On this day, September 11, 2009, it is important to remember what happened to our country and pray for the families of those who lost their loved ones that day. We would also do well to remember the service men and women who answered the call to rescue citizens from the rubble, or who answered to call to defend our country.
9/11 is a day that none of us will forget, nor should we. Everyone of us remembers what we were doing the exact moment we heard the news. For me, I was in Mr. McCubbin’s 8th Grade Math Class. He received a phone call (since he was also the Secondary Education Principle) that notified him that New York has been attacked and the Pentagon had been bombed. I remember praying for everyone that was in the midst of those attacks, but since I was in the midwest, it did not seem to have a direct impact on me, that is until I saw the footage later that day.
But amidst all the pain and terror that took place that day, people were awaken to the fact that they were not the ultimate being in this universe. 9/11 served as a wake up call for many people to get their lives back on track. This led many people to church in the following weeks. Churches experienced an explosion of growth after 9/11. Sanctuaries were filled to capacity, congregations were filled with joy, ministries thought that revival had finally come to America.
Then they all left.
What happened? Why did so many people who had just filled the church, suddenly stop attending? Was it because we did not captivate them with our snazzy presentations? Were we not relevant enough? Was the programming not sufficient? Were we not passionate? Was the worship bad?
While the above mentioned could have been a reason for some, I believe that the reason that so many people left was not because of our lack of enthusiasm, but our lack of authenticity. This is an area in which Christians seem to seriously lack in recent days. In Matthew 7:20 we are told that “You will recognize them by their fruit.” The preceeding verses explain that a good tree cannot produce bad fruit just like a bad tree cannot produce good fruit. So we have to ask ourselves, what did they see then and what are they seeing now?
I imagine that what they saw is along the same lines of what we see now, since nothing has really changed in the church. I think 2 Timothy 3:1-5 sums up modern day American Christianity pretty well:
“But know this: difficult times will come in the last days. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the form of religion but denying its power…”
To me that is the American church to the ‘t’. There are several poignant statements in that verse of which I could go on about, and perhaps some day I will, but what I want to focus on is that last phrase: “holding to the form of religion but denying its power”.
Being here at Calvary Bible College has allowed me to really grasp the dangerous position that the American Church is in. I know far too many students who live the life they want to live and could care less about what any higher authority has to say. The world, and even Christians, label this as simple and normal rebellion. I believe that there is more to it than just ‘common rebellion’, because I know that man is inherently evil. This means that man will do what man does best: sin and flee from God. However, in the Christian life, we have been bought at a price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, 7:23) and we are not our own, meaning that our life is not ours to live. Therefore, this ‘common rebellion’ is nothing more than an attack, from Satan (1Peter 5:8), on the Christian to bring their walk to a screeching halt. Do you know what this means? The ‘rebellion’ is not common at all and it can be resisted! (1Peter 5:9)
So back to 9/11. People left, because of what they saw in the church, not because of our lack of flashy programs or productions. The church was and still is living in such a way that nullifies their message. They proclaim a gospel that ‘changes’ the inner man, yet at the same time, live in a way that suggests that their message is not true.
People were looking for a life that would change them, make them better, and allow them to heal from all of their hurt. Instead, they found hypocritical, self centered, unloving, unholy, slanderers, who loved the pleasures of this life more than the God who saved them from an eternity of judgment.
Since then, the church has not really learned it’s lesson. Sure we have discoverd that the Willow Creek and Saddle Back methods do not work, but we still do them. We continually read from Acts about the 1st Century church, yet we do not apply that to our congregations. Therefore, it makes sense that the church in America is not growing like it could be. We are so full of OUR method of church and we completely leave out God’s perfectly designed model.
Individual Christians are stuck in the rut of a ritualistic form of Christianity, yet do not grasp the real power that lies before them. As it states later in 2 Timothy 3, “Always learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.” We attend conferences, Bible colleges, Bible Studies but none of these things really seem to have an impact on us. Is that entirely the fault of the ministry? No. There is a certain responsiblity on the believer to actively pursue God and allow him to change our lives. However, this change will never happen if we are bound and determined to live the life we want to live.
The church is made up of individuals. Therefore the church cannot change if the individuals do not change. As a result, you stand at a cross road. Will you continue to live an unholy Christian life or will you allow God to mold you into the Christian he designed you to be? What will you choose?