I have long been concerned about the new trend of extreme individualism in America and it’s affect on Christianity. According to some recent surveys done by both secular and religious organizations there is good reason to be alarmed. Since 1990 the number of Americans who claim to have a religious belief has declined by 11 percent.
According to William Donohue, president of the Catholic League, he thinks a radical shift towards individualism over the last quarter-century has a lot to do with it.
“The three most dreaded words are thou shalt not,” he told television commentator Lou Dobbs recently. “Notice they are not atheists” said Donohue, “they are saying I don’t want to be told what to do with my life.” 1
This is reminiscent of an incident where all the trouble began in the Garden of Eden. Genesis says that there man rejected God’s authority and sought to establish his own. Adam chose knowledge and self-enlightenment over the alternative of obedience to God.
In the midst of this changing religious demographic, the rise of the mega church seems to be having its way in the Protestant world. During that same period the number of Christians who call themselves evangelical or born-again has risen from two hundred thousand to eight million. One-third of all Americans now call themselves evangelicals.
This would seem like wonderful news to those who track Church growth. Yet the decline in religious belief in general seems to indicate that this is more a shift in style preference than an actual growth in numbers. There is clearly a direct correlation between the growth of the mega church and the shrinking of small and traditional Protestant churches in America.
With the rise of Christian television and the high visibility of the modern Church, one would think that we would be seeing an increase in religious beliefs in America. Instead, according to this and other recent surveys, the opposite is occurring.
So why are we seeing this radical shift in American spirituality? The answer to that question actually may be found in another question. Is modern Christianity actually Christian?
When the message that dominates the Western Church is more about self improvement, success and prosperity is that a Biblical Christian message? When there is a reluctance to preach sin and repentance from the pulpit is that a Biblical approach to Salvation through faith in Christ? When Church worship has been replaced by something that compares to a Broadway show or a public concert is it in fact a Worship Service?
If the answer to these questions is ‘Yes’ then the Bible does not truly represent Gods will for mankind and his directions to his Church!
With the mega church model comes the rise of the Christian Superstar. Yet how many of such stars have we recently seen falling from the heavens crashing tragically to earth because of scandal or immorality?
Too many I assure you. And when that happens the focus is usually on the fallen leader and very little attention is given to the hundreds or even thousands of followers who have now found a good reason to doubt God and join the growing ranks of unbelievers these new findings speak of.
How many conclude that if someone as great as these fallen spiritual leaders ― highly gifted and admired by so many ― can’t follow God in obedience, how can God expect them to do so? And with that they withdraw into the quiet world of unspoken doubt and pain.
My question is this: is the model that Jesus gave us a better way to raise and nurture true Christianity? Does growing a huge congregation primarily depend upon watering down the message to make it more palatable to the masses?
It is easy to look at the problems of America today and blame that on the crooked politicians. That sure can seem like a good place to lay the charge. But in the light of these new findings we in the Church may need to point the finger back at ourselves if there is any hope of recovery for our nation.
Jesus said “This Gospel must first be preached among all nations.” (Mk 13:10) Are we sure that today’s popular Gospel is the one he was talking about?