Is The American Church Spiritually Sick?
In our attempts to conform the Gospel of Jesus Christ to material, therapeutic, and mystical standards of religion and spirituality we've arrested, inhibited, distorted, and handicapped God's Word and gifts of salvation.
Hermann Hesse wrote that “Now there are times when a whole generation is caught... between two ages, two modes of life, with the consequence that it loses all power to understand itself and has no standards, no security, no simple acquiescence.”
Is that where we live now? Have we lost the power to understand ourselves? Do we have any standards of right and wrong? Where do we look, and who do we look to, for our security? Is our society sick? Maybe it's time to finally admit that we've become so corrupt that the more we try to help ourselves, and the more we try to fix what's wrong in our society, the worse things become. And if society has become so corrupt and sickened, what about the churches?
Have Christians become corrupted by their attempts to conform to a society that has no use for them? People are openly hostile toward God. Christianity is viewed as an impediment to social progress. Clergy are less and less relevant, even to Christians. The Church's sphere of influence continues to shrink as each generation has less and less use for its message, rituals, and traditions.
But, as much as it saddens us to watch our society stagnate and sicken, as it turns away from God and abandons morality, maybe it's even more disheartening to witness what's become of the churches.
In psychology, social non-conformity was once considered a form of mental illness. But couldn't we flip that on its head in the present tense, and argue that a church's desire to conform its doctrines and practices to the standards of a sick society a form of spiritual illness? We can observe the wide-spread mental illness that's ravaging our country today and lament how many people are dependent on prescription medications to function in society, but how often do we ignore the spiritual illness that's corrupted our churches? How often do prefer to brush aside the diagnosis, so we don't have to accept the prognosis?
The churches in America are spiritually sick. In our attempts to conform the Gospel of Jesus Christ to material, therapeutic, and mystical standards of religion and spirituality we've arrested, inhibited, distorted, and handicapped God's Word and gifts of salvation.
How often does a pastor begin a conversation with someone by answering the question, "How many people are in your congregation?", as if this has any relevance to whether or not he preaches the Gospel? How many Christians expect Sunday worship to begin and end within a certain time-frame? How often do we prioritize the business of the church and neglect God's gifts of salvation? How many times has a pastor held his tongue because he's afraid if he speaks up he'll invite the wrath of the church council and possibly lose his ministry, home, and salary? In short, how often do our churches ape the behavior of a small business, or a therapist's office, or a new age cult?
Are our churches so spiritually sick that there's nothing to be done? Perhaps it's time we admit we've gotten what we deserve, what we wanted all along; we conformed to the standards of a sick society and we've become spiritually ill. Maybe now is the time for us to confess, in the words of the apostle, that God's given us up to the desires of our hearts.
If we can confess our sin then it's not difficult to see how and why our churches reflect the chaos and instability that's occurring in our society. And God, who's faithful and just, will forgive our sin for Christ's sake.
Only when we hold fast to the Good News of Jesus Christ can we hope to avoid being sickened by a generation that has lost all power to understand itself and has no standards, and offers us no security. Only God's Word and gifts of salvation reveal the truth about us, our nation, and our churches. Jesus is our refuge, strength, and only source of security.
Now is not the time to ignorantly conform ourselves to a society that is blind, hopeless, and godless. Now is the time to hold fast to the truth of the Gospel, that Jesus Christ has overcome the world. Our churches are only helpless and panicked when they worry more about numbers and money, business, and curb appeal than about whether or not they're being faithful to their God and Savior's call to take up their crosses and follow Him.
So we must be on guard against the spiritual illnesses and diseases that can afflict the Church which is the body of Christ. The Church is a living organism, made up of all the baptized who through faith cling to Christ. We live, and move, and have our being in Him. When we cut ourselves off from Him we will sicken and die by the world's hands. But, connected to Him through the Gospel, Baptism, and the Lord's Supper, we are anchored to the foundation of our existence and will never perish.