Saturday, September 15, 2007

Popular Christianity

The prevailing trend now in the church is a departure from that time of Spirit-moved revival. The church increasingly has become a popularized institution. As it continues to eliminate any offense from its message, the church has increased its social acceptance. Now it is characterized by self-centeredness, secular psychology, and pragmatism. Today's church asks, Does it work? What will it do for me? How much success will it produce? How much money will it bring in? But instead it should be asking, What honors the heart of God?

This "pop church" is found on "Christian" television, radio, and celebrity variety shows. Entertainment has replaced worship, pride has replaced humility, success has replaced excellence, and cleverness has replaced character. Sometimes Christian radio shows feature guests who make unbiblical claims about God, yet the host makes no attempt to correct it. Psychology and psychiatry have replaced Bible teaching as the staple of Christian radio. And local churches are becoming comfort zones, Christian country clubs, and community centers, with little redemptive impact or threat against sin. There are several main features that categorize this popular Christianity.

A new basis of faith
Its trend is more subtle than theological liberalism, which directly attacks the church and therefore is easy to see and deal with. The popular church pretends to adhere to the truth, yet quietly undermines it. It substitutes experience, emotion, and problem solving for the Word of God as its basis of faith. Its theology is focused on meeting people's needs. The Charismatic Movement is at the forefront of this new basis of faith with its private revelations, prophecies, and visions. Many Christian ministries are now characterized by pragmatism, manipulation, professionalism, and consumerism.

A new object of affection
Instead of Christ as the object of its affection, the popular church is attracted to a celebrity, an evangelist, a project, a fund-raising campaign, a new building, or supposed miracles and healings. Faith has turned to fantasy with a message of health, wealth, and comfort. In that kind of environment "easy believism" flourishes, so many people who associate themselves with the church aren't even Christians. In the contemporary church much of the emphasis is on solving one's own problems so one can live more comfortably, and there is hardly any focus on Christ's second coming because that would end the pursuit of pleasure and prosperity. So we have to ask, Where is Christ-centered faith that helps a believer stand in the midst of his trials? Fragile emotionalism is selfish escapism, not biblical faith.

A new goal in life
The new goal is happiness and satisfaction, not holiness. Whatever makes a person happy is what he or she is encouraged to pursue. All those features negatively affect the church's spiritual vitality and are Satan's most effective way to destroy the church. How can the church have revival? What is its focus to be? How can it be useful to God and not lose its power? First Peter 4:7-11 answers those questions.

Taken from the study guide titled "The Christian's Duty in a Hostile World, Part 1" by John MacArthur

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