This last week has left me time to be contemplative. Dangerous, I know. My mind can work overtime when I have time to think about where our nation is headed. Even more so when I think about where the Church is headed. I'm not referring to the place I go to worship several times every week. I'm talking about the body of believers, as a whole, in the United States of America. Almost a year ago, I wrote a post about the death of the denomination that I grew up in. This year has given me even more cause to examine the state of the Church in America. This is what I've come to know.
I've traveled to more of the continental US this year than I have in any single year in my life. I've been from Utah to most of the mid Atlantic states to the old South to nearly all of the Midwest. I've found that there are still great churches. Sadly, they are becoming fewer and more far between. The majority of the so-called Evangelical churches either leave out much of the Word of God and have become places to inflate the self image of the pew sitters or they leave the Bible behind completely and become hives of prosperity preachers who will tell their congregants anything to make a buck and put a butt in a seat. Most old line denominations are falling victim to politically correct nonsense that has nothing to do with the Bible and everything to do with left wing social policy.
I had been a part of this degradation of a church body before and knew that I wanted nothing to do with a church that didn't preach to real issues that impacted normal people. I wanted a church that wasn't just a theoretical church that preached platitudes but a place where people were called to action for God. I wanted a church where the pastor took his job as a mouthpiece for God seriously. I wanted a place that didn't shy away from tough issues. I found that place when I found Marion Avenue Baptist Church. I found that Pastor in one Joseph Brown. You can read about how I found my church here.
What I've seen from many other churches is an unwillingness to teach from the Bible. Most other churches don't teach about Heaven and Hell and salvation through knowing Jesus Christ as your savior. These issues are really the only things that matter, truly. The works side of faith can only come after the acceptance of Jesus and the repentance of your past sins. When a church preaches that you can do things to prepare you to be a part of the body of Christ, they are lying. When a church preaches that you can be a good person, while not confessing that Jesus is your savior, they are setting you up to spend eternity in a very hot and miserable place. There is absolutely nothing anyone can do to "earn" a place in Heaven. We are broken and separated from God. Our natural destination is Hell because we are all sinners. The only way to overcome that is through the acknowledgement that Jesus was the perfect sacrifice and paid the debt for all that we do against God. If a church and its pastor do not preach that, I urge you to find a church that does.
I don't go to church to be comfortable. I go to church to be challenged. Perhaps, that's why I've developed a different outlook on life. I do not care what people that don't care about me think about me. I know where I stand with those I do care about and I know that I'm a child of God so the pressure to conform to societal norms and to be politically correct is gone. Now, follow me as I pivot this toward what I normally write about.
I've had a chance to talk to many "Christians" and I've recently seen a few terms that might properly describe many of them. "EvanJELLYcals" and "CINO's(Christians in Name Only)" are just a few. I've encountered many of these people in my work in politics over the last year. Many of those encounters took place in the South, the so-called Bible Belt. It seems that there is some sort of Baptist or Evangelical Church on nearly every corner in South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and so on. What I also found is that many of those churches' members were not what I've come to expect of a true Bible believing and Bible preaching church. I've been to churches in Iowa, like my own, that welcome everyone that comes in the door in an effort to save souls and win people to Christ. What I found down South was a prevailing culture of Sunday morning Christianity. To be fair, there were many good Christian folks but many people also went to church because that's just what one does in that part of the country to fit in. I can assuredly tell you that I don't go church to fit in. People in many of these churches, and not only in the South, have adopted a callousness toward seeking truth and instead use church as a means to pass off their horrible behavior the rest of the week. This is a recipe for disaster.
The next kind of "Christian" I've encountered is the weak kneed, I don't want to offend anyone type. They pass themselves off as people that want everyone to be happy. They go to church to feel warm and fuzzy and want the preacher to speak well and not offend anyone. They do not dare discuss current issues because someone might take offense. They don't talk about faith, Jesus or anything that might cause someone to think they are "weird". Many times these "Christians" attend churches that accept all kinds of non Biblical practices such as same sex marriage. They also refuse to teach that the ONLY way to Heaven is Jesus. I know so many people like this and trying to talk to them about real life issues is like trying to pull teeth without the aid of Novocain. It can be done but it will cause much grief for all involved.
The worst kind of "Christian" is the one that will use the church for ulterior motives. Here's where I get political. Donald Trump is this kind of "Christian". The man wouldn't know a Bible believing church if one fell on him. You can tell by his daily words and actions. His spiritual fruit is rotten. He uses Christianity as a prop. He uses his Bible as a prop. I find this behavior disgusting. He also falls in line with prosperity "gospel" preachers like Joel Osteen and many others that will use God as a means to a non-spiritual end. People like this must be called to account. False teachers must be made known to the people. They are seeking to separate, rather than unite the people and God and do so for their own selfish aggrandizement.
Jesus didn't come to make us rich or famous or good looking or popular. Jesus came as ultimate sacrificial lamb. He came to bear what we couldn't. He came to pay the wage of our sin. He can to allow us a path to eternal life.
I guess the whole point of this post is to encourage people to pray more, seeking God's face in addition to his hand. Don't fall victim to finding a church where you are comfortable. Find a church where the people love you because they know that Christ first loved them, not just because they want something from you. Find a church where you are challenged. Find a church that is more concerned with your soul and less with your wallet. Find a church that makes you uncomfortable with yourself. We are all broken. We don't need a church to tell us we aren't. We need a church that provides us with the repair manual for our own individual life. That repair manual is the Bible and the repair is accepting Jesus as your personal savior.
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