What is wrong with churches in America? Udo Middelmann, President of the Francis A. Schaeffer Foundation, addresses this question by first examining the strong roots Christianity had in the soil of colonial culture and the impact of preaching and church outreach in that society. Rather than building on this stable foundation, the church in recent years has sought to become more attractive by watering down its message and by incorporating entertainment in place of God-honoring worship. This has resulted in culture shaping the church; whereas formerly, the church shaped culture.
Being a European, Middelmann realizes what churches have given up to a greater degree than do many Americans. He points out the theological emptiness that has marked the European church scene for years. He thought America would be different. Upon examining churches in various regions, he realized that here also ecclesiastical bodies have forsaken a Biblical worldview and life view in order to become more culturally relevant. Basic definitions of sin, repentance, and faith have been abandoned. In so doing, these churches have failed to see that what they have given up is the very sustenance that makes them attractive to the spiritually hungry and thirsty.
Middelmann approaches his subject from a number of angles. He notes that the church has become much less covenantal and more individualistic in its teaching. This has led to the primacy of individuals as well as to an emphasis on gaining numbers rather than on teaching truth. Faith in and of itself has become acceptable without an examination into the object of that faith or the definition of the God in whom that faith is placed.
Too many churches rely on slogans rather than the uncompromising Gospel message and its implications to society. Keeping those individuals who are attracted means making them feel good so that they will, in a sense, be repeat customers week after week.
Middelmann calls churches to return to the historic, applicatory preaching of God’s Word. The Bible must again be seen as authoritative for all of life. Scripture must be seen as a unit, not as a reference book where verses, often taken out of context, become the focus of individuals. As the church unashamedly stands on Biblical truth, it will be culturally relevant once again.
The author writes with clarity on this important issue in our day. His message serves as a reminder to faithful officers and laity to persevere in the preaching, teaching, and applying of unchanging truths in Scripture. This is a good book to give to those contemplating church office or seminary. The pressure is often intense for officers to grow churches based on business models. This is a worthwhile book to pass along to those who are susceptible to such pragmatic means in local churches or denominations.
- Byron Snapp
Byron Snapp is a graduate of King College (B.A.) and Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div.). He was Associate Pastor at Calvary Reformed Presbyterian Church, Hampton, Virginia, from 1994 until his retirement in December 2014. He is a native of Marion, Virginia. He has had pastorates in Leakesville, Mississippi, and Gaffney, South Carolina. He served as Assistant Pastor in Cedar Bluff, Virginia prior to his ministry at Calvary Reformed. He has served as editor of the Presbyterian Witness and was a contributor to A Comprehensive Faith and Election Day Sermons. He is currently a member of Westminster Presbytery in the PCA. He and his wife Janey have 3 children and several grandchildren.