“Why have Christians been so ineffective in affecting the culture for the past 40 years or so?”
Evangelical churches have grown significantly from the 1960’s until now. Today, we have mega-churches with many thousands of members. That was unheard of 40 years ago. However, while we grew in numbers, our influence on basic cultural values continued to wane to the point where the church’s voice now is sometimes viewed by the society as marginal, and at other times irrelevant.
The slide really began in the 1920’s with the Fundamentalist/Modernist Controversy. There was a major split within Christendom at the time. The Modernists favored a “social Gospel” where they were concerned about helping people in need, but turned away from the historic issues of salvation by grace through faith. The Fundamentalists reacted by focusing on the historic issues of Biblical faith, but withdrew from activities that had their focus on helping people.
The Fundamentalists were Godly people who desired deeply to be faithful to God and the tenets of their faith. However, the net effect of their decision to emphasize faith issues to the exclusion of social issues was that they withdrew from the culture around them.
In the 1950’s, their decision to focus on “faith only” issues led them to be on the wrong side of the defining moral issue of the day. They did not see God’s heart as it related to the injustice associated with segregation and the Civil Rights Movement. They were silent, when they should have been vocal.
When the next defining moral issue hit in the early 1970’s, the Fundamentalists, who were now calling themselves Evangelicals, were lukewarm in their response. When one major spokesman for the Evangelical church was asked why he did not speak out against abortion, his response was, “I speak out against sin, not against sins.” Again, we were silent, when we should have been vocal.
Why do people in the culture today see us as marginal or irrelevant? Because, when the chips were down and we had an opportunity to speak out boldly for truth as it related to the defining moral issues of the day, we were silent. We lost our credibility.
God certainly wants us to focus on our vertical relationship with Him. But, He also wants us to be alert to our horizontal relationship with the people around us. The two great commandments go together – we are to love God with all our hearts, and we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. When we forget the latter, we become “so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good.”