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Why isn’t the American church growing?

Posted by appolus on February 18, 2011

God is moving in powerful ways in the developing world. How is it that God can visit a mud hut in the middle of Africa yet bypass the comfortable sanctuaries we created for Him in our country? Ravenhill answered it this way: “God does not answer prayer; He answers desperate prayer.” Jesus comes to those who are desperate for Him. The reason I believe that most of us never experience a move of God is simply that we are content to live without it. In the West we now have the money but no longer the power to speak to a paralyzed world. The song in our hearts is gone, as well as our desire for Him to rule at the center of our hearts. We quickly point to our blessings (which are almost always of the material variety) and claim that our overabundance is due to God’s favor.

Why isn’t the American church growing?

By Kevin Turner

 

While the church is growing at a record rate in Africa and Asia, churches are stagnating in the United States.

“Revival is not when the top blows off but rather when the bottom falls out.” Those words were spoken to me several years ago when I asked the late Leonard Ravenhill to define revival. According to him, most religious activity in the United States does not resemble true revival. We know only a cheap imitation. We schedule popular speakers and the best musicians and set aside a week for special meetings. We call that revival. Our meetings are set up by organizers, not agonizers. We have reduced a move of God to a method. Yet the Bible says God is looking for a man.

John Knox, the founder of the Presbyterian Church, prayed continually, “God, give me Scotland or I die!” He said this while he was chained deep inside the hull of a French ship off the coast of his country. He prayed desperately for seven years that God would send revival to his beloved Scotland. God works only within those who are desperate. Ravenhill also used to say, in reference to revival, that we would either “end up with prison camps or with Pentecost in the prison camps.” The apostle Paul either had riots or revival, and at times both. Yet the American gospel does not seem to produce either.
A Chinese Christian recently visited the United States and toured churches here. At the end of the trip he was asked what he thought about American spirituality. He answered, “I am amazed at how much the church in America can accomplish without the Holy Spirit.” We have large buildings and many programs but still no move of God. We have more trained ministers and more Bible colleges than any other nation but no revival. We have seminars on revivals and huge campaigns to promote our meetings. But where is the revival? We have spotless theology but no doxology. We have no song in our hearts. We have replaced true experience with hyperactivity. Our theologians sit in swivel chairs in ivory towers and hand out edicts to those down below. As a church we are power-hungry and covet top positions as if we are climbing a corporate ladder. We place value on large churches with even larger programs and budgets. Those who are invited into leadership positions are the rich and the influential. We forget that spiritual authority is not given to the savvy businessman or the sports hero but to those who have carried the burden of the Lord.

Where are the brokenhearted believers who weep through the night over our spiritual bankruptcy? A true move of God makes you utterly dependent upon Him. The touch of the Father was never designed to touch you just once. It was designed to leave you feeling helpless unless you receive the daily infilling of the Holy Spirit.

A true revival brings us to the end of ourselves. It takes us to the foot of the cross where we lay down our hopes, dreams and ambitions. History is replete with those who have given their all to see God move. Lost Missionary Zeal Missionaries, John Paton and Adoniram Judson, both served the Lord in hostile areas, and they both buried their wives and children on the mission field. Through brokenness and humility they saw the Lord touch those who had never heard the message of redemption. When Paton first entered his field of work the locals were filled with demons. When he left, all on the island had become Christians and had renounced the practice of headhunting. Where is the God of Elijah today? And where is this missionary passion and sacrifice? Our doctrine has changed.

Today the church teaches that we are too important to the kingdom of God to lay our lives down. It claims that a good ministry must last a long time. Neither John the Baptist nor Jesus subscribed to this egocentric American gospel. Both John and Jesus gave their lives as martyrs. Yet we have removed martyrdom from our vocabulary.

People often warn me not to take the ministry too seriously. Perhaps because I spend a lot of time preaching in war-torn nations and dangerous areas where Christians are persecuted, some believers tell me to stop being so radical. Perhaps when we express passion and fervor for the gospel, complacency is exposed. John the Baptist said that Jesus must increase while he must decrease (see John 3:30). Yet today ministers are promoted to places of power and prominence that were unheard of in years past. Pastors have become celebrities. The halls of their palatial offices are filled with pictures of themselves. It would seem that these ministers are increasing while Jesus is decreasing! Instead of begging God for a move of His precious Holy Spirit, we waste countless hours begging the flock to give money so the work of God will continue. What we need to do is prostrate ourselves and beg God to strip us of the power-hungry spiritual veneer that has encrusted our souls.

