Michael Corleone sanctimoniously stands at the baptism font in the presence of his family,
community, and the spiritual realm to witness the religious ceremony meant to save the soul of his nephew. Water is poured over the child as the godfather is asked, “do you willingly renounces Satan and all his works?” Ironically, this Mafia kingpin verbally agrees, “I do renounce.”
The scene is captivating because it plays as the backdrop to an orchestrated massacre of
Michael’s enemies. The protagonist perpetrates acts of unconscionable evil while using the church as a place of refuge.
I am not saying the average American Christian is a bloodthirsty, revenge-fueled, criminal
mastermind. However, the hypocrisy and mediocrity rampant in the church today has been equally devastating to the church in America. The church is dying. And men like Michael Corleone are to blame.
I propose a few questions for the reader to as we begin.
Are you the unwitting culprit in the death of the American church?
Is it possible that the decline of Christianity, that troubles you so greatly, rests of your
shoulders? Would there be a church if everyone treated the church the way you treat the church?
The church in America is dying – and these are the culprits:
1. Disappointed therefore Disengaged
I was approached in the community by someone who used to attend our church. “Hey Pastor Josh, is that you?” We stopped right there and spoke for a solid five minutes until I came around to the obvious question. “I’ve missed seeing you at Southern Hills. Are you attending somewhere?”
“Honestly pastor,” came the response, “we just don’t see the point anymore.” After 20 years in ministry, I’ve heard this response many times, but this case gave reasons I found fascinating and reflective of the spirit of our age. “It all started with Covid. We watched every church in Las Vegas shut its’ doors because they were afraid people might ‘get a cold’. This showed us that the church can’t be trusted.”
I found this reasoning particularly interesting because this family only attended
church about once per month prior to the Coronavirus outbreak. I reasoned with them, though I couldn’t speak for other churches, ours only missed five Sundays before reopening to the public.
I reminded them what the world was like in March of 2020 and that hindsight always has more clarity than foresight. I asked them how many times they’d been back since we “reopened” after 5 weeks, over 2 years ago. “We can’t see ourselves ever going back to any church after that. It really shook our faith.”
Unfortunately, this type of Christian dissociates from all those they believe have disappointed them. They sit alone in their cloud of self-righteousness wishing all of Christendom saw as clearly as they.
In the end they will stand before God giving reason why they so easily gave up on His Bride – the church.
Hebrews 10:24-25, "And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some."
While some craft and cultivate a villain story of the church that leads to their own seclusion, others are simply distracted by urgent things more important than the church. These are they of…
2. High Expectation but Low Participation
Some romanticize the church as a place to gather when celebrating a holiday or attending a wedding. They like to think of themselves as Christian. They can even remember the last time they attended.
To them the church is an enigma. It magically exists to serve them whenever nostalgia hits or tragedy strikes. Completely unaware of the few in the community who sacrifice financially to keep open the doors of the church. If the question ever enters their mind, they might falsely assume some wealthy benefactor or government institution funds the church they frequent when convenient.
These are the “Christians” a pastor won’t see until someone in diagnosed with cancer, infidelity has entered the marriage, or a death in the family requires a funeral. At that moment, urgency and immediacy are demanded. They expect to be treated as a member of a congregation when they aren’t known by anyone in the congregation.
High are their expectations of spiritual care while low is their participation in the local assembly. They are described by Jesus Himself…Revelation 3:15-16, "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth."
They are not the deconstructionists. They are the distracted. They feel no particular animosity. They only feel apathy. They are neither haters of God nor lovers of Christ.
They are perfectly positioned in the middle – between cold and hot – and they make God sick.
Some are offended and isolated. Others are distracted and disappointed. Still others are killing the church because they don’t understand the nature of the church. These are the…
3. Cultural Warriors not Spiritual Warriors
American Christianity has seen far too many men like Bill O’Reilly.
Men who bluster about the good-old-days while sexually harassing colleagues. These men use the language of Christianity to propagate their own fame and advance their own version of utopia. Not only are they not Christian, but they also damage the name of Christ and accelerate the death of the true church.
Sadly, since the days of Constantine the Great, Christians continually fall for these
shysters and political opportunists. Christian men ought to be primarily men of ethical character and moral fortitude.
First and foremost, we are strong men in our spiritual disciplines of prayer, self-control, and patience. We courageously fight for truth and battle the wickedness of this evil culture. But our valor isn’t a thin veneer masking insecurity but rather bravery derived from a deep well of spiritual strength.
Chiefly, we are to be spiritual warriors who subsequently battle for the soul of our culture. Men who aren’t afraid to stand up for the life or a child or defend the dignity of a lady. Men who are prepared to defend the weak and fight for freedom – only because they are spiritually strong.
Yet, we seem to be surrounded by braggadocios blowhards who haven’t an ounce of spiritual awareness while boasting pounds of cultural preferences.
It’s time for true men of God abandon these preening pretenders and return to the moral high ground of truth and justice.
These are the three types of “Christians” who will be most vocal when churches begin to sell off property and close permanently in mass. They will bemoan the downfall of the church, post articles on social media lamenting its demise, and grieve loudly that they no longer have a church to attend on Easter and Christmas Eve.
Oblivious, they will walk through life. Completely unaware of their own culpability in the
demise of the western church. Until one day they stand before God and give an account for their mediocrity, apathy, and hypocrisy.
I wish I could say that I’ve never played the fool. It wouldn’t be true. Regrettably, I am Mediocre Mike. Too often I’ve prioritized the culture war above the spiritual. I’ve expected Christlike behavior from others while I excuse my own apathy. I’ve given up too quickly on people when disappointed.
I’m realizing that my heart better change – or the church never will.
What about you?
This article is not meant to stir up feelings of judgmentalism toward others. But rather, it is
meant to have you question your own relationship with the church.
Would there be a church if everyone treated the church the way you treat the church?
Is it possible that the decline of Christianity, that troubles you so greatly, rests of your shoulders?
Are you the unwitting culprit in the death of the American church?