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10 Pitfalls of Progress and Prosperity

10 Pitfalls of Progress and Prosperity

Part 1 (of 2)

Persecution doesn’t slow the growth of Christianity.  Progress does.  Laws and restrictions against Christianity don’t eradicate it.  Prosperity inflicts far more harm.  Why play offense and risk strengthening the resolve of believers – instead, just slowly chip away at their foundation by advancing the culture to cultivate disinterest in matters of faith.

China is experiencing explosive growth in Christianity despite government crackdowns while the U.S. is seeing a precipitous decline in those who hold a biblical worldview.  Recent Barna studies found that most American Christians no longer believe in man’s sinful nature, Jesus’ sinlessness, God’s omnipotence, the Holy Spirit’s indwelling, Satan’s existence, Christianity’s exclusiveness, Scripture’s inerrancy, evangelism’s importance, objective moral truth or unmerited salvation.

The majority of Americans profess to be Christians and church buildings still dot our landscape.  Yet progress and prosperity have shifted our nation’s views on trust and truth.  We’ve conformed more than we’ve transformed, gradually adapting and adopting the world’s trust in man’s ability to define truth.  “Woke” doctors, scientists, journalists, educators and students promote the notion that we’ve progressed as a society beyond silly notions of an eternal, invisible Being.  They advance Selfism as the new national religion to replace the Christian faith of their unenlightened forefathers, who simply inserted God to explain what they didn’t understand.  Christians and churches don’t convert to Selfism, but incorporate elements to get along and fit in.  Progress inevitably becomes progressive – and civilization quickly regresses.

Why Christianity Struggles in the Modern World

We’ve come so far, so fast – access to practically anything or anyone with the push of a button.  Videos, virtual reality and vehicles transport us quickly wherever we want to go.  Technological innovation enables visibility and commerce for companies of any size anywhere in the world.  We celebrate our advances, ignoring the accompanying temptations and distractions that compete with the Lord for our attention and allegiance…

  1. Relevance
    • Christians find it challenging to discuss their faith today when words like love, truth, sin and forgiveness have been redefined and trivialized by our culture
    • Churches have difficulty making church palatable and engaging for post-Christian culture, lowering biblical standards for discipleship and serving the poor
  1. Time
    • Christians in America, according to recent surveys, look much like their non-believing counterparts, working long hours to keep up with the cost of living and running kids to ballet and soccer, all while glued to their electronic devices
    • Churches offer a range of activities and events, vying for any gaps in people’s schedules – with even Sunday mornings booked up now by youth sport league games
  1. Money
    • Americans are wealthier and live beyond what the Lord intended, with some estimating that if everyone on the planet consumed as much as the average U.S. citizen, four earths would be needed to sustain them
    • Churches vastly underutilize their buildings, investing heavily in facilities only occupied at capacity for a couple hours per week, and don’t model the behavior they want members to imitate (asking for 10%, but only giving away 1%)
  1. Security
    • Americans are offered countless guarantees to ensure our exorbitant standard of living – insurance, welfare, refunds, retirement accounts – giving us a false sense of security when Christ is the only certainty
    • Churches are anxious to return to “normal” after the pandemic because a building-centric model for “church” is all most know – whereas companies are considering decentralized, lower-cost models for equipping employees to work remotely
  1. Expectations
    • Most Christians are like other Americans, with short attention spans and high expectations, willing to attend a “fast food” worship service but entrusting their Great Commission responsibility to the paid “professionals”
    • Churches cater to their demands for amenities, programs, entertainment, convenience – and limit requests related to discipleship or compassion
  1. Programs
    • Americans are inundated at home with TV ads and at work with pitches for new systems, products and processes that will improve their lives and productivity
    • Churches try new programs marketed by coaches and consultants promising rapid growth, and script services with carefully-crafted agendas rather than leaving room for the Holy Spirit to interrupt
  1. Temptations
    • Americans are presented by the media and Internet with easier access and more opportunities for sinful activities than ever before in our nation’s history
    • Churches begin with high ideals for community transformation and disciple-making but find it challenging to stay that course with high expenses, disinterested neighbors, and demanding members
  1. Ambition
    • Americans are conditioned by the utopian vision of the future cast by technology companies, overspend on assets that divert their focus from what truly matters, and aspire one day to be like the celebrities we “worship”
    • Churches consider growth and income their primary “success” metrics, and track baptisms performed rather than disciples made
  1. Self-Centeredness
    • Americans are taught that they deserve to have the world at their fingertips – Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg knowingly appealled to the worst parts of human ego and addiction to maximize revenues, understanding the psychological effects of the “billion dollar button” (Facebook’s “Like”) and being connected to everyone everywhere (except for those you’re actually with)
    • Churches don’t talk much about what we really deserve, which is hell and death, but teach instead that Jesus came for me, died for me, and has a purpose for me
  1. Influence
    • Americans are embroiled in heated debates fueled by political parties, Artificial Intelligence (programmed to push those in the middle toward extremes), and PC standards that won’t tolerate the exclusiveness of Christianity
    • Churches are equally divided over how to confront or ignore the culture war that’s raging when they should be united in their allegiance and mission

Christians in America are part of a Kingdom and a democracy.  We have dual citizenship.  In order to transform the world and not conform to it, we must remember that our nationality is not determined by where we live but where we’re headed.  This earth is not our home or our destination, and Jesus is our King.  If we place our trust in those truths and not in mankind or governments, then progress and prosperity will not divert our attention from our purpose.

It’s Your Turn… 

In Part 2, we will lay out the Bible’s formula for how Christianity could not only survive, but thrive, in the modern world.  In the meantime, suggest your ideas for how to address those 10 dynamics above that are pulling Americans today toward secularism.  How would you #ReminagineCompassion, discipleship and evangelism?


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