The American Church Has Left It’s First Love
The American church is facing a crisis.
This may not be a crisis that is exclusively American but since I am in America and it is where my observations come from, I can only say that this definitely affects us.
The crisis is this.
We are faced with whether or not we are going to follow our Lord and Savior Jesus or are we going to follow the direction our nation is heading. Are we going to return to our first love, or are we going to let the influence and mindset of those who do not follow Jesus dictate what we are going to do and how we are going to live?
This is not the first time in history that Christians have been faced with this choice. However, it is the first time that American Christians have been put to the test on such a large scale.
Over the course of the last 50 years, we have seen the rise of Christian persecution in this nation, the rise of government intrusion into religious freedoms and liberties, and the rise of downright hatred towards Christians and the morals that Christians stand for.
During this time the Church has tried such methods as becoming more “seeker-sensitive”, “more relevant” and “less confrontational” with the net effect of converting fewer people, making fewer disciples, and becoming more programmatic and less relational in its services.
We became the shopping malls of religious society with mega-churches offering everything people said they were looking for without giving people what they really needed.
And now we are reaping what we have sown which is a society that looks at Christianity as some sort of political bloc or religious superstore that needs to follow the dictates of society rather than being the institution and people that mold and shape the thought of society itself.
How did we get to this point? Let’s start by looking at the scripture.
The return to your first love Bible verse.
2 “I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. 3 You have patiently suffered for me without quitting.
4 “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! 5 Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches.
Christianity Became Marginalized When Christians Left Their First Love.
Falling out of love doesn’t happen overnight and neither does leaving your first love with Jesus. Love is not just an emotion but is in part an act of the will. It is a gentle slippery slope that you go down and before you know it your emotions have followed the direction of your will.
In human relationships, it starts with losing your focus or getting your focus onto something or someone else. We start focusing on careers or what other people have or what other people say and stop focusing on the person we are in love with. When we do that then we become self-focused and self-centered and the flame of love grows cold.
The same is true with our relationship with Jesus.
When we start out our focus is totally on Him. However, over time we start to allow other things to come into sight. We see others with more things, or we allow our efforts to advance our career or monetary status to dictate what is best for us.
We allow what other people say to affect what we do and if we even acknowledge that we are believers. The perceived or real negative consequences of being in love with Jesus determine whether or not we will take a stand or make decisions based upon that love.
As a result, when we allow this to happen in our spiritual life and our love relationship with Jesus, our love for Him grows cold.
As a result of allowing our love for Him to grow cold, people no longer look to us as role models. They no longer look to us as examples to follow. They no longer look to us as leaders that are worthy of being listened to.
Instead, they see nothing that is worth changing their lives for. They only see us as people that are religious. They see us as something that is obsolete, irrelevant, and marginal.
You see, if people are going to look upon Christianity as something to be valued, then they need to see the value in the lives of everyday people and if everyday people who call themselves Christians continue to show to the world that they themselves do not value their Christian life and lifestyle any more than they do, well then why should they value it?
The blame for the marginalization of Christianity falls directly upon Christians and the men and women who lead them. Let me give you a couple of examples out of many that are available.
2 Examples of Where the Church Left Its First Love
The first example is in the roots of the seeker sensitive movement.
My first example will probably irritate and offend some people.
It is not that I do not love the people who are associated with this, nor is it that I do not see the good that this group has done overall within the scope of Christianity, but it is the root of the seeker-sensitive movement.
This group has lots of good works and I know that they started out loving Jesus. They just made a choice and that choice had devastating effects in the long run. It is very similar to what happened to the church at Ephesus talked about in Revelation Chapter 2. They had lots of good things going for them but they had left their first love.
The group I am talking about is the Calvary Chapel movement. Their leader Chuck Smith made a decision to move the demonstration of the gifts of the Spirit into the back room and make those services “believers only” services. They were called “afterglow services”.
The justification for this decision was so “unbelievers” would not be scared or offended. They relegated and placed the manifestation and operation of the third person of the Godhead into the back room. The Holy Spirit, the one that Jesus promised would empower us to change the world was placed where “the world” couldn’t see.
How would your wife or husband feel if you placed them where nobody could see except just close friends? That was not a move motivated by love for Jesus. That was a move that was motivated by a love of what people would say and think.
The same mentality then swept over the church and the church became people conscious rather than Jesus conscious. It was more important what the world might think rather than what Jesus might think.
So then we eliminated altar calls, we eliminated telling people that they needed to repent, we stopped talking about the blood of Jesus and how a person can be relieved of their guilt and shame by coming to Jesus.
We made becoming a Christian just as easy as becoming a member of Lion’s club or the Kiwanis club.
Thus the birth of the seeker-sensitive movement was what people wanted was more important than it took to make disciples.
The second example is the rise of the prosperity gospel.
The second trap that the church fell into was the rise of the prosperity gospel.
Although it sounds good at first glance, the prosperity gospel is laced with a deadly fallacy. It turns the heart of the believer from one of seeking what God would want of them into one of seeking what God could do for them. It is the epitome of self-centered religion.
If you pray right, confess right, and give right, then God will bless and prosper you beyond your wildest dreams. It was the church taking its focus off of what was pleasing to Jesus and demanding Jesus please them.
I don’t think I have to mention who started this. I think most of us realize who started this type of thinking. What we have to think about is how we have allowed self-centered religion to infest our own spiritual life.
Not only has this mentality caused people to seek God for what is in it for them, but it has caused people to look at the church with the mentality of what the church has to offer them rather than what they have to offer other precious people that Jesus has died for.
The church is not a Christian superstore, it is a body and as such, every person has a part to play.
Instead of looking for the best speaker on Sunday morning, the best children’s program, the best Bible studies, or recovery groups, we should be looking for the place for us to fit and be part of that body doing our part to make it a whole.
We should be looking where God wants to place us, not where our kids can get the best program. We should be the program for others.
With just these 2 examples we have taken our first love and turned it around to such a point that the flame of love that should dwell in our hearts has become diminished to a pilot light on a gas heater.
Is it any wonder the world doesn’t see us as important or valued?
So what should we do about it?
Returning To Your First Love
In the verse at the beginning of this sermon we see that although the church in Ephesus did many things right, it has lost its love for Jesus and for one another.
Doing good things is not enough. It is about how much we truly love the Lord.
If the American church is going to rise up and be that shining city on a hill like it once was, it is going to have to return to its first love.
It is going to have to fall in love with Jesus once again and stop loving the world or itself. It is going to have to return to doing the things that result in passionate love for Jesus.
It has to go back to doing the things it first did.
- Putting God first over career.
- Putting Jesus first over what other people think.
- Allowing the Holy Spirit to be the one that draws and convicts people of sin and doing the miraculous in the midst of people.
We have to take the lampshade off the light that we have and allow it to be shown around the world.
No longer can we rely on man-made methods. No longer can we give in to man-made demands. No longer can we put the focus on self.
We have to once again fall in love with Jesus and care about nothing else. As with every other type of human relationship. It has to start with an act of the will to fall in love again. You have to choose to start, the emotions will follow your will.
So what will it be?
Is American Christianity going to continue down the slippery slope of compromise and marginalization or are you going to return to your first love?
Let this article be the seed that starts repentance and revival in our nation! Share it and spread it around!