Thrving in a pluralistic society

Over the years we have seen church numbers shrink nationwide, while at the same time church numbers have increased rapidly around the world especially in the global East and South.  While this trend continued to move in the wrong direction in the West and the U.S. many churches have reacted in ways that I believe have created the downward spiral of American Christianity. 

Many of the Mainline Protestant churches over the last 50 years have reacted to this slow moving trend by leaving the traditional and Biblical principles of godliness and life.  In an attempt to gain a wider base of popularity the Main Line churches have advocated the removal moral holiness.

At the same time the Pentecostal and Charismatic church has seen a rapid increase both in the State and worldwide.   Yet, there was no attempt to water down the moral expectations of Scripture but rather a continued call to holiness.  

50 years removed from the start of the exodus trend in churches nationwide the Main Line denominations have now advocated for the following.  Homosexuality as another expression of human sexuality divinely created, Gay marriage as a response to the previous belief.  The removal of gender in relation to God in the written word of God.  Advocating for other ways to worship God other than what is prescribed in Scripture (Hinduism, Buddhism, New Age, and even Islam.)  Even some of the Liturgy being used today refers to God as Mother and some go as far as to refer to God as Mother Earth. 

In every attempt the Main Line Churches have made to become relevant to a larger population their numbers have dropped at a greater rate.  Two observations can be made I believe.  One, as the Main Line Churches attempt to look more like the population around them, they in return have less to offer that population.  Two, as the Main Line Churches remove further away from the teaching of Scripture they remove themselves further from the life of the Church which is the Holy Spirit.

Today the American Pentecostal and Charismatic churches are beginning to move in the same direction as the Main Line Churches.  In recent years leaders within the Pentecostal/Charismatic church have openly divorced their spouses while remaining the lead pastor.  In early 2000 then Bishop Pearson of the Azusa fellowship began teaching that there is no hell.  He is now pastoring a Universalist Church in Tulsa Ok, and teaches that all religions are the same.  In 2013 a leading pastor who was married and had 2 children both of which were in their early teens announced to his church that he is gay.  A round of applause erupted and he continues to pastor the church as an openly gay, divorced man. 

Example after example could be offered as well as the willful sin of extortion through a false doctrine of Wealth and blessing (Scripture does teach about wealth and financial blessing but, there is never a short cut but rather hard work, saving, and the desire to be generous to the poor and needy.)  I give these examples to show that just as the Main Line Churches removed themselves from God’s blessing and rid themselves of what made them standout in a pluralistic society it appears the Pentecostal and Charismatic churches are moving in the same direction. 

One area that will protect many Pentecostal and Charismatic churches is the fact that most are not related to a denomination.  Therefore, no denomination will be able to force feed the churches un-Biblical concepts.  At the same time many of these churches have no covering to protect the congregation from a wild haired pastor who gets into sin and then justifies it. 

With all of this said allow me to share with you a few things we can do to make sure the Pentecostal and Charismatic (As well as Evangelicals of all flavors) churches do not follow the lead of our older brothers (Main Line Denominations). 

  1.  We must get more conservative.  What I mean by this is we must be people of the Bible and we must insist on the moral standards of Jesus and the teachings of the Apostles.  While we may be upset about Gay marriage, we must deal with the adultery, sex before marriage, co-habitation, and even relationships with self-proclaimed Christians who practice the above.   Jesus was clear that we are forgiven, now go and send no more.   Paul made it clear that at one time we were all of the above and more but we are no longer slaves to sin but rather slaves to righteousness. 

  2. Proclaim the Gospel, proclaim sin, and proclaim Jesus as King.  Proclamation of the Gospel along with Discipleship is the number one weapon God gave to the Church to change culture.  Our power is in the sharing of the Gospel and helping people live it in community.  If we can get back to this the world around us will change.  But this cannot be simply the task of the pastors or leaders of the church, this must be practiced by all members.

  3. We must love those who disagree with us and who hate us.  If we cannot show real love and concern as well as treating all humanity as people who God loves we will never be able to get our message across.  While we hold to a tighter view of the Scripture we must also realize that Scripture teaches us to love our enemy and that Jesus was the result of God’s love for the world. 

  4. We must deal with persecution.  At first persecution will come through slander and words of hate.  But eventually if the Church continues to live out Scripture, proclaiming the Gospel and loving their enemies it will be moved against by Satan.  We as the Church must be willing to be left out of power circles and rely on the Holy Spirit for power.  We must be willing to lay our lives down for Jesus and His Kingdom.  We are promised persecution just as we are promised victory.  One does not come without the other and we must be willing to deal with it.

  5. We must get serious about the Holy Spirit.  I am not talking about more healing services (though I am not against them.) but, rather a greater dependence on the Spirit in living Holy, proclaiming the word, deliverance from our own sinful nature and for victory where the world closes the doors.  The Holy Spirit must not be regulated to a good feeling on Sunday and must become the normal part of our everyday lives. 

If we as the Evangelical churches will reach back to the past and recapture the zeal for the Gospel and the moral teaching of the early Church as well as proclaiming Jesus as King we will see persecution.  It is in the persecution that we must be willing to love our enemies and deeply depend on the Holy Spirit.  We can live in this pluralistic society and even thrive in it, we just need to learn from our brothers and sisters in the global South and East as well as our past brothers and sisters of Scripture. 

History tells us if we leave behind the teachings of Scripture to gain popularity then we are in affect bowing before Satan to gain the nations.  The result will be the death of the Church, or at least the death of what we know as the Church. 

Yet, if we will hold to the teachings of Scripture and live the truth out loud we will see persecution but we will also see many from the surrounding culture looking towards us for answers.