we as a Church are going to change the world anymore. Here are four reasons that I think the Western version of Christianity is in trouble, and some things that we might do to see it become more healthy.
A Private Faith
The first problem that we have with our faith is that we have accepted that it is a private faith. We believe the lie that we can separate our lives into a public life, and a private one. This is exemplified by the fact the you can have businessmen who are top CEOs and are trusted to run multi-billion dollar corporations, yet they are in massive debt personally. Or counsellors who are helping people to work on their marriage relationships while going through a divorce. Or public servants who are supposed to be model citizens who are cheating on their spouse with their intern. The examples abound. But this is because we have listened to the un-truth that what we doo behind closed doors, whilst no business of anyone else’s, also must stay there, and can’t be brought out into the public sphere.
The truth is that our faith recognises that there are no compartments to life, that ALL of life must be lived to honour King Jesus. That we cannot simply do the ‘Christian thing’ at home, and then act the same way that everyone else does. As a Christian doctor, we cannot go to church on Sunday and then perform and on-demand abortion on Monday. It doesn’t work like that. We can’t spend time in the Scripture at home, and then beat our wives, or abuse our children. We cannot live God’s way AND the world’s way, it doesn’t work. With Jesus it is all or nothing. There is no point in dancing around clapping and singing in church, declaring that we are going to reign with Jesus, and that we have the victory, then walking out the doors and living the same life, as if the whole nation around us understood and was Christian with us.
Lack of Bible Knowledge
Because we have accepted this idea that we can only really practice our faith in private, we have left the growth and development of our faith to something that we do on a Sunday. We only read our Bible on Sunday, when (or if) the preacher speaks from it. We only think about Christian things on Sunday. Most of us have our faith as an add-on to our lives. As such we don’t see the daily, deep reading of Scripture as something important. We don’t see the need to really wrestle with the text and hear what it is saying to us here and now. So there is a real lack of understanding about what the Scripture, about what Jesus really said and what He really demands of us – spoiler! It’s everything!
Or if we’re not like that, if we are serious about our faith, then our definition of listening to Jesus is our own subjective thinking process. How do we spend time with Him? We put on some ‘worship music’ and we sing the same words over and over and over and over and over again until we think that the thoughts in our own head are the words that Jesus is saying to us, and then we take those, not checking them against the Scripture – because we can hear directly from God! And so we do things, and chase after things, that Jesus would never have us chase after as hard as we do. We want more money, we want a bigger house, we want to be famous, we want to travel the world in luxury.
We’ve got our priorities screwed up!
Lack of Real Holy Spirit Experience
Because we don’t know what the Scripture says, we don’t know the voice of God. Because we don’t know the voice of God, we will listen to anything. Because we will listen to anything we fool ourselves into believing that we are having a ‘Holy Spirit moment’ whenever we feel good.
We think that emotional equals spiritual. If we feel something then it means that God is/was present. If we didn’t feel anything then Holy Spirit wasn’t there. Or we need more of Him. But we don’t know Him. We think we do, but we don’t. Most people who claim to be ’super Holy Spirit people’ are just as religious as those they look down on for worshipping with a liturgy. They say the same empty prayers over and over again, repeating them like a mantra, hypnotising themselves into believing that God is speaking to them. They are like bags of hot air, and God is nowhere near them. I knew a woman once who had a face to face type encounter with the Holy Spirit, and He said to her, as clear as you’re reading this, “For the last three years you have neglected your relationship with Me, and all of the time that you thought I was speaking to you, it was your own thoughts you were hearing.”
What a message to hear from the mouth of God.
Lack of Life Witness
Because we don’t know the Holy Spirit, and the life that He calls us to through the Word of god (Jesus Christ, the author of our faith), then we don’t experience the wholistic transformation that we should, and we don’t see our impact in spreading the Good News increase. We want the ‘Force’ the Holy Spirit to ‘zap’ us and give us power to do things. We don’t realise that the life He calls us to is one of getting ourselves out of the way, of daily changing our habits to bring them more in line with the life of Jesus that is recorded in the Scripture. So we see almost no one come to Jesus. Because our type of Holy Spirit encounters are not for those that don’t know Jesus, they are all about us, in our own private, special place, doing the things that make us happy, and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. The Church exists for us, and our own happiness, and our own glory.
So, why aren’t people coming in crowds to our door, breaking it down, trying to get in, to get what we have?