How Do You Deal With A Messed-Up, Modern Evangelical Church?

Where Is The Church Jesus and The Apostles Established?

Yesterday I had a fascinating conversation with one of our Airbnb guests. Over his lifetime, he served as a church planter and church planting consultant in the USA and United Kingdom. He grew up Southern Baptist. Over the course of 45 years, he earned a master’s degree from a leading evangelical seminary, explored various theological ideologies, preached, pastored, and served in numerous capacities and…has not now attended church for over 8 years. He has not rejected God but has rejected the “institutional church.” Do you think there’s something wrong with him? Has he left the church or has the church left him? 

Last week, Rhonda and I saw the new Disney remake of The Beauty and the Beast. Before the movie started were were subjected to advertising of various kinds. A large mega-church in our area filled the screen with their version of church – smiling people, good-looking families, relevant sermons, and top-tier facilities featuring the nursery, children’s ministry and coffee bar. One glimpse showed a worship service with people hopping up and down waving their arms like at a Justin Bieber concert. The message? Happy people. Happy music. Happy family. Happy programs. Happy church. Happy life.

But what if I’d rather be holy than happy? Got anything for me? 

It seems to me that the evangelical church of today is all over the map. You have little idea what you’ll find or hear or see when you walk into a typical evangelical church. There is little accord from one church to another. Many of these churches are like Procter & Gamble, regularly “reinventing” themselves to stay relevant and attract as many people as possible (or at least keep from losing people to the church on the edge of town that can do it better). What a mess! 

So, people have four choices

 1. Keep looking for a church that suits you. 

C.S Lewis gives insight into this type of exploration from the thoughts of Uncle Screwtape to his demon apprentice:

Surely you know that if a man can’t be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighborhood looking for the church that ‘suits’ him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches. (The Screwtape Letters)

The consumerist Christian has been around for quite a while. Contemporary Christians are just perfecting the art.   

 2. Change your approach to the church you are a part of. 

Again C.S. Lewis:

The search for a “suitable” church makes the man a critic where God wants him to be a pupil. What he wants from the layman in church is an attitude which may, indeed, be critical in the sense of rejecting what is false or unhelpful but which is wholly uncritical in the sense that it does not appraise- does not waste time in thinking about what it rejects, but lays itself open in uncommenting, humble receptivity to any nourishment that is going. (The Screwtape Letters) 

Glean from the church you’re in what God has for your spiritual good even if there is much that “rubs you the wrong way.” 

 3. Give up on the church altogether. 

This is not an option for most. Jesus declares that the Church will be built up and not be defeated. The Apostles established the Church as the place where and from where God’s work is accomplished. The Apostle Paul teaches that the  Church is “the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Timothy 3.15). However, so many are thrown into a quandary since the modern church does not resemble this ancient church whatsoever.  

 4. Search for the Church established by Jesus Christ and the Apostles.  

I don’t mean keep visiting one evangelical church after another until you’re satisfied. I mean step back and seriously consider the church established by Jesus Christ and the Apostles. Does she still exist? Follow the evidence. Don’t just start or stop at the Reformation. Read history. Don’t settle for only what you see in the church today.  

I consistently run into people like our Airbnb guest mentioned above. Something is amiss in our modern understanding and experience of the church.

I hope it matters to you.

How would you describe your current status with the church? Take some time to reflect. 

Dr. K 

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

13 thoughts on “How Do You Deal With A Messed-Up, Modern Evangelical Church?

  1. It’s hard to publicly post such thoughts, because I love my church and would hate to air out the hard parts. Methinks I’d need to come and discuss with you for days at Hospitality House. 🙂 Actually, I think that’s how I found your blog! Maybe for my fiftieth in five years… OH wouldn’t that be NEAT??!!! Or maybe I’d be one of those who drive you CrAzY…. 😛

    • Sandi. You would be welcomed with open arms…anytime. Keep loving the church… Dr. K

  2. Dear Keith– our church is not like what you describe– I am OLD, and wish our music was more Hymns–
    wish our Mom’s and Dads would not let their kids pressure them into going out and coming in to service several times–but our pastors do ignore it–keep the worship very Biblical and thoughtful–
    and there is a sweet spirit in our church– so many young families who do so much to keep our church active and the crowds always amaze me!!! I am so blessed when I participate in this group!!!
    Our pastors are now looking for a ministry pastor- you know about Pastor Kevin leaving–??
    And I’m sure God has the one we -and they need!!! Thank the Lord–He is blessing our church!!!
    Thank you for your ministry to all of us!!! Love to you and Rhonda!!! Helen

    • Thank you Helen. CHBC is in my weekly prayers as are so many dear people we love so much. God’s mercy carries churches such as CHBC. You all have been faithful in so many various situations including this latest one. May God’s mercy continue to sustain you all. Love to you, Keith

