The decline of the church in America and how to reverse the trend

Over recent months I have become more and more burdened over the state of the church in America. There is a lot of problems in our nation today, we can all admit to that. In order to solve the problems in our nation we must first find the source of the problem. It may suprise you that the source of the problem is not a political party or even the president. The source of the problem is not the sinful society in which we live, after all, people will do what they are naturally born to do. The fact is that the real source of the problems in America today is the church. You may say, well, how can this be? What did the church do that was so wrong? When I speak of the church in America, I am speaking of the church in general. There are a few local churches here and there that are still doing good, however, there are only a very few. In Galatians 1:9 the Bible says, “As we said before, so I say now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” What is the gospel? The gospel is the Word of God. It is the message of salvation that can be seen from Genesis all the way through Revelation. Anyone who adds to this gospel or takes away from this gospel should be accursed. The problem today is that the church in America has done this very thing. We have either taken away from the gospel or we have added to the gospel. There are two words that come to mind that describes most churches in America today. Most churches are either liberal or legalistic. Let’s first define what I mean by a liberal church. Contrary to what you may think, a liberal church is not a church that is contemporary or is modern in its approach or uses versions of scripture other than the King James. A liberal church is a church that takes away from the gospel. Liberal churches are those who compromise on scripture. These are often times hard to identify. For example, it is easy to identify a church as liberal when they allow homosexual marriages or they have women pastors and deacons or they do not preach that Jesus is the only way to heaven or they do not believe in the authority of scripture. However, others are harder to identify, such as those who do not believe that God created the world in six literal days or that the earth is not young but millions of years old. Those who practice a ‘social gospel’ and a ‘prosperity gospel’ is also identified as liberal. Sadly, the vast majority of churches in America today would be identified as being liberal. As a result of the liberalism in the church today, the society does not take the church seriously. After all, why should they? If we tell them that they need to believe in the God of the Bible, yet we compromise on what the Bible says, how can they know we are telling them the truth? We teach the Bible from our pulpits but we do not practice it. No wonder so many people are turning away from the church. In the schools they hear evolution taught as ‘fact’, in the church they hear the Bible taught as ‘stories.’ Society feels that the church is not relevant because the church has compromised on the very Bible that they preach. Liberalism in the church is a key factor as to why our nation is in the shape it is in today. However, we cannot blame it all on liberalism. There is also another dangerous thing in the church today and that is legalism. A church that is legalistic is a church that adds to the gospel. This type of church and preacher is also accursed. The dangers of legalism is taught in the book of Galatians. I would encourage every believer to study that book carefully. Legalism covers a very broad ground. Legalism includes those who claim they have ‘new revelations’ from God to those who are strict in nature. In most cases, legalism is a reaction to liberalism. It is an emotional response to the liberalism of our day. In order to not be identified as a liberal, people will go to the extreme of legalism. For example, a liberal church may have contemporary worship, therefore, a legalist will say contemporary music is of the devil. A liberal church will say ‘come as you are’, therefore, the legalist will demand a certain dress code for those who attend. The list of examples can go on and on. Paul had this very battle in his day. There were those who thought you had to add the law to the gospel, just like today we have those who add rules and regulations to the gospel. In Galatians five, Pauls deals with the dangers of such legalism. There is a simple formula to consider: LEGALISM = OBLIGATION = REBELLION = FLESHLY LIVING. When you ‘add’ to the gospel you will demand an obligation. Therefore, people will go to church and serve God out of obligation. In most every case, obligation will lead to rebellion. Nobody likes to be told that they have to be a certian way, therefore, at some point they realize they cannot meet that obligation and thus they rebel. As they rebel, they turn against everything that is Christian. This is what we see in Galatians 5:19-21. When you are under the law of legalism, you will discover that you cannot please God on your own works, therefore, you rebel and you fall into sin. This is why the church in America is in decline. This is why our nation is in the shape that it is in. People feel that the church is not relevant (liberal) or they feel that the church has too many demands (legalist). So, what is the solution. How do we reverse the trend? We reverse the trend by returning to grace. Living in the grace of God is to live within His Word and nothing else. Do not add to it and do not take away from it. Here is another formula to consider: GRACE = LOVE = COMMITTMENT = SPIRITUAL FRUIT. When we live within God’s grace and not in our own ways, it causes us to serve Him out of love rather than obligation. Grace says God loves you no matter how bad of a sinner you are. Grace says God loves you even if you do not understand His Word. Grace says God loves you no matter how you dress. Grace says God loves you no matter what style of music you like. Grace says God loves you no matter what translation of scripture you use. When we practice grace living it will open our eyes to the amazing love of God which will cause us to love Him in return. As a result of our love for Him, the fruits of the Spirit become evident in our lives and we will desire to live in obedience to God’s Word. If you want people to live in purity, give them grace. If you want people to follow God’s Word, give them grace. If you want people to dress right, give them grace. If you want people to live godly, give them grace. Living right out of a love for God is a natural response to God’s grace. When we add to that gospel and make people feel as if they must fit a certain mold so that they will not be considered ‘liberal’ then we rob them from God’s grace and we hinder them from serving God out of love. The church in America today is filled with liberalism and legalism. Our only hope for America is to return to the Bible. We must preach it, teach it, and practice it, never adding to it or taking away from it. This is why at the church where I pastor we, “do not follow the latest trends, nor do we follow the traditions of men, we simply lift up Jesus and preach His Word.” If more churches in America today would hold to that, then just maybe, God will send a revival!

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