8 Reasons Why the Church Lost Cultural Influence in North America
It is evident that the bible confessing Church has been losing cultural influence over the past several decades. At the turn of the 20th century, Judeo-Christian values were promoted in this nation. By the 1950’s, those were merely celebrated. By the ‘70s and ‘80s, they were merely tolerated, and by the late 2000s, those values were hated in popular secular culture. While there are many reasons for this, I am going to narrow it down to just a few.
The following are reasons why the bible confessing Church has lost the culture wars. (By using the word “lost,” it doesn’t mean that I believe it is a done deal, but that for now, it has lost its cultural influence.)
- Pastors abandoned the gospel of the kingdom.
Since the end of the Civil War in the late 19th century, the Church, in general, replaced preaching the kingdom of God with sermons of the rapture. The imminent return of Christ became its primary focus. This resulted in the Church going from cultural engagement to cultural escape. The result was that by the 1920s almost all the elite institutions of higher learning were taken over by secular humanists.
- The Johnson amendment.
The 1954 Johnson amendment resulted in the legal possibility of revoking the 501(c)(3) non-profit status of Churches if they endorsed a candidate or engaged in political activity. Before this law, congregations looked forward to hearing from their pastors regarding the biblical position of political candidates before they voted. Nowadays, despite most Christians desiring political input from their pastors, pastors have remained silent on major cultural and political issues of the day for fear of the losing tax-exempt status. This silence from the pulpits has effectively taken the Bible out of the public square. As a result, it has left a vacuum that the humanists have been glad to fill.
- Church growth became more important than making disciples.
Starting in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, the Church growth phenomena hit the Christian scene. This noble attempt to make the Church more relevant to the unchurched has had both positive and negative ramifications. One of the dire consequences is that many preachers began watering down their messages. Many pulpits went from powerful doctrinal preaching to sharing a contemporary salvation message that did not feed or challenge the flock. Worse yet, many of these churches did not even have a weekday service and/or discipleship program to compensate for their weak Sunday sermon. The catastrophic result has been a focus on gathering crowds instead of making disciples. Only true disciples of Christ can make disciples of others and change the world.
- The secular humanists were more committed.
The secularists on the radical Left have been more committed to their cause than the Church has been to its cause. While most pastors were focused only on the success of their Church, losing sight of the big picture of reaching culture, the far-Left activists were busy building coalitions, raising money, and reaching the cultural mountains of music, arts, and entertainment. That, in turn, affected the thinking of every other cultural mountain (politics, law, ethics, education, and religion).
- The Church became relevant instead of reformative.
The shift of the Church towards being seeker sensitive shifted the focus of the Church from theological messages to therapeutic motivational messages. In its search to reach more people and be more relevant, the Church ceased being cultural reformers and lost its cultural influence.
- Believers used God to chase the American dream.
Many believers took the motivational message to another extreme by distorting scripture to justify chasing the American dream of personal affluence and comfort. They began to use their faith more for personal prosperity and to claim a blessing rather than preaching the gospel and advancing His Kingdom.
- Christians on the Right focused only on politics.
In the late ‘70s, a remnant of pastors became disheartened by the demise of Judeo/Christian values in the culture. As a result, they began to rally Believers to action and formed organizations like the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition. Although these organizations may have been responsible for a short resurgence of Christian activism (which many claim resulted in the elections of Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump), it neglected to include other areas of culture. (Politics is a reflection of the cultural mores, it is not responsible for formulating it. Culture is formed from the ground up through media, music, arts, entertainment, and education.) When the focus is on politics to the neglect of the other cultural spheres, at best there may be short-term victories. However, long term loss is inevitable.
- The Evangelical Church has been divided politically.
While many White Evangelicals may think that the most important issues are gay marriage, pro-abortion laws, and the selection of future Supreme Court justices, many Bible-believing people of color believe economic (social justice) issues are the most important. They believe systemic poverty is the primary cause of abortion, crime, and the deterioration of their quality of life. Conservatives on the Right believe that big government solutions to poverty, education, and social service benefits have done more harm than good to minority communities. Christians on the Left believe that social justice for the poor has to include government intervention and redistribution of wealth since the private sector is focused on only making money. They believe that the “trickle down” economic policies only aid the wealthiest in the nation. Although most Bible-believing Christians agree on issues of morality, including abortion and traditional marriage, their divergent strategy on tackling the problems causes them to be divided politically. This results in a dissipation of national influence. The Church’s voice becomes weaker in the political realm.
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