God is moving in powerful ways in the developing world. How is it that God can visit a mud hut in the middle of Africa yet bypass the comfortable sanctuaries we created for Him in our country? Ravenhill answered it this way: “God does not answer prayer; He answers desperate prayer.” Jesus comes to those who are desperate for Him. The reason I believe that most of us never experience a move of God is simply that we are content to live without it. In the West we now have the money but no longer the power to speak to a paralyzed world. The song in our hearts is gone, as well as our desire for Him to rule at the center of our hearts. We quickly point to our blessings (which are almost always of the material variety) and claim that our overabundance is due to God’s favor. But isn’t the ultimate sign of God’s favor converted souls and a sovereign move of God? A Chinese Christian who spent more than 26 years in a tiny prison cell was asked upon his release how he handled confinement. His answer rocked me to the core. He said it was like a honeymoon with Jesus.

Why are other nations experiencing revival and we aren’t? Could it be that calamity clarifies while comfort confuses? Calamity is an excellent teacher. It shows us in an instant what is truly important. When we become desperate, the mortgage is no longer important, nor the lawn care. When calamity strikes, it is people that are important to us, not things. While persecution purifies, prosperity often pollutes. Our materialism leaves us content without God.

I was working with persecuted Christians in Eritrea when our director there was arrested in front of our house. He was snatched and taken in the back of a truck to be interrogated because of his Christian activities. Currently more than 400 believers in Eritrea are being detained in shipping containers and holes in the ground for telling others about Jesus. After hearing of our director’s capture we gathered our team and began praying. As in the book of Acts, a miracle happened, and he was released within a few hours. But not all believers are spared like this. While traveling through Eritrea we met a believer who had been held captive in a hole in the ground for four months. His only crime was telling others about Jesus. As he shared his testimony he washed my feet and sang a hymn in his local tongue. The church in Eritrea has exploded in growth while its leaders have been in prison. Laypeople have taken up the call to evangelize, and nothing will stop them.

The Puritans had an old proverb that said, “Either the love of Christ will draw you to His breast or the wrath of God will drive you to His breast.” What we see clearly is that God is more concerned with our holiness than our happiness. I believe God has withheld a move of His Spirit in the United States because He knows we would prostitute it and use His gifts to our own advantage. God loves us too much to allow us to be lifted up in pride.
Suffering works out a type of redemption that the West doesn’t understand. To say the name of Christ in an Islamic country, where Christ is not welcome, means identifying with the cross. Jesus warned that people would hate us because we follow Him. America, when will we learn that no cross means no crown?

When I was preaching in Vietnam I asked believers who have suffered for Jesus what prayer requests we could take back to America on their behalf. We asked if they would like us to pray for opened borders so they could evangelize without persecution. Their immediate response was that they would rather have open heavens than open borders. The refugee camps and the restricted-access countries of the world are experiencing a refreshing move of God. Yet the paradox is that they lack the buildings, money and expertise we possess in the West. Could it be that they have discovered the true treasure of Christ’s kingdom?

When I was ministering to persecuted Christians in Sudan, Sudanese helicopter gunships attacked my team and me. Several people were killed as we fled for our lives. After escaping and hiding in the rocks, I sat with a pastor who had lost everything. His village had been attacked and his church was burned to the ground. All his possessions were lost and he, like me, had nothing but the shirt on his back. People from his church had been killed and now he was on the run. I asked him if during his suffering he was ever tempted to doubt God’s love. His reply hit me like a brick to the side of my head. “I am most aware of God’s presence when I am suffering,” he told me.
In the West our blessings have left us content without revival. If a man can live without revival, then he will be content without it. But when he is desperate for a touch from heaven, then God will bring brokenness–and he will no longer trust in the arm of the flesh. More than anything today in America, we need humility. Leaders who are pompous and have an overstated importance need to humble themselves. No longer should our first question be, “How big is your church?” but rather, “What is the spiritual condition of the members?” Christian superstars who jam the airwaves are not the answer for a move of God. We need those who will walk in humility, cry aloud and rend their hearts so that God will receive the glory He alone is due.

