American Christians are just not exactly the same as “Christians.” That’s a sweeping generalization that I know is not true in some cases. There are plenty of exceptions I’m sure. But by in large, Christianity in America is light-years away from the first century church described in the New Testament.
Our churches have been affected by the culture. We live in this culture, there is no way to live and operate completely independent of it, and I realize that. We run television commercials advertising our church services, and put up huge billboards with beautiful people on them to attract visitors. Huge churches are ran like corporations, because that’s what the church leaders know how to do. There is a whole argument to be made for the church being “culturally relevant,” but sometimes we end up doing some wacky things by New Testament standards.
Only in America do Christian churches have a Starbucks in the vestibule (or foyer, if you must). Some churches put the profits of selling coffee into mission projects, but still, only here can you buy a $4 cup of Joe on the way to Sunday School. Only in America would we build something like the Crystal Cathedral, or purchase the Compaq Center in Houston, TX to turn it into a church sanctuary. Only in America do we sit in front of congregations on solid gold thrones (TBN). Only in America does the band play for 30 minutes, and then a “worship leader” deliver a short devotional and call it a sermon. American Christians will spend millions of dollars adding on to a building, while thousands of children die annually from simply not having clean drinking water.
How many churches do you know of that raise money to send kids on mission trips? What about international mission trips? It costs thousands of dollars to send each person over seas for two weeks to hand out tracks and come back with a t-shirt, so they can feel like they have impacted the world for Jesus first hand. A local pastor in India could run his entire church for a year for a fraction of that amount. A youth pastor will spend $200 to feed our kids pizza on a Saturday night without blinking an eye, but can’t send $1 a day to feed children starving in Africa. I just don’t see Paul telling Timothy doing it like that.
Our culture is wasteful. That’s just part of the American way of life. But it’s a double-wammy when our American Christians are wasteful of the resources we’ve been given. “To whom much is given, much will be required.” (Luke 12:48) We have been given much; very much. What does God require?