I'm preaching through the book of Judges, and I'm struck by how similar American Christianity is to the Jews of that time and place. In particular, I am amazed when I read and hear Christians who seem to believe John 3:16, but all the rest of their thinking, their speech, and their values are just as pagan and "off" as their non-Christians neighbors.
But how is that different from the churches of the New Testament times? The Corinthian church was a roiling mass of a few faithful Christians struggling against immorality and heresy inside the church. The Galatians were stupidly trying to chain themselves to Jewish law-keeping. The Ephesians were solid as a rock doctrinally speaking, but within thirty years they had stopped loving Jesus (Revelation 2). The Colossians were hypnotized by the so-called secrets of the cults. The Thessalonians was terrified that Christ had left them behind.
The early Jewish believers defended a false faith that was all brain and no obedience (see the book of James 2); other Jewish Christians thought it would be a fabulous idea to craft a Christian/Judaism hybrid! (Hebrews). The Pergamos church was sexually immoral, and the Sardis church was dead!
So the 1st century Christians were no icons. It says somewhere in the New Testament that it is with great difficulty that the Church shall be saved. We Christians don't make it easy for our Lord to save us. We're like the intoxicated drowning man who thrashes around as the heroic life-guard is trying to get us safely to shore.
A big cause of carnality in the modern U.S. church is the refusal of Christian preachers to preach the whole counsel of God. By only preaching the Gospel, with a heaping helping of happiness and a rare, apologetic mention of repentance, preachers foster worldliness in the church. This has been a problem for generations, but you can find it rooted in the second so-called great awakening. Revivals and soul-winning became the be-all and the end-all. Emotion was substituted for faith, and the psychological effects of music simulated the spiritual influence of the Holy Spirit.
So ma y small groups are built around secular psychology, that has been camoflaged with a few out-of-context Bible verses per chapter. People learn to love themselves, but they are not set free from the sin of self-love. God is now only a God of love, but not a God of holiness, and certainly not a God who punishes. Hell has disappeared. The word-of-faith prosperity message packs the houses. Churches are filled with rollicking worldlings who have been taught they are "little gods" who can create reality with their "confessions", but they are all webbed-up in Satan's snare.
I am tempted to say we should go back to the faithfulness of our grandparents' generation, except that it was in many cases our grandparents who surrendered their old denominations -- Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopal -- to unbelief. So instead we should pray! Pray for God to raise up a new generation of faithful Bible preachers. Pray for the Lord to send a sincere spirit of true repentance among our congregations. The U.S. church has been living in the days of the Judges for some time.
Jack is the teaching elder of Ironworks Pike Community Church. He is a graduate of Columbia Biblical Seminary http://www.ciu.edu.