Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Why have Mainline Churches, in America, shown God the Door?

Why have Mainline Churches, in America, shown God the Door?

I left the religious denomination in which I spent over half my life as a member. It was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever had to make, but I felt, in the end, I had to do it, or drop the title of Christian. I felt that if I really was committed to following the teachings of the scripture I had no choice but to “come out from among them”. So, I did. Needless to say, I am looked upon as some sorta kook, but that’s fine by me. I have never particularly cared, one way or the other, what people think of me. I don’t have time for that sort of thing.

I was raised in a fundamentalist evangelical church. I remained in that church until I was 25 years of age. Even though I had distanced myself from the actual congregation, I remained, nevertheless. Then, I had the good fortune to meet a minister, of one of the mainline denominations in America, and he introduced me to the “practice of religion” I had never known. One, which adhered to biblical teachings and one, which was “Christ centered” as, in my opinion, a “Christian” church ought to be.

Upon attending services, at that pastor’s church, for the first time, on the walk back to our car, I remarked to my wife: “I feel as if I have been to church for the first time in my life”.

The teaching of this church, of which I soon became a member, stressed the love of God and the importance of following the teachings of Christ with the realization that no one is without sin and that as humans we will fall short. But the church went on to teach that when we do fall short… God is waiting… with open arms to forgive us and offer us compassion and strength. This church said there is no difference between Saint and Sinner. We are all sinners.

The pastor would stand in the pulpit Sunday, after Sunday, and preach from the scriptures. He would preach, and teach, about the God/Man from whom Christians derive their name… Christ.

It was a wonderful church, a church filled with love for God and for each other. Then something happened to change it… all.

About 20 years ago, the hierarchy of the church decided to merge with two other branches of the same name. Those churches were far more liberal than my church. Immediately the moderate church I loved began to go soft and become more liberal. Both in its approach to the scriptures and its acceptance of liberal politics and finally, the death knell sounded for me, the church accepted political correctness. That was the day the church died for me. It was over.

You see, for centuries my church had accepted the scripture as truth. But, the day the churched accepted “political correctness”; it was doomed. Why? Because, political correctness recognizes NO TRUTH. Everything is in shades of gray. There is no black and white in political correctness. The scriptures, as I know them, are anything but gray. There is absolute right and there is absolute wrong. A Christian cannot have it both ways. One must choose.

Look, either one believes the scriptures and makes and effort to live by them, or one does not. It is as simply as that for me.

Soon after the merger, or ministers began to preach about social matters, and political matters, from the pulpit. I remarked to my pastor that had I wanted to hear social politics on that particular Sunday I would have stayed home watched the TV news rather than waste my time at his church. Needless to say, that did not sit well.

As time went on, the church adopted more and more of the Political Left’s way of doing things. They even began the pagan practice of environmentalism. It soon became ridiculous. I was going to church to learn of Christ and instead I was being lectured in left wing politics. The church was dead! It was time to move on.

So, I left the church I loved… because it was no longer the church I had become a member of some 35 years earlier. The church I loved was dead.

Now understand, I have no fear for the safety of my soul. That was taken care of a very long time ago. But, I must tell you. I do miss the worship services with fellow Christians in an atmosphere of brotherly love as we bow before our God. I miss that. There is something strengthening in that sharing of love for one another and the expression of one’s love for God.

I do not regret leaving my denomination. Given the same set of circumstances, I would do it again, but a lot sooner.

Let me say this… it is my firm belief that when our mainline churches toss out their left wing politics and their right wing politics and begin, once again, to teach their parishioners from the scriptures, and make their primary purpose the practice of the Great Commission of Christ to his Church, as he departed, then our churches will once more be filled to overflowing.

There is a great longing throughout America for a renewal of America’s covenant with God. Notice, I didn’t say a contract, I said a covenant. A contract is an agreement between two equals. A covenant is an agreement between to unequal parties. And therein lies the root cause of the decline of America’s churches. We came to see our agreement with God as a contract, raising ourselves to the level of God, or worse, pulling God down to our level. One cannot do that without consequences. Bad consequences.

So, I am now among the “un-churched”. But not really.

We Christians are instructed, by Christ, to seek, first, the Kingdom of God and everything else will be taken care of. But today, out churches have switched that. Now, it is everything else first… then God, if… there is time before “coffee hour”.

As Christ was leaving this world, on his way home, he gave his disciples, the founders of the Christian church, a “charge”. In the Christian Church we refer to it as “The Great Commission”. He said this: 18”And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28: 18-20.) That’s it. That’s all there is to it.

You may notice that Christ’s charge to his church was not to rant against global warming. Not to demonstrate against world hunger, not to fight amongst ourselves over abortion, or homosexuality, or adultery, or politics, or a one world government, and he didn’t instruct us to create lobbying offices in Washington, DC, to lobby Congress in the churches stead. No, he did not charge us with any of those things. WHAT he DID charge us with was to preach and teach his commandments which, taken alone, will settle all the arguments above.