11 Responses to “Why isn’t the American church growing?”

  1. […] More: Why isn't the American church growing? « Scottish Warriors For Christ […]

  2. Michael s Press said

    The gospel has many forms from repentance to KINGdom. “the gospel of Christ is mentioned many times in the N.T. Christ proclaimed the “KINGdom has come”,”KINGdom is near” “KINGdom in your midst”.
    This may be a season to see our nKINGdom from the finished work….the glory over all creation as in the beginning as Christ see’s it “redeeemed” man and planet. With “single eye focus” we will not see awhat is around us to trigger our own, human understanding,but rather see what “is finished” and speak to bring change. First is understanding Isaiah 9:6-7 and Deuteronomy 11 understanding possessing the land as our inheritance. In resurrection not in deterioration and groaning revelation of the “sons fo God” = “led of Holy Spirit” seeing our cities as our possession under our authority renamed as KINGdom ________ (insert your city. To help receive the revelation and develope single eye focus Where the “light in US has no darkness”

    • Jeremy Huff said

      I’m not sure or understand what your post says or means, but I’m posting just in case you are trying to rationalize our current “christian culture” and the American church. The majority of churches are so deep in our sicc diseased culture that when new christians attend they have no idea about the exposition of the bible, and how we should be living. Before the rapture God is bringing judgement on the apostate church. In the next year as the dollar is no long the reserve currency in the world, and we have our last crash the church will get a “reality check” along with the rest of our country. Progressiveism is a disease and it has eaten into everything proper and good within this country, and Hard..Hard times are coming, and then we will see if the American church is a finished work…..Read II Peter, and if you have any clue and if the holy spirit is still convivting you then the idea of the America Church being at the top of growth is a lie straight from Satan….

      • appolus said

        Hi Jeremy, I am not sure what you mean when you say you dont understand what the author means. Its a fairly straight forward post. Its an indictment on the church in the West. You wrote ……….. “if you have any clue and if the holy spirit is still convivting you then the idea of the America Church being at the top of growth ” Where did you get that from??? Who said that the American Church is ” at the top of growth?” Its almost as if you did not read the post. The man who wrote this post is as sold out of a believer as one will ever meet. Maybe you read another post and mistakenly commented on this one? ………brother Frank

  3. Jeremy Huff said

    No No..I’m sorry. I was talking about the comment before me:

    The gospel has many forms from repentance to KINGdom. “the gospel of Christ is mentioned many times in the N.T. Christ proclaimed the “KINGdom has come”,”KINGdom is near” “KINGdom in your midst”.
    This may be a season to see our nKINGdom from the finished work….the glory over all creation as in the beginning as Christ see’s it “redeeemed” man and planet. With “single eye focus” we will not see awhat is around us to trigger our own, human understanding,but rather see what “is finished” and speak to bring change. First is understanding Isaiah 9:6-7 and Deuteronomy 11 understanding possessing the land as our inheritance. In resurrection not in deterioration and groaning revelation of the “sons fo God” = “led of Holy Spirit” seeing our cities as our possession under our authority renamed as KINGdom ________ (insert your city. To help receive the revelation and develope single eye focus Where the “light in US has no darkness”

    From whatever ths person is trying to say, I think that he is saying basically that our sucess and materialism is God’s blessing, and our given KINGdom and it is okay.

    Your post is outstanding, and I just linked to my facebook. I’m a former Navy officer and now in Seminary (Liberty Univerity) and completely agree with you. I finally found a church for my family and I that is very missions focused in that the Pastor is doing his best that evryone gets out of the country this year to either Africa or Columbia to minister and assist in church building and support.

    Its funny, the Pastor was very clear last year when he said God called him on the carpet for attempting to be that pastor with the big nice church building. You can tell he has been changed by God, but the church people still have this classic no sense of urgency, everything is okay, and our world, my our comforts will always be here, and lalallallalal…… It is very scary. Our lives in America are about to change as soon as the dollar crashes, a 2011 market crash, and whatever else is about to happen….I just pray and I yell this from the top of my hill that the American church will still follow God when times get very tough and very drastic…..let alone being prepared to go out and minister to the shocked and scared Americans who do not know God.

