Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Future of the Church?

"(Jesus said) And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it" (Matthew 16:18).

I have been thinking about the future of the American church. Jesus promised that his church would survive, but he did not promise the absence of difficult times. In fact, he warned that we would face persecution and hardship.

Will the American church face difficult times in the near future? Possibly. Will we endure? I'm not sure. Christ's church as a whole will not be overcome by the gates of Hades, but could the American church? Could I?

I'm concerned because we have a tendency to be embarrassed and shamed into compromise. I don't want to be associated with those who celebrate the deaths of homosexuals, so I'm tempted to remain silent about the sin of homosexuality. I don't want to be lumped in with hateful Bible-thumpers, so I am tempted to tone down my belief in the accuracy and authority of the inspired Scriptures. I want to fit in with Christians who seem articulate and intelligent, so I am tempted to try to explain away the first few chapters of Genesis.

I'm concerned because American churches seem to be obsessed with their image. They seem to jump from fad to fad in order to appear appealing to people who couldn't care less about them or their message. Some churches have surveyed their communities in order to find out what people would want in a church; then, they have accommodated their communities by providing style without substance.

If genuine persecution comes to the American church, will I have a faith strong enough to endure? How many American churches will compromise their principles in order to remain acceptable to a community that rejects Christ? How many would be willing to give up their tax-exempt status? How many doctors and nurses would be willing to stop practicing medicine if forced to participate in abortions? How many government employees would be willing to risk their jobs to say that sex outside of a marriage between a man and a woman is immoral? How many Christians would be willing to lie in order to keep their jobs or their homes?

I want to believe that I have the faith to face persecution. I want to believe that American churches have the faith to face persecution. But the question mark remains in my mind. Do we have a faith that will endure? If so, we have a bright future despite temporary hard times.

"Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Revelation 2:10).

4 comments:

Christy said...

I almost hunger for persecution! It seems that when Christians are tested to the point of death, only those who are serious endure, and there is an explosion of new believers because of it!

Terry said...

Christy,
You make a good point. I want to be the type of Christian who has a tough enough faith to endure. I don't want to be so weak that I am seeking society's approval; nor do I want to be so tough-minded that I will not show concern and kindness to those who disapprove of me. It's a challenge for me (and probably for others, too). I appreciate your comment and your spirit!

Joshua Tucker said...

Great post. A lot of your post reminded me of something I've been thinking about for a while now.

Christianity isn't cool. We have this weird thing, though, where we desperately want it to be. We say things like, "You can still have a good time and be a Christian!" almost out of desperation, like we have to defend the religion by saying there's still fun involved. Don't get me wrong, I have lots of fun as a Christian, but that's my priority.

Or we go about making Christian t-shirts based on worldly logos and all kinds of other things to make Christianity more fashionable. It's really weird when you think about it. I try to picture Peter wearing a "Breadcrumb and Fish" shirt, but I just can't.

It's an entire attitude. I wonder sometimes if we're more allegiant to our culture than to our God. If only we could be more concerned about Kingdom culture than American culture.

And I'm not sure persecution will necessarily help. I've heard lots of Christians say, "if we just had some persecution the Church would have a huge revival." If we're not faithful to God when it's easy, why would we be more faithful if it got difficult? Working with young missionaries and seeing them go through intensely difficult times on the mission field I have learned something. The field doesn't make them more devoted Christians, it just shows how devoted they were in the first place. Some leave God altogether, and most of the time they never had a real faith. They just learned to fake it really well. But many come out more sober-minded with a deep passion that rarely expresses itself in emotion at all. It has learned to express itself in meaningful action, which far outweighs excitement.

All that to say I, too, am concerned for the American Church. I'm not sure I have much solutions for what to do about it. I'm glad God has me in the States while He does, and I'm really trying to encourage Christians and convert the lost while I'm here. But I pray that I can be used in a country where more people are aware of their real need for God, and where the church's name hasn't been spoiled. Thanks for the post bro.

Terry said...

Joshua,
Thanks for a great comment. I love your blog, because you say things that are not normally said...but are true. You asked a great question. "If we're not faithful to God when it's easy, why would we be more faithful if it got difficult?" That gets to the heart of my concern, too. I want to be faithful now...while it's easy...in preparation for the more difficult times ahead. Keep up the good work with AIM, and I'm looking forward to meeting you at the Tulsa Workshop next month.