But the hierarchy of our mainline churches has resented the yoke of the covenant with God and they have finally laid it down… and taken up the position once occupied by God. Now, THEY decide what the church will teach and preach. “The Great Commission” is simply an anachronism. Out of date and frankly, in the way. So the church simply disregards it.

The Church has lost its way. Church attendance in America is somewhere around 30%. That means, of course, 60% of Americans don’t attend church anymore. Yet we say we are a Christian nation. How can that be? Do you suppose that many Americans, who did not like the direction the church has taken, have simply “come out from among them” and are living lives of quiet adherence to the commands of God outside the church? I, frankly, think so. In my case I read the scriptures and pray regularly. I tithe my income every month, but I send them to a church in a neighboring city… a church, which I feel, is actually trying to live up to Christ’s commands.

The Church has given its rightful place of leadership, in American society, over to the government. The scripture: “In as much as ye have done it unto the least of these… you have done it unto me” is now carved over the door of the Welfare Department and Social Services Department…not the Church door where it belongs.

The one standard, for our American society, used to be the church. No longer. The church has abdicated the throne of “The Standard Setter” in favor of deferring to the Supreme Court. Now, this is the same Supreme Court which ruled we, as a Christian society, cannot display the Ten Commandments on the grounds of a courthouse in America. That, in spite of the indisputable fact that the American code of laws is founded upon the Ten Commandments and old English Common Law.

The title of this piece is “Why have Mainline Churches, in America, shown God the Door?” Simple. God is inconvenient. Our churches today can’t be bothered with that 2000 to 6000 year old code of conduct, and law, and instructions for living a decent, God-fearing life. No, they have adopted the position that it does not apply today. Let me give you some examples:

Today the church does not feed and clothe the hungry. The government does it. Today the church is not saving men’s souls. It’s too busy saving the environment. Today the church does not set the standard to live by. The Supreme Court does. (The church won’t challenge it for fear of losing its tax-free status.) Today the church does not condemn that conduct the scriptures call sin. No. Indeed, the church is celebrating it, and in many cases, blessing those who indulge in one of the most heinous sins mentioned in the scriptures.

Yes, God is inconvenient for today's mainline churches in America. But, you know, truth is inconvenient, also. And one of the great truths from the scriptures is: “It is appointed unto man, once to die… and after death… the judgment.”

Eventually the hierarchy of our mainline denominations will ultimately answer to God for what they have done to his people, to his church. In the meantime, those of us who persist in, at the very least, making an attempt at, living a decent, God fearing life, outside those congregations, which no longer reflect Christian truth, will remain outsiders. But, you know. God himself said, there would be but a "remnant" of his people left. I think I have come to know, now, what He actually meant by that.



Vicki said...

Good article. I know the feeling, I'm in one of the few conservative dioceses left in the Episcopal Church, and I don't know where we'll be in another year or so. It's so sad what has happened to the church, we're just a laughingstock now.

Frank said...

Is it any wonder why we have the choices we do for leaders? God is punishing us. I am not an overly religious guy, I was away from the church (Catholic) for 15+ yrs., I walked in and picked up right where I left off....... walking out. I hadn't missed anything, maybe it's too ritualized. But back to my point on God punishing us..... I pray every night that God would get us real leadership in this country, or give us the ol' Soddem and Gamora treatment, for if He keeps us around too much longer he is going to owe the citizens of those two cities an apology.

Longstreet said...

Vicki: My ELCA Lutheran congregation was meeting with the local Episcopal parish. When the ELCA went to "full communion" with the ECUSA, I tried to hang on... but the more BOTH denominations adopted secular teachings in place of scriptural teachings, I found I did not belong and I left.

I actually think both our denominations have been hi-jacked.

Best regards, my friend!


Longstreet said...

Frank... I agree. I have often thought, lately, that that apology may well be overdue!

Anonymous said...

I haven't left the church yet, but it left me slowly over the years. It depresses me, 73 years old and wondering how much longer I can support a church that has abandoned me.While I still tithe, I too put any extra money I have in other good causes, ones I can see work. Thanks Longsteet!

Longstreet said...

I agree with you, Anon. I believe the church has abandoned us. I can't for the life of me figure out WHY! The numbers are right there for them to see. Their membership is dropping and they don't seem to care.

I sometimes think we need another Martin Luther. The church is in every bit as bad a shape as it was in his day.

Best regards, Anon!


Douglas V. Gibbs said...

Christianity has become religious - and the emphasis of Christ has been lost. Great post, Longstreet. I grew up, and was a member of the Baptist Church - but recognized the same kind of things going on. I am now a regular at a non-denomenational Bible Believing Church that has grown over the last 25 years I have attended to be quite large, but the original message is not lost. These churches are becoming more rare because Satan is the great counterfeiter. He mimics, uses us against ourselves. I was once told that his greatest trick was to convince everyone he doesn't exist - and now that has been inserted into the churches. God help us. God Bless.

I visit every once in a while, but now I am becoming a regular - and adding a link to my Political Pistachio. thanks for the post, brother.

Longstreet said...

Welcome aboard, Doug. I won't always write articles you agree with... but... now you know where my heart is!

Best regards!