    • appolus said

      HI Jeremey, well I certainly got that one wrong 🙂 Forgive me brother. I just could not fathom where you were coming from because I thought you were referring to the post ( as opposed to the following comment) It looks like we are certainly on the same page :)Have you read this piece I posted recently https://scottishwarriors.wordpress.com/2011/02/17/jehovah-rides-upon-a-swift-cloud/

      I actually wrote it last year and decided to re-post it. I totaly agree with your comments about what lies ahead. Now, more than ever, we must be able to say, as the old song said ” On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” ………..brother Frank

      • Jeremy Huff said

        I did read the article. Awesome….this perspective of yours needs to perforate the church. For someone who is informed informed I’m getting really tired sitting in Sunday school, and hearing the only topic discussed: NFL and professional sports.

        In fact it looks like the NFL will not be playing this year, so this will be another factor in what is coming this year..the pop culture sedation to NFL or professional sports all together is unerving. So when our little safe culture starts crumbling, and then the masses don’t have the NFL to inject they will have to spend their time doing someting else, and this will not be good.

        Lets hope Chrisitians get it…You know I just heard a statistic lately that only about 20% of the Jewish people left Egypt with Moses, and only about 20% of the American population agreed and were engaged in the Revolution War and freeing the British restraints.

        It looks like that throughout history there is only 20-25% of the people who get it (on any level even spiritual) and that statistic will stay true.

        I just left a church due to the perspective, the Big church building with a basketball court focus, and eye bleeding topical sermons every Sunday. For example pre-made powerpoint sermons on “Connecting” oh dear……..The Pastor berated me for being someone who needed to get over my “sense of urgency” and quit berating the American church.

        I have been doing a Character Study on John the Baptist for my New Testament class, and my three sermons I have created states that the current church should be preparing the world for the 2nd coming. This would requires us to completely drop our pop culture, and declare to everyone “make the way for the Lord.” This then would requires us to get out of our comfort zones, and make us look like Jesus Freaks and we definiteley don’t want to do that…..

        The only the thing that matters is when we are bowing before God, and he sks us “What have you done for me”….If we let that perspective sink in..really sink in…the current church would be convicted, but on second thought the current philosophy of the church is engrained and without God shaking us..there may be alot of answers like “well Lord we built a gym so we could have Upward Basket ball, or well we did have that one person saved two years ago…..or well we had that one missionary come in 5 years ago…..We have to become John the Baptist with boldness, and become the leaders, martyrs, and step out from our culture that is progressive, diseased, and dying.

