Where is the Traditional American Church?
The face of the traditional American church is changing, and it must in order to reach the lost. Many older Americans love their traditional church, but those churches are getting harder to find because so many are either in hospice care or the cemetery.
I am a born again believer in Jesus Christ; therefore, that makes me a member of His Church universal. Are you? Does God consider me an active member of His Church? Please join me in a little self-examination.
First, let’s look at Job in the Old Testament. To say Job suffered greatly is an understatement. However, in the middle of his suffering, he was sure he had God all figured out until God spoke to him and revealed Himself to Job. “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-6). Do I think I have God and His ways and how He wants church to happen all figured out? More than likely, I’m not nearly as smart as I think I am.
Let’s look at John the Baptist. Thrown in prison and beheaded, he was the one who said about Jesus in John 3:30, “He must become greater; I must become less.” He willingly submitted to God’s will before his own desires. Suppose John had said, “This is too uncomfortable. I don’t like it here! I don’t want to decrease! I want what I want and I want it now!” If John had taken his eyes off Jesus and God’s bigger plan, he would have found himself competing with God. If you don’t know it by now, God always wins. Jesus said of his cousin and forerunner in Matthew 11:11, “Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist.”
Then there’s Jesus. I’m glad Jesus didn’t change His mind on the way to the cross. The only time He was ever truly comfortable here on earth was as a baby in Mary’s arms. As He grew, life on earth became increasingly difficult for Him. He knew all along He was here to fulfill God’s plan, not to live a life of ease and comfort. He kept His Father’s will in focus. “Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). Where do I get the idea that life and church is all about me and what makes me happy and content? That is the mindset of an infant. I’m supposedly a mature Christian!
I’ve heard long-time Christians say as they walk out the church door, “I’m just not being fed here anymore.” My questions to them are, “How old are you? How long have you been a Christian? Are you still depending on someone else to spoon-feed you? How is your devotional life, your time with God?” Don’t blame someone else for your lack of spiritual growth. You alone are responsible for that. If you find God distant, guess what? He hasn’t moved.
“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). God is all about reaching the hurting and those far from Him, and populating His Kingdom. The traditional American church has somehow forgotten that and made it all about personal comfort and security, the sure path to the graveyard. When did it become all about me? When did we become so tunnel-visioned and lose God’s heart and worldview?
Does my heart break for what breaks His heart, or does my heart break because my own selfish desires go unmet? Like Job, John and Jesus, I must humble myself before God, seek to grow His Kingdom and not my own, and always keep God’s will in focus. I am saved and on my way to heaven, but what about those in my community and around the world who don’t know Jesus and are on their way to hell? Do I care more for my own comfort today than I do for those who are hurting and in desperate need of a Savior?
“God, forgive me.” “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10 KJV).
I want to get excited with the angels in heaven (Luke 15:10) and overflow with thanksgiving when I see people give their hearts to Jesus! I long to rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15) as I see people follow Jesus in water baptism. I wish to praise God as I see new believers connect to others in the body of Christ and begin to grow in their knowledge of God and His Word (2 Peter 3:18). I yearn to know that thrill again in feeding one child in Haiti who would otherwise be hungry today. I ache to know that I have a part in rescuing women and children from slavery and sex trafficking in India (Matthew 25:40).
Jesus did not come to earth to suffer and die on the cross just so I can be comfortable and free from all pain. That’s heaven. While I walk this life, He must increase in me while I decrease. His will and heart must come before my own. I want to be one of those who personally go into the hedges and highways and compel them to come into God’s house until it is full (Luke 14:23). “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).
Where is the traditional American church? On its way out. I am an active member of God’s church, the bride of Christ, and she is alive and well in America today!