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How the American Church changed Christianity (part 1)

Question: How has Modern American Christianity changed Christianity and the way we do church for the worse? Do you think any of these?

1. Practices: Programs and business practices in the place of a radical christianity.
2. Worship: Songs more focused on feelings than God.
3. Gospel: Focused on personal salvation, not the gospel of the Kingdom.
4. Mission: Get them to our building, not send our people out.
5. Mercy: Church buildings or ‘over there’ but little backyard mercy ministries.

A publisher I spoke with is interested in having a book about what the American church and what Jesus said should look like here if we hadn’t ‘Americanized Jesus’. I’d love your thoughts…

10 Comments

  1. Hi Drew, like your site and views. It’s very informative.

  2. Congrats Papa (and Mama) Goodmanson. Two boys are good way to start.

    I don’t have any comments… only a question.
    What is the difference between the “gospel of personal salvation” and the “the gospel of the kingdom”? Is this sort of like comparing micro-economics to macro-economics — the same principles but different scales of economy, but in either case immanently God’s economy?

  3. Hi Drew,

    Carolina and I want to congratulate you and Heather on the arrival of your new son Roman. We were and are blessed with a beautiful little red headed princess on Oct 6,2005 her name is Natanya Katriel.

    I think it is a great Idea to adopt. My wife likes the idea down the line instead of having one of our own for a second child. Lord knows there are a lot of unwanted children.

    I’m also replying on your “How America has changed Christianity. I’ve been saying to a lot of friends in the last couple of years that Church as we see it now is coming to an end. I believe that a lot of people most of all ;Carolina and I are disilusioned with what is called church.

    Georg Barna recently wrote a book you may have read or heard of titled “Revelution”. In a nutshell the msg of the book is that in the next few yrs you will see a decline in church membership and people as we speak are opting for a smaller more tight knit setting where the Pastor is not the center of the church but having an atmosphere of worship where Jesus is the draw. The era of celebrity pastors is coming to an end. House churches are making a comeback (Book of Acts). I know that has always been Kaleo’s vision in a similar way.

    I encourage you to write this book. There are so many angles to start from. My first thought is the role of denominations and how they fell in the trap of maintaining the institution(tithes for the building program and myriad of useless “social ministries”) as opposed to “going out” and spreading he Gospel.

    Well keep on writing and God Bless you and your family,

    Stephen Kader

  4. Aaron,

    “What is the difference between the ‚Äúgospel of personal salvation‚Äù and the ‚Äúthe gospel of the kingdom‚Äù?”

    This is more a comment on how the church versus the Bible portrays the gospel. Often, the modern church sees the gospel as an individual fire insurance plan to not go to hell. While the Bible seems to present the gospel message as a much larger Kingdom orientation.

    Part of it may be the Western focus on legal ideas ‘justification’ and systematics which remove/compartmentalize the Bible into bite-sized chunks.

    Does that make sense?

  5. I think it makes sense…
    I guess my comments would be that the doctrine of justification by faith alone as a forensic/judicial /legal act is not so much a Western idea, but a fundamental principal of Protestant/Evangelical/Reformed doctrine. Justification (along with Biblical Authority over Papal Authority) was what differentiated the Protestants from Rome, but more importantly it is what differentiates Biblical doctrine from false doctrine. If this is what is meant by the “Americanized Church”, then God has truly blessed the Churches of America. Unfortunately, I think (and suspect that you agree) that more recently the problem has been the exact opposite. Finally, one can hardly say that any good systematic theologian compartmentalizes one doctrine from another. These doctrines are always a complex of inter-related ideas. But distinctions in doctrinal principals are also not only necessary for understanding but vividly apparent (This is what I mean by “compartmentalized” in the next sentence). Even when doctrinal concepts are “compartmentalized” one can hardly say that they are bite-sized. Typically, they are extremely difficult to swallow. I think the problem did not stem from the great American systematic theologians, but that the scripture rich work that they accomplished in their lifetimes has been all but forgotten. There are hundreds, even thousands, of pages of rigorous study that have been reduced to a couple of happy-go-lucky sentences. Is there more Good News to be found in Scripture than the Doctrine of Justification? Absolutely, but nevertheless, I am vehemently and aggressively against any doctrines or methodologies that marginalize the importance of this essential doctrine.

  6. Aaron, maybe I’m totally writing things that are coming off wrong. For you to say you are “vehemently and aggressively against any doctrines or methodologies that marginalize the importance of this essential doctrine.” suggests that this is a point you must make in reference to the conversation. Is that how you are reading what I’m writing?

    The Protestant/Evangelical/Reformed doctrine came out of Western thought. While this was occuring the East and others did not compartmentalize things the same way. By the way, I’m not throwing the doctrine of justification out, I’m saying its part of a bigger story. I’ve seen a tendancy to focus on particulars at time at the expense of the whole.

  7. First of all I did not mean to come off as accusatory, and I appologize if I did.

    The question is: “How the American Church Changed Christianity?” I am reading this as “How the Modern-to-Post-Modern Church Changed Christianity?” What I posted is my take on this latter question. If it is viewed in a more broader Western/Protestant sense, I think we should focus on “How the West/Protestants returned to Christianity.” Admittedly, I know very little about Eastern Orthodoxy so I can’t comment on this. Maybe the problem is that my Mid-Western upbringing compartmentalized things differently than your Northwestern upbringing causing the question to resonate at differently.

    You say “Go Hawks”, I say “Go Chiefs!” Wait, that is a really stupid analogy. Today at least I will say Go Hawks with you.

    God Bless

  8. man don´t talk (in your book) only about the North American situation, man, christianity lose focus not only in the north of this continent but also in the south, expand your view, think not only in the North America Empire but in the kigdom of God all over the world.

    wE aRe oNe iN HIm

  9. I agree with enzo as I revise my previous post. When we refer to “American Churches” we need to be careful to include our brothers to the south (South and Central America). Furthermore, the modern-to-post-modern church is a broader category than the Western/Protestant Church (not vice versa). With the great melting pot of the internet, ideas are propagated rapidly — traveling great distances in days and weeks instead of decades and centuries. This modern-to-post-modern paradigm is not limited to America or Western Civilizations. It is a worldwide paradigm in desperate need of a shift. The Gospel needs to be presented accurately in light and in truth throughout the entire world.

  10. Of your original five options, I say (regretfully), “All of the above.” I also would submit that all five are symptoms of the same devastating problem. Driven by the desire for “success” (usually defined as increasing attendance and real estate holdings), the modern North American church by and large has abandoned God-glorifying biblical theology in favor of man-exalting, seeker-sensitive pragmatism. (As an example, see the following article regarding an extremely common and supposedly benign manifestation of this: http://www.farese.com/art04.htm .)

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