American Christians

crystalcathedralpipeorgansAmerican 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?

21 thoughts on “American Christians

  1. Very interesting post. I agree that we need to rethink the way we do church in America. It’s a fine balance to reach out to people in the culture and set ourselves apart.

  2. I suspect, though correct me if I am wrong, that Starbucks’ in Churches is probably a rare thing in America too, and that most American Christians would find such a thing odd.

  3. There is so much more I want to say, but didn’t want the post to be so long no one would read it. Jesus said that foxes have holes, birds have nests, but the Son of Man had not where to lay his head. In the books of Acts, members were added to the church daily, and they sold their houses and land and put everything into the common treasury. In Exodus, when Moses is taking up materials to build the tabernacle, there comes a point when they have enough, and people willing to donate are turned away. How far from these things our churches in America are today; but not so in other parts of the world.

    In some nations in Africa, people will walk for an hour to sit in a church serivce for 3,4, sometimes 6 hours. They hunger to hear the word of God. In China, house churches meet in secret, and many Christian pastors spend years of their life if not the rest of their life in prison. The first century church lives on; elsewhere.

  4. I would bet that church that bought the Compaq Center has reached millions of people with the message of God and hundreds of thousands have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior as a result of what they do. Do they disciple people as well as they should? Maybe not.

    That small home church in India probably does have amazing times of heartfelt worship and an overwhelming hunger for the Word. They probably do a great job explaining truth and holding eachother accountable. They probably are very good at making disciples of people. Do they see hundreds of thousands of decisions for Christ as year in their ministry? Probably not.

    You can’t define a church’s “success” based on what you think all churches should look like. People are different, churches are made up of those people. Differences among churches is inevitable.

    I will agree that we should be less wasteful as a culture. I think it’s a cultural problem, not so much a church problem if you really look at the churches in America that aren’t in the public view.

    I will concede that the Golden Thrones on TBN are pretty ridiculous. I am sure they get pleny of letters explaining that they cause people to question the whole operation but the thrones remain so they must feel strongly that they are a necessary piece of their ministry. I don’t get it.

  5. “What is your proposed solution to our prosperity?”

    Our prosperity is not the problem. The problem is what we do with it. A rich land owner in one of Jesus’ parables said that his barns were full, so he would tear down his barns and storehouses and build bigger ones. American Christians do the same, but with church buildings. We don’t need $10,000,000 sitting in the bank drawing interest. We need to few and clothe the children of the world. We need to be giving away hot meals in soup kitchens, couseling pregnant mothers in crisis, and printing Bibles in native languages that do not yet have the Word of God. Jesus said giving a cup of water to a small child was like sharing it with Christ himself. That’s what we need to be doing, instead of remodeling the rest room with solid gold fixtures.

  6. Alex –

    There are some very large churches that do good things. The Compaq Center, former home of the Houston Rockets, is now Lakewood Church. It is a grandstand for their pastor Joel Osteen. Osteen wrote the best selling book “Your Best Life Now.” You could listen to him for a month of Sundays and not get saved because he never preaches the gospel. The problem with the prosperity gospel is that it’s all about how you can manipulate God to give you more stuff. I’m sure there are some very large churches in America doing some great things for the kingdom of God. Lakewood isn’t one of them, but I get what you were saying.

  7. That Church in the Compaq Center has publicly renounced the cross as too negative.

    You’d be better off listening to Tony Robbins.

  8. I have wondered for years how it is that many of the churches in foreign lands, by which I mean outside of the USA, manage to survive. After all…….

    They don’t have a full time youth minister, music minister, children’s minister, education minister or for that matter a full time Pastor.

    They don’t have air conditioning for the summer or heat for the winter.

    They don’t have big screen televisions in the sanctuary.

    Their youth don’t go to 2 conferences a year.

    They don’t have a big basketball gym……..I mean fellowship hall.

    They don’t have a praise and worship band.

    They don’t have a denominational central office from which to order Sunday school material.

    They don’t have a church basketball/softball league in which to participate.

    They don’t have a projector to put the hymns up on a big screen.

    They don’t have a web page.

    They don’t have marriage enrichment retreats for couples or singles conferences for singles.

    Their church services aren’t broadcast on radio, television or the internet.

    Hmmmm, I just don’t get how they manage to survive.

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  10. I doubt most americans even have positive numbers in their bank accounts let alone $10,000,000 drawing interest.
    Also I reckon quite a few volunteer many man hours in soup kitchens, doing counseling and the rest.
    Have you ever met anyone who’s actually remodeled a room with solid gold fixtures?

    Also… in my Church a lot of the times the reason we have to do things like remodel the Church is down to health and safety laws. Should we disobay the government when it says that Churches need to have fire exits and not be at a risk of the roof falling in etc?

  11. Sophia, I’m not talking about a person’s bank account, or the remodeling of their home. I’m talking about churches. I attended a “small” church with $50,000 sitting in the bank that had the church youth sell tickets to a fish fry to finance their mission trip. I’m saying watch the pink-haired lady sit on a solid gold throne on TBN, talking about working in God’s kingdom. Look at the Crystal Cathedral at the top this post; they’re a long way from the roof caving in. (Those tiny little spots of color at the bottom of the pic? Those are people. Click to enlarge.)

    If your church struggles to survive on meager means, then I pray that God would bless you. Many Americans have no idea what that’s like. The mega-church with 20,000 members is what I’m ranting about. They’re not struggling. Creflo Dollar, Joel Osteen; their roofs are fine. We should all use the resources we’ve been blessed with to bless others. A Christian in Ethiopia, China, Russia; their experiences resemble ours very little even when it comes to matters of faith. That’s what I wish all Americans realized, especially Christians. And don’t get me wrong, some do.

  12. Ah, yeah I have never actually seen one of those megachurches though I’ve heard people refer to them (I am in the UK not the USA I don’t know if we have them here but anyway it’s 4 hours on a train to the nearest city).
    I guess was being a bit sensitive about it because it’s sort of frustrating to always be told that “we in the west” are too affluent and yet not really know what to do about it. Because I do feel guilty but I am too young to really have any capacity to make a difference.

  13. Hi Clark,

    Thanks for directing me to your blog. You’ve made a lot of good points about the church. I’ll admit, my church is a megachurch with a coffee shop inside. I think it is really easy for us, as Christians, to get swept up in it. Imagine attending church where you feel isolated from other people. Jesus commanded us to fellowship with one another yet how many of us do that? When you are looking out over a sea of faces, it is easy to become lost. I think those of us attending large churches have to make sure we are on the defensive. We need to make sure we stick around and connect with other people. We need to get involved in the small groups and Bible studies. I know my church encourages everyone to join the home fellowships that are offered during the week.

    I do need to say that even if my church moved into a basement and no longer had the fancy service, I would still go. I love the Pastor and the way he teaches the Bible. I do see the correlations in our messages, yours and mine. You are asking the church not to spend up to the hilt and give more, as I am asking of individuals. I think more people need to go on missions, to see what it’s like firsthand. I was watching a video about the Berbers in Morocco and I was surprised that they sat and slept on dirt floors. What would someone think here in America if you asked them to join you on the floor without so much as a cushion? We are definitely spoiled.

    Keep up the great work.

  14. Interesting article…
    I want to add that besides the gold thrones, the starbucks, the megachurches — only in America do the Christian believe that because a democrat was voted as president the world is coming to an end. American Chrisitans, I’ve come to realized, are so egocentric that they think that the world revolves around them.

  15. This post has really moved me. i live in rural Kenya and i walk 3hrs evry snday for a church service. it’s worth it.

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