Over the last 50 years, the evangelical Christian church has grown phenomenally in size. In 1960, less than 100 churches in this country had over 1,000 members. Today, there are more than 10,000 churches with congregations numbering over 1,000. At the same time, however, the values of our society have moved dramatically away from Biblical standards.
We are significantly larger in size, but significantly smaller in impact! So, what did we do wrong?
First, Christians decided to withdraw from the culture. This happened in earnest in the 1920’s during the Fundamentalist/Modernist Controversy. At that time, the Modernists deemphasized the vertical relationship between God and man and focused on the horizontal relationship between man and man. They pursued what came to be called the “social gospel.” The Fundamentalists, seeing this error, over-reacted by focusing almost exclusively on the vertical relationship between man and God. They pursued a “faith gospel.” Interestingly, both forgot that there are really two great commandments: Love God, and love your neighbor.
By forgetting the Second Commandment, the evangelical church was not of the world, but it was also not in the world. We became irrelevant.
Then, when Christians realized that their impact on society was rapidly waning, they tried to reengage the culture, but in the process took on the values of the culture. The Moral Majority and Christian Right focused on political power. Those preaching a “health/wealth gospel” focused on material prosperity. As they lost their focus on godliness, high profile spokesmen for the Christian church fell into major moral failure. To those outside the faith, we were no different from the rest of the world.
By adopting the values of the culture, we went into the world, but also became of the world. In the process, we gave the enemies of the Lord occasion to blaspheme.
So, what should we do right?
Enter the world arena with integrity. Be in the world, but not of the world. When we really do that, we will see the world changed.