I was reading the opening chapter in Michael Horton's book entitled "Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church," when a statistic he cited took me by surprise. George Barna, the popular Christian pollster, claimed that 86% of Americans identified themselves as Christians. This amazes me as the evidence for the statistic seems to be lacking by my own observation of the many I have come into contact and rubbed shoulders with, both inside and outside the church. I don't see 86% of Americans portraying fruit that would indicate a genuine conversion. Instead, I view what Paul described the rebellious men, empty talkers, and deceivers (Titus 1:10) that Titus ministered to in Crete as being. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed (Titus 1:16).
Many professing Christians and churches today see Jesus more as their mascot instead of their Lord. He is regulated to an example of how to live a moral life with no mention of the very purpose for which He came. Some view Jesus as a flag to wave in their "war" against war and poverty. However, these caricatures fall short of the description of Christ in the Bible. Jesus stated that For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10) and For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). Jesus did not come merely to serve as an example but to give up His life in the place of those who would put their faith in Him in order to appease God's wrath on their sins. How many churches today still proclaim the biblical gospel of Jesus Christ unashamedly?
I have been very disheartened in evaluating several profiles of churches in my quest to discover the church that God has prepared me to minister to. A majority of these churches are very "man-centered." They clearly are concerned with what God can give them or how He can best benefit them instead of seeking to glorify Him whether He brings the sunshine or the rain, laughter or the pain. So many churches today seem to paint God as their servant who worships them instead of recognizing that God created them for the very purpose of worshiping and glorifying Him! Many appear to forget that He is the potter and we are the clay. Through several humanitarian and environmental deeds, man is once again building his own tower of Babel to make a name for ourselves (Genesis 11:4). This is contra to making a name for God by spreading His fame through the preaching of the Gospel where He is glorified. Life is not and cannot be about us but must revolve around Him. One cannot read the Bible without seeing how every event, purpose, and plan all center around God.
Christ has not been the only casualty lost in Christianity today. Along with Christ being forgotten and recrafted, the Bible also has been shelved and reworded. Often the Bible is viewed as another "self-help" book that can aid one in living their "best life now." It is treated as being on par with the advice that Dr. Phil and Oprah would give. When one approaches a section in Scripture that makes them feel uncomfortable or reveals a certain sin in their life, instead of asking God for help to change their life, they either dismiss or seek to change the Scriptures. Much of the controversial debates over homosexuality and the like in the church today really are debates over the authority of the Bible. In fact, for some churches it appears that the Bible might be for decoration only since they do not seem to take it seriously or abide by what it says.
This erosion of Christ and God's Word that I am discussing is not limited to one particular denomination or a specific group of individuals. It is not a liberal or conservative issue. In fact, much of this can be seen within the camp of "evangelicalism" as well. Also, as I write this, I am confronted by the fact that I have been guilty of several of these very things I mention certain times in my own Christian life!
I confess that I have painted a very pessimistic view of the current state of the church and most who know me would describe me as an eternal optimist. However, I cannot deny the sad state the church has found itself in. In many ways, the church resembles the world so much that one can scarce view a difference! As a pastor whom God has called to devote his life to preaching and teaching His Word, I am heartbroken at what I observe. Though, praise God there is always hope with Him!
What Can We Do About This?
I think the best way to handle this ongoing problem with a church who has forgotten Whom Christ really is and that often fails to take Him seriously, is the same remedy that Paul prescribed for Titus in Crete. After describing the false teachers in Crete (Titus 1:10-16), Paul instructs: But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine (Titus 2:1). The only way to address churches that speak of a Christ but not necessarily the Christ of the gospels is to faithfully teach God's Word. Part of the reason Christ has been drifting out of "Christ"ianity is due to the fact that people have not been taught about Who He really is and the work of redemption He accomplished on the cross. Biblical illiteracy has been increasing at an alarming rate in this country. I don't think that it is a coincidence that this occurs at the same time Christ becomes viewed as more of a great moral teacher instead of the Savior and Lord that He is. We need to get back to the Bible and study Who God is and what He has done. We need to be taught again from God's Word what the gospel really is and the necessity of conversion. This will not be easy as the absolute truths of Scripture have become very unpopular in today's culture. Of course, Jesus' message of being the only way to God and the call to repentance were not popular in His culture so we should not be surprised that things have not changed today. Let's be like Paul and not be ashamed of the gospel (Romans 1:16) but boldly proclaim it for the glory of God! Let's focus on theology once again as the reason many lives are messed up right now is due to their theology being messed up. Without a proper view of God, one cannot know how to live a proper life that glorifies Him. May God, using the means of the faithful preaching and teaching of His Word, place and keep Christ in "Christ"ianity!
Soli Deo Gloria!