Has the American Church Lost Its First Love?

 

 

This is the first in a short series of commentaries dealing with this critically important topic 

Introduction

Let’s begin with some facts:

From the time the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth until the mid-1800’s (barely over 200 years), Christians led the nation in every sphere of life, and America was blessed by God

  • The Christian Worldview dominated in virtually every arena of life: government, education, arts, literature, science, technology, etc.
  • America became the most innovative, creative nation the world had ever seen.
  • America became the most charitable nation the world had ever seen.
  • The American legal system and her economy made America the envy of the world
  • Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859), a famous French statesman, historian and social philosopher, stated in his classic book Democracy in America, “There is no country in the world where the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America, and there can be no greater proof of its utility and of its conformity to human nature than that its influence is powerfully felt over the most enlightened and free nation of the earth.”

What was so special about these early Christians in America that led to such remarkable progress?

  • Within 20 years of landing at Plymouth, the Pilgrims established Harvard University 
  • Christian denominations established 96 of the first 98 universities in America, and hundreds more over the 200 years following. (Question: Do we see this happening today?)  
  • By the time of the signing of the Constitution, America had become the most literate nation in the world’s history

 

 

Today, the church is losing ground in America faster than we can keep track
  • The fastest-growing religious segment in America today is made up of those who claim no religion at all1
  • 70-85% of church teens abandon their profession of faith by their second year in college2      
  • Well over 70% of those who come foreword at crusades and altar calls are not found in church 5 years later3     
  • In 50 years, the Christian church has fallen from being the most revered, respected religion in America to the most demeaned, divided, and derided faith of all.

WHY has this happened?

Ask just about anyone involved in the ministry at any Christian church in America the question: “what is the purpose of the church?”, and the most frequent response – the highest on the priority list – would be: “to preach the Gospel”, and possibly quote the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20 as their proof text. And while no one would argue against the idea that preaching the Gospel is an integral part of the purpose of the church, the answer given frankly falls far short of answering the question asked, …and this is where the church has lost its bearings over the last 150 years.

  • By the mid-1800’s, the Christian church in America forsook their earlier priority to educate and equip the saints with a Biblical worldview, teaching doctrine and practical application of the Word to every walk of life; and instead, became focused upon “evangelism”.
  • The priority of most churches became set upon increasing their numbers by “saving people” through revivals and altar calls, rather than by patiently teaching, reasoning, and modeling the Christian walk as the Apostle Paul and the New Testament church did so effectively.
  • The people became illiterate in their knowledge of the Bible and how to apply it in everyday life.
  • The Church became virtually anti-intellectual, and as a result, ineffective in the world.
  • We say we believe the Word, but more than half of church attendees today have accepted homosexuality, gay marriage, abortion, and co-habitation – even if their home church does not.

We separated the Church from the state (not vice-versa, as the Bible requires), the spiritual from the material; the heart from the mind, and God’s grace from God’s law. None of these divisions are scriptural.

In short, we left our first love. 

Stick with us as we elaborate further on this vitally important and relevant subject in our next post (Part 2).

1Pew Research Center, U.S. News and World Report

2Thom Rainer and Sam. S. Rainer III, Essential Church (Nashville: B&H Publishing, 2008); Dyck, Drew (2010-10-01). Generation Ex-Christian: Why Young Adults Are Leaving the Faith; Southern Baptist Council on Family Life Report, 2002; Josh McDowell, David H. Bellis, Green Key Books (2006); Assemblies of God Study, Dayton A. Kingsriter (2007)

3Crosswalk.com