    • Michael s Press said

      WARRIORS— ONGOING —-REMNANT—- KINGDOM FOCUS
      I am not sure who is saying what to who in this dialogue. I am in position this day of focus on the KINGdom government. WE have authority to subdue and have dominion and we are sitting in our buildings built by man when we should be out establishing a spiritual justice and righteousness, Isaiah 9:6,7 where truth prevails from the light of Christ within. He is within for a reasom! Does the world see us as from a different world. We need to understand the power of the light within if we are a representative for the greater works. Works where we will get the glory as Jesu received from Father and has given to us when in His image and likeness – unspotted and unwrinkled. We will get glory when Christ in us brings about the seemingly improbalble/impossible. When we see in our cities that acceptance of lying, bribery, conning, cheating etc, are no longer acceptable. It will only take the using our authority as light to possess “as light” the land around our dwelling place. What does it look like to be light???? What does it sound like to “be truth” ????? It does not matter, just speak as spoken to and the rest is up to God to follow up with our release of authority through HIS words spoken from us. See John 16:12-15 About speaking as spoken to.There is nothing we do of ourself, we show up as a candle of light when and where we are called to and speak as spoken to and His words spoken through us are the catalyst for change. IE we just help the process of change, we are not the elements of change God is! We are free from under any authority that was once over us. For us as believer, (be livers) old things have passed away AND “all things” have become new. No generational curses and the crap the charismatics are deceived into focussing on rather than light. We are commissioned to bring on earth a kingdom as in heaven. The KINGdom focus I see is using our authority (which can only power up in obedience unto consecration) to establish justice and righteousness in our area of habitation where we have been placed for a purpose. We all have a purpose to get quiet listen and obey for our part in building up others on fire to continually fuel fires from flow of H S. Forget those that are not hearing and getting fresh fire. Fellowship with only those that have baptism in H S and fire. Let Christ deal with the rest that are not taking relationship SERIOUS. Grace is not a free ride. Grace get you into the kingdom at the lowest station. To be raised up requires following the path led, and not trying to get by on own understanding, comparing our selves with ourselves, without understanding. If you are active in KINGdom building every day is fresh fire to keep one fuelled up and contagious to others on fire.
      . The remnant is being raised up is to establish a government through ambassadors that speak only as spoken to. The “Word” must be released from us as spoken to us, to effect change. Only our “Master Builder’s” knows His plan. Is the “Head” not coming for a “consecrated bride” freely and willingly having choosing obedience to model Jesus in their mortal flesh??? Having spoken as spoken to. Few understand the meaning of 2Corinthians 4:10 7-11 as a qualifying truth for the “Body” part of the “Head”
      It references unspotted of the world and unwrinkled by the old man. Manifesting Jesus to do the greater works only possible after the cross because it takes a multiplied body “Be ing as He is. “I AM” has become many to establish “WE ARE’S” for establishing a KINGdom that we are responsible to build??? Where are the kingdom builders that are being led to subdue and have dominion over everything that moves upon the face of the earth. Schooling fish, calming storms, healing, casting, raising etc. Even the disciples did these in faith, without faith of Christ in them as we have, they simply understood authority and accepted it when given it, and followed His example. The KINGdom lies outside the wilderness. The church of North America is of the world and waiting for a “cloudy” event that is not in the cards/clouds yet.
      If I know anything it is this!!! Holy Spirit has me on a path of doing my part toward establishing a government. He told me to call my city KINGdom________city . Iasiah 9:6,7 is the scripture plus a few others re:Justice and righteousness, gates, and thrones of authority. Jesus started the work redeeming His body to bring in a governing Kingdom that will rule over what is. A KINGdom that needs intimate fellowship established in obedience, for ruling with Him for the completing of “the work He started” in us that have their hearts right but are poorly shepherded. Not their fault they are blinded by tradition and Baptism Holy Spirit is not on their radar. Only those manifesting Jesus by free will choice in surrender now.to bring life to others .. as Jesus made free will choice, unto “the cross” to bring life to His body (“if”) will be chosen (for bride)from the called (to His kingdom). He surrendered to His cross for all, and now He is in each one of us to complete a work for our sanctifiction from “our surrender” (carrying our cross)??? He overcome for all on His cross and He is in all of us to overcome for us individually in our surrender to die to self and be used to follow His direction to what where and how and to whom to build His KINGdom. The greater works are redemption of the planet now that Christ has redeemed a body for reigning and ruling with Him for the “completed work”. The choice is ours serve now and be served as one with Christ . To Him who over comes will be given to sit with Me on My throne as I overcame to sit with Father on His throne. David established an earthly throne of authority. Communion between the two thrones is all about positioning of authority not a place to sit and look pretty. My thoughts as of today and it may change as I hear different from H S. There is place of discussion where what you say may not fall on many ears as truth but all we can do is speak from heart understanding based on personal experience from where H S has led and shown one their authority based on continued obedience. Few have to die to bring life to many others. But the truth will always be death occurs before life can begin in God’s KINGdom. I trust I will continue on the choice to die to self and not self destruct in this life because of PRIDE that I am not teachable.
      Blessing the grace of our Lord be multiplied through us all in our KINGdom cities

  4. appolus said

    “The Pastor berated me for being someone who needed to get over my “sense of urgency” and quit berating the American church.”

    Never lose your sense of urgency Jeremy. I believe that it comes from the Holy Spirit. Do not worry what men say either. Yet, be careful also, you have an enemy that seeks to devour and he wants to devour your treasure. Your treasure is your love and mercy and grace and forgiveness. Remember, when the Romans destroyed the temple, stone upin stone upon stone, what they were really after was the vast treasure that lay within. I say all that because it is possible that we can get angry at the established church and only the enemy can win if that happens. Gods people have to stay focussed on the Truth and full of His love. Continue to be bold brother and let the Holy Spirit lead and guide you. Your comment was right on and the passion that you have is akin to the zeal that the Lord had for His Fathers house, never lose that. So, Truth, love zeal and a sense of urgency, thats good brother. Read these posts and see if they speak to you….

    https://scottishwarriors.wordpress.com/2011/02/23/the-evangelical-sub-culture-mere-religion/

    https://scottishwarriors.wordpress.com/2010/08/05/shields-of-gold-or-shields-of-brass/

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