America's Gospel Problem

Christianity is the largest religion in the world, with over 2.2 billion believers. In the United States,Christianity is dominant with over 78% of Americans claiming to be Christians. Nearly every political leader we've ever elected has asserted his or her Christian faith.

Yet, Christianity is also in decline when compared to the growth of other religions and most especially among young adults who are the future. The primary reason for this decline is that the church has generally discarded a well-rounded biblical view of the gospel of Jesus Christ and replaced it with a smaller, weaker, gospel concerned almost exclusively with spiritual thoughts, individual salvation, and the afterlife. The full gospel of Jesus is much, much more than that.

Modern "gospel" preachers mostly ignore God's kingdom on earth. Over time, the gospel has been "emasculated into irrelevance." [I'll tell you who said that in a moment.] Is it any wonder that the christian church is in decline? We've forsaken the gospel and in so doing become nearly irrelevant, sometimes even harmful, to our world.

The weak and incomplete gospel, generally accepted by the modern church, is the primary reason for the decline of Christianity in our culture. This is the hard truth.

Unfortunately, over the past century or so, the Christian church has largely lost its prophetic voice. Especially in America, much of the Church rarely even speaks about social, economic or environmental injustice. In order to justify this silence, the Church has developed a theology that shrinks the gospel to the point that it has nothing to say about anything other than individual, spiritual salvation.

Most people are comfortable with the small, weak gospel that reigns supreme in modern christianity. It's a gospel that only requires a certain thought or belief; little more. It would cause great consternation in many flocks if people were told what Jesus says it means to be "born again." Church members would likely leave; pastors and clergy would likely be fired. That's why you don't hear the full gospel presented often.

While this "gospel problem" is understood among christian leaders, unfortunately, it doesn't seem to have been communicated much to the masses; the laypeople who sit in the pews each Sunday.

To be fair, christians are certainly taught to "live out your faith." And, we know that we should strive to be like Jesus. We are told we should love God and our neighbor. We should treat others better than ourselves. We should be charitable. We should care for the poor; the sick; the stranger; and God's creation. Christians know we should be merciful and seek justice and peace.

But, mostly christians are taught that those things are nice to do if one feels "called" to do them; not that doing those things are an essential reaction to, and consequence of, our salvation; our re-birth as new creations. The way we live is rarely viewed as having anything to do with the gospel.

The result has been to shrink the gospel to the point where it has become an abstract spiritual thought that has limited relevance to the world we live in. This shrinkage of the gospel has contributed substantially to a declining distinctiveness of what it means to be a christian. Generally, christians live just the same as everyone else.

Furthermore, church attendance, and christian influence in the culture we live in, have been in steady decline for decades, especially among younger people. This really shouldn't be a surprise. After all, why bother attending church, when it has little relevance to the world outside its doors? [Note this is unfortunately in stark contrast to religions that are growing, like Islam, which, for all it's problems, definitely is known for serving the real needs of the poor and weak in its communities.]

The Christian church is dying out in the Western World. The reason is we have gotten away from the good and pure and true gospel of Jesus Christ. We have compromised and accepted something else. We have supported selfishness and greed in our communities. The hypocrisy is apparent; the religion grown old and stale. As with the pharisees in Jesus' day we have overlooked the important things; we have sought prosperity rather than righteousness. The gospel is not as real or relevant as it should be; it's lost its saltiness.

If the gospel is true, shouldn't it have a real impact on our world for the better? Shouldn't Christians be known for commitment to expanding the Kingdom of God?

If you say "yes" -- do you seriously maintain this has nothing to do with changing our society and world to make it better -- especially for "the least of these"? Do you seriously believe that our politics can possibly be unrelated? That it's ok to politically support individual prosperity over community good? That it's fine and dandy to support policies that increase income inequality; increase the numbers without health care; increase the numbers of homeless and hungry; increase environmental harm to God's creation, etc? Seriously? You have no problem with that?

America's gospel problem is that it has lost sight of the radical/revolutionary gospel Jesus preached -- a gospel that has both spiritual and "real world" implications.

These are some of the reasons we desperately need a return to "old time religion;" the full gospel of Jesus Christ.

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