If you are looking for the way church should be done, don’t look to America. Though the American church appears to be amazing to many it is a poor example to copy. I know, they have “Church Growth Strategies”, hundreds of mega-churches, "The Bible Belt", unimaginable prosperity, “The Purpose Driven Life”, the “NAR” sensation, "Your Best Life Now" and all the latest ideas but that doesn’t even begin to tell the real story.
Back in 1989 I was secretly introduced to the underground house church movement in Vietnam. It had no buildings, no "Toronto like" sensationalism, no money and no religious pomp and pageantry. It was simple. It was pure and it was biblically authentic. They were persecuted by the communist government and scorned by the evangelical church who obediently yielded to the part line. Though everything was aligned against them, their faith and commitment were deep and unwavering.
At my first meeting, I was asked to share. I ministered to them words of encouragement and confirmation and told them that what they had was precious in the eyes of God and that it was what the West desperately needed – simplicity, authenticity and purity. But I sensed that they were facing a dangerous crossroads. I warned them that the storm clouds were already gathering and a great test would soon fall upon them. It wouldn’t be the test of poverty or persecution. They already knew everything there was to know about these and had flourished in spite of them. Many had lost everything and had been sent to reeducation camps for years to be indoctrinated by communist propaganda. Some had been beaten, tortured and forced into a life of dead-end poverty because of their faith. But there they stood - strong in the faith.
I knew that it was only a matter of time before some would come from the western church and try to plant their denominational flags among them and carve out their piece of the prize. I warned them about the flood of money that would follow and the seductive lure of materialism and consumerism that had engulfed the West and infected the church. I warned them of the test of prosperity that would come and the dangers it carried with it. I challenged them not to compromise the lessons God had taught them during their lean years of poverty and persecution.
These simple believers and fearless shepherds were shocked to hear my warnings of the leaven of the Western church. Like many in the rest of the world, they thought that the American church had all the answers, that we were on the forward-edge of what God was doing in the earth. I warned them of the money and materialism and great ideas that would come. I told them that looking to America for answers was the biggest mistake they could make. I told them that she didn’t have the answers they thought they needed. Not only was she not a part of the solution, she was a major part of the problem. I told them not to look elsewhere but recognize what God had already done in their midst - that was answer enough.
Today, Christians and leaders all over the world are trying to copy the American example of church and the American church is only too willing to accommodate them. The myth of America’s competence and expertise in all matters related to the church is a widely held delusion in many countries. Not only that, but we export all of our failed fads, programs and innovative “know how” to others even though they never worked on our side of the pond in the first place. What hypocrisy! What short-sightedness. What foolishness!
The very things that America is telling everyone else to embrace are the very things the rest of Christianity should flee from. God doesn’t what anyone copying the America model of Christianity. Not only that, but He is calling us out of all the manmade nonsense found in the American church and churchianity. If you want a better idea of what the church really looked like, look at the early church or consider the lessons in the attached photo.