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We’ve Lost The Culture War

The most prosperous, Christian nation on earth has lost the culture it was founded upon – a rich culture of God in our schools, media, and government. From “Is the Institutional Church Really the Church?” by Dave Kahle. Tate Publishing, 2014 Note: This is an edited version of chapter two of my book, Is The Institutional Church Really The Church?  In light of recent events, I thought it appropriate to post it here.

Christian Culture

In the early 1960s, this country could be characterized as being predominantly “Christian.” Over the last 50 years, in the space of one or two generations, we have lost the culture.  This is an epic failure, akin to the ancient Israelites giving up the worship of Jehovah and turning to idols.  Our culture has done exactly that.  We have removed God from a central position in our culture and, in His place, have substituted the idols of our times.  Greed, sex, power, and secular humanism have replaced Christ as the bedrock of our culture.

It’s an incredible turn of events.  Here we were, the richest, most prosperous, most Christian nation on earth; founded on Christian principles by Godly men, with a rich culture of God in our schools, media, and government.  Then, in the space of one or two generations, we have lost it.

Here we were, the richest, most prosperous, most Christian nation on earth, founded on Christian principles by godly men, with a rich culture of God in our schools, in our media, and in our government.  Then, in the space of one or two generations, we have lost it.

If we were in biblical times, the last 50 years and the incredible loss of this country would warrant several chapters in an Old Testament book. The change is so epic, the loss so devastating, that it is almost inconceivable.

A Tipping Point

The election of 2012 was the tipping point.  The results were a shock to many evangelical Christians, who, mostly of conservative political persuasion, saw the election as an opportunity to turn the country around.  They were stunned by the outcome.  They saw the re-election of Barack Obama as an incomprehensible political mistake.

From my perspective, as a nation, we got the government we wanted.  The American people had been leaving the conservative Christian viewpoint all along.  The election was a symptom – an expression of a greater trend.  And that trend was and is the de-Christianization of this country.

There is something seriously wrong with Western Christianity – what I call the institutional church system – to have allowed (maybe even caused) this cataclysmic shift.

And, we are at fault.  We have allowed the institutional church system to reign, we’ve accepted the flaws, and gone on about our ways.

Defining Terms of Our Culture

It is important to note the difference between the institutional church and the larger, universal church – the church for which Christ died.  The universal church is made up of every Christian everywhere around the world.  The Greek word that is used to denote the church in the New Testament is “Ekklesia,” and it means, “the called out.” In the New Testament, no one went to church.  They were the church.

No one joins the church.  Christ adds them to it.  In Acts 3:47, as the writer describes the early days of the church, he says, “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

There are no denominations in the church of the Bible. In fact, following after a person or that person’s teaching is expressly condemned in the New Testament.

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.

My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas;” still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? (I Corinthians 1:10 – 13)

So, we have the universal church for which Christ died, made up of every Christian, headed by Christ and lead by the Holy Spirit.  Inside of that is the institutional western church.  It’s the institutional church system — that portion of the universal church — which we commonly call ‘church.’

In this book,  the term ‘institutional church’ and more precisely the ‘institutional church system’ refers to what has been traditionally the most common expression of Christianity in western civilization – the local congregation, headed by a professional pastor, connected to a church building and organized around Sunday morning worship services.  Those are the core elements.  But the term refers to the entire body of institutions and bureaucracies which have arisen to support that.  It includes the seminaries which produce trained pastors, the denominations and all of their various levels of organization and bureaucracies, and the para-church organizations which provide services to those seminaries, denominations, and congregations.

The Institutional church system is the entire body of institutions and bureaucracies which have arisen to support the local paid pastor and church building.  It includes the seminaries which produce trained pastors, the denominations and all of their various levels of organization and bureaucracies, and the para-church organizations which provide services to those seminaries, denominations, and congregations.

The institutional church system is all of that together. As a matter of convenience, I’ll be using the abbreviation ICS to denote the institutional church system in the balance of this manuscript.

Something is very wrong.  Consider this.  According to Os Hillman, citing research from George Barna, in his book, Faith & Work,

“Although churches in the US have spent more than $530 billion dollars on ministry activities since 1980, the proportion of adults who are born again has remained virtually the same during the last 15 years.”   (1)

Stop for a minute and consider that.  You know the value of an investment, and the need to get a return on it.  You understand performance and productivity.  Now, if you were part of an organization that had spent $530 billion dollars, with no noticeable return, no measurable growth, wouldn’t you question that?

Of course, you would.  You would have put that organization out of its misery years ago. What sane person would allow that situation to continue if you had any influence over it?

By any common-sense measure, something is very wrong.

I understand that it is difficult to take that big picture perspective.  We look at the church from our individual perspectives and our local congregation.  Our church may be growing, for example.  Or, it may have a great youth group, or inspiring music, or a really good marriage enrichment series.  From our individual perspective, things look upbeat.  What could be wrong?

The Big Picture

Step back for a moment and take a bigger picture point of view.  Let’s say things are growing and promising in your congregation at the moment.  Let’s say that is true for thirty (30%) percent of the local congregations in this country.  Now, fold those in with the others, add in the seminaries and institutional church-oriented para-church ministries and look at the big picture.  Look at the church in this country.  Is your church growing because people are leaving other congregations to come to yours?  Are we just shuffling around the same people, from one congregation to another?  The ICS, the entire entity made up of tens of thousands of congregations and all that is associated with it, is the issue. The big picture is $530 billion and no growth — that is the issue.

The big picture is $530 billion and no growth.

Something is very wrong. 

We’ve spent $530 billion, we haven’t grown a percentage point, and we’ve lost the culture.  Clearly, something is terribly wrong. 

Shouldn’t we stop and question what we are doing?

Dave Kahlehttp://www.davekahle.com/wordpressblogs/dave-kahle/
YOUR business can be much more than just a money-making enterprise. Helping you achieve that potential is Dave Kahle’s passion. He has been helping business grow for 30 years. The author of The Good Book on Business, he’s written 12 other books, which have been published in eight languages and distributed around the world, and has presented in 47 states and 11 countries. He has personally and contractually worked with over 459 companies, and touched thousands of others through his seminars, speaking engagements, and webinars. You’ll find him challenging your paradigms and prompting you to think more deeply.

1 COMMENT

  1. Interesting article Dave. As a lapsed Catholic I write about my ex-religion from time to time. What you are describing is a shrinking entity, and in this article you attribute it to ‘Greed, sex, power, and secular humanism’. I think that the last item on your list is probably the most telling. I left the church because I had simply outgrown the need to believe in a god that was personified. I much preferred to believe in a more abstract notion, and that was that God was simply everything. Every planet, every star, every life form.
    It was not created it just always was. And it was constantly evolving through millions of years. I found I could get my head around that, and I also knew a lot of people who could too. We opted out of religion and into spiritualism. To someone with a deep belief in Christ, this may sound pretty strange. But I settled on it very early on in my life and have carried it with me for a long time. Certainly religion taught me a lot about right and wrong, but if I hadn’t been part of the Catholic faith, or any faith, I would likely have learned it somewhere else. I think more and more people are simply embracing secular humanism. They carry their own version of their religion around in their heads, and they make their life decisions based on rational thought. They try to do good whenever they can. And they understand that whatever happens after their life is through is something they can never know, and that’s the incentive to make their life as fulfilling as it can be. I lucked out and found my fulfillment through writing, and I use it to help people in different ways, mostly business, but also on the personal level. A person of faith will probably disagree with this view of life. But as my dad was, who was an inveterate gambler, was fond of saying…Differences of opinion are what make horse races.

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