The Failing Church?
Why is the American church failing in its mission? First of all, it is not failing in all areas. In places hit by hurricanes, the churches of America have mobilized in a powerful way to help the hard hit areas. There are many towns where the church is still the most effective and redeeming force at work in that community.
But the positive impact of the church does seem to be fading. A youth pastor posed the question to me, “So what about the Millennials?” The context of the question was the fact that Millennials as a whole are rejecting Evangelical Christianity. A few days later, I came across a lengthy piece on the internet where a former Evangelical Christian details the failings of the church. Why do we see so much negativity toward the church? Why is there a downward trend in the influence of the church, especially on the younger generation?
My answer on the Millennials is that there have been two huge factors shaping the way Millennials respond. One is the breakdown of the family and the other is growing up in a world where everything is instant and immediately available. The breakdown of the family has brought a cynicism and a low level of willingness to trust. Having everything available immediately has programmed a kind of demandingness into Millennials that is impossible to please in a real world. That in turn strengthens the cynicism.
In the end, Millennials want/demand the real deal. Jesus spoke as one who had authority (Matt. 7:29). He was the real deal. The church today, often does not speak with real authority. It often does not have needed answers to difficult like situations and instead speaks in platitudes that are powerless. Or worse, it has sold out to the business of building a church and caters to the Millennials in a way that doesn’t confront the sickness of the generation.
That was the essence of the piece I read on the internet. It said, “I tried your way. It did not work.” People want authentic Christianity. They want something that works in real life. Working with addicts, the two most significant factors on getting positive results are time and trust. What are the two things Millennials are least likely to give? Time and trust. Without those two things, there will not be the kind of outcomes that Christianity promises. False promises are not tolerated by this generation. This generation demands authentic Christianity.
It was a turning point for me in working with addicts when I began to explain to them what the time frame would look like and what the trust requirement would be for them to get better. No false promises. A rather grim picture of what it would take for growth. With more realistic expectations, we saw a greater probability that those we were helping would keep on the path. When they stayed on the path longer, we saw better results. Authentic Christianity. With better results came more trust … and even better results. The trend is always moving, either up or down.
The American church as a whole has tried to sell Christianity. Churches generally have done that by raising the forecasted expectations to a level that meant almost certain failure in the eyes of a distrusting generation. Authentic Christianity takes so much more time that you would ever imagined. I’m 40 years into a highly committed Christian walk and I still have so many ways I need to grow. I’m seeing great outcomes from the time I’ve put into my walk with Christ, but there is so much more!
God level outcomes also require trust at a level that I seldom see in churches today. True trust means a willingness to be open and accountable. Very few people in churches have the level of relationship where accountability is even an option. Throw in a little rebellion and independent spirit and trust is impossible. Walking in a way that shows a good face to others is about as good as it can get because of the shallow level of relationships.
Outcomes are very predictable. All things work by spiritual authority. When the right spiritual factors are in place, Christianity can produce authentic results that are powerful. If not, much of what happens is a sham. It is an attempt to appear to be like the real thing.
Are you authentic? Are you understanding the years it may take to truly become who God wants you to be? Are you connecting at a higher level with God and with others who also have a long term, committed view of doing what it takes to get heart change? Be part of the solution. Be authentic. Give God the room that He needs to demonstrate His life through your life!