Sunday, May 1, 2011

Hypocrisy and Influence

The Church in the West is losing influence.  

We can pretend like we don't see it happening, but we all know it.  The American Church is largely seen as an archaic institution whose time has passed.  "Christian" characters in movies and television are usually depicted as out of touch and judgmental.  Christian ethics are largely dismissed as old fashioned and oppressive, and "Christian" products are considered second-rate and uncreative.

When I speak to other Christians about our rapidly decreasing influence on culture, they consistently blame things outside the church: media bias, political bias, secular prejudice, etc.  Their answer to the problem usually relates to voting.  "If we could just get Christians to vote right..."  Every now and then they blame other Christians for not seeing more Christian movies (I'm sorry.  I'm just not that interested in Kirk Cameron movies.), but usually they blame "non-Christians" for acting like...well...non-Christians.  It's like we are surprised or something, as if we are the victims and the entire human populace is the perpetrator.

At first the logic makes sense.  Not that many Christians + whole bunch of non-Christians= no one cares what Christians think.  However, it seems that in every other culture the more the Church is ostracized by media and government, the more influential it becomes.  The church in China is booming.  The Church in Vietnam is growing so quickly that the government has done a complete 180 and wants to take credit for it!  Can you believe that?!  The church is growing so quickly there that the government wants on the bandwagon.  Missionary friends of mine in other undisclosed countries are seeing the gospel spread.

So, why in this country of religious freedom are we losing ground?  I have a few thoughts:
  • We have mistaken control for influence.  Somehow we fell into the notion that the only way to influence culture was to be "in charge".   However, the Church in the first century had no political control and very little media influence.  Few Christians held office in the Roman regime that persecuted them.  Yet, the gospel spread rapidly.  Acts 2:47 refers to the favor Christians had with the people.  Back then, Christians were good neighbors who cared for people outside of the Church.  If you needed food, you probably didn't have to ask the Church, because they were already there with help.  
  • We have mistaken hypocrisy for obedience.  How hard do we work to vote in pro-life candidates?  We fight hard, spend money, debate, candidate and vote to stop this horrible atrocity.  I'm not saying we shouldn't fight hard for the life of the unborn.  But, have we thought about why it isn't working?  I have a theory.  68% of all abortions are received by women who consider themselves to be Christians. (Don't believe me?  Click here) If Christians would stop having abortions ourselves, we would nearly eliminate the problem in one fell swoop.  No politics, just obedience to our own standards.  Ironically, we are spending millions of dollars and political clout to fight a problem that we are causing. 
  • We have mistaken legalism for sanctification.  We have a tendency to think that if our actions are "right" our motives must be too.  I think this topic deserves more time than I can give in a sub-point in the blog.  
So, how about you?  What do you think has contributed to the decline in Church influence and how do we turn the tide?  I'd like to hear your thoughts.  

(By the way, I'm starting an interesting book on this topic called The Church of the Irresistible Influence.)


  1. The church in the west has so little resemblance to the fellowship of believers described in Acts 2:42-47 that it should come as no surprise to anyone we are losing influence. We are not devoted to teaching, fellowship and prayer. Most of us are devoted to our jobs, our own families, and our selfish pursuits. We fill our leftover time with the rest. And way more than just 68% of us use abortifacient birth control methods to make darn sure our families stay at the acceptable size of 1.2 children. All so we can make sure and keep up with the Jones’. Selling our property and possessions?!? Forget it. We keep them like a noose around our necks. No wonder non-Christians don’t want what we have.

    So, so sad.
    Come Lord Jesus.

  2. I would argue that the tide can turn. I am seeing our church ( increase its influence in the community as we serve and obey God. It isn't that it isn't happening, it is that we have a long way to go to make things right.