  3. D. K;
    There are many gaps between what Scripture tells the Creator’s followers to do and what the conventional church tells them to do; primarily, realizing the value and necessity of following the Instructions found in the books of Moses – as closely as we are able in our modern context (obviously, we aren’t able to practice sacrifices or follow Levitical parts of the Law). Reading Scripture isn’t enough – it’s our responsibility to ascertain (or try to) what the Creator intended. This involves, to a degree, learning the Hebrew meaning of the original words.
    Also lacking in the conventional congregation is the need for repentance; realizing our short-comings, our missing the mark set by the Originator of the universe. We ignore our sin and sing worship songs in order to ‘feel close to God’, in spite of the fact that our spiritual condition does not ALLOW closeness with God. Our sin needs to be address on an hourly basis in order to maintain fellowship with Him. Allowing sin to go unaddressed creates a barrier, and that barrier remains in spite of all the worship songs we sing.
    Allowing ourselves to be guided by the instructions God gave Moses; toward repentance, toward redemption and toward the Messiah (the Passover Lamb) is one of the things missing in the modern congregation.
    Thanks for your time,

    Bruce Graham

    • Hello Bruce. Thank you for your comments. I agree that ongoing repentance is a needed in each person’s heart. We need to live our lives in repentance – certainly a missing element in many churches. Jesus Christ is the One we need to fix our churches and hearts on. His incarnation changed everything – even the law which he fulfilled. The law was good to a point Paul teaches us. Jesus Christ is the fullness. While giving credence to Jesus Christ, many churches have become about something or someone else. Our worship and life, including the purpose of the church, is to be, at the core and in every expression, about the Triune God entered into through Jesus Christ. As the Head of the Church, all things relate to Him. May we continue to seek this fullness found in Christ and His Church. Thanks for engaging The UnCommon Journey. Dr. K

  4. I am always amazed at how people view the lack of importance of Church involvement these days. I have a client. A 35 year old woman who recently told me that she was done with her local fellowship. She told me something we’ve all heard. “I don’t need to go to Church to walk with the Lord”. As we talked more I started asking her questions. She has been married to her husband Chris for 10 years. I asked her when her anniversary was. She told me that it was the beginning of February. I said, “you know Chris can come home next month on your 10 year anniversary, put his feet up on the couch and tell you to make him some dinner!” We talked more. Truth is, Chris doesn’t even need to come home that night at all to be married to her. Why? Because he showed up at the chapel 10 years ago and said the vows. He is married. This is a fact. But as any woman, (especially a woman) knows, that if this relationship is not nurtured and nurtured regularly, it will die. People like to debate about eternal security. You see, personally, I don’t believe that God ever lets go of us. But we have all seen those who have appeared to let go of God. Slowly and surely like the frog in the kettle of warm water. The marriage relationship like the relationship with God can die without regular watering. May we water both our marriages and our relationship with God regularly. My wife bless her heart has been loving and committing to me at my worst. I will stay committed to the Church in the midst of her imperfections!!

    • Thanks for your good thoughts, Bruce. There is so much we do not know about the Church. What we do know about we have a difficult time engaging. Living in her life is a glorious struggle (like marriage). Let’s struggle on, my friend! Keith

  5. Hey, Keith. May I offer a different perspective? We have attended two of the largest megachurches (Willow Creek in Chicago and now North Point in Atlanta) the past 15 years, and I suspect they are the type of churches that you are concerned about. I have spent a lifetime in academia (often in Christian academia), and I have heard the attacks on the seeker church movement during most of those years. From the “inside” those churches are very different than the ones that most critics paint. At Northpoint now, I am constantly reminded that a) the Bible has something important to say to me in 2017; b) the only real question when it comes to my relationships on this earth is “what does love require of me?”; c) not everyone looks like me or thinks like me.; d) it’s OK, even healthy, to have serious doubts about the legitimacy of the Christian faith.; e) connecting the church experience/ Christian message to your audience is natural, and right, and I would argue consistent with the New Testament writers. So we have a lot of people, many to most of which are living out our church mission “to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.” Help me understand how that can be logically, culturally, or even Biblically wrong? (on a personal note, hope life is treating you well. Man it’s been a long time!)

    • Hi Mike. Great to hear from you!! It has been a long time. I am not really addressing any “type” of church in particular but trying (obviously, not very well) to challenge the Western, evangelical, protestant, contemporary, fundamentalist, heretical, and whatever other label one can use, kind of church. I’m not even using the term “wrong” for any of it (unless they are heretical). This kind of church can be superficial, programmatic, human-centric, pragmatic, fragmented, often celebrity oriented, self-serving, and unable to help heal the souls of broken humanity. Yet, the machine just keeps on cranking as if all is OK. One of the issues is – all these churches claim to follow the Bible – yet they believe and act in disharmony with each other. Anyway, nothing I say or do is going to make much of a difference. But, at least we get to talk (or whatever this is called) and perhaps pause to examine our understanding of church for a while. Please email me: [email protected]. Are you in the Atlanta area now? Still coaching? Please, give me a holler. Thanks!! Keith

Comments are closed.