Updated: Dec 29, 2022
Many Christians around the world think that the American church represents the gold standard of what churches were meant to be, but this is a gross misconception. It makes little difference how contemporary or old-fashioned it is. They still pursue a flawed model that is centuries old. One needs to look no further than the New Testament to see just how flawed it really is.
The church manufactured in America never has had the answers because that model of the church had lost its way long before Columbus sailed the ocean's blue. It was obsolete, irrelevant and impotent long before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. Though the American church is cutting-edge Christianity to multitudes, it is a poor example to follow.
Yes, they have “Church Growth Strategies”, hundreds of mega-churches, "The Bible Belt", state-of-the art facilities and unimaginable prosperity but is little more than the colorful gift wrapping on an empty box. They may have celebrity televangelists who telecast their messages around the world, the rapidly spreading the “NAR” sensation, and phenomenal bestsellers like “The Purpose Driven Life” and "Your Best Life Now" but it is all style without substance.
Back in 1989 I was secretly introduced to the underground house church movement in Vietnam. They had no buildings, no "Toronto like" sensationalism, no money and no religious pomp and pageantry. It was simple and it was based on the New Testament example. 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 party guide lines. Though everything was aligned against them, their faith and commitment were deep and unwavering.
When asked to share. I spoke to them words of encouragement and confirmation. I 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 and warned them that the storm clouds were already gathering, and a great test would soon come. It wouldn’t be the test of poverty or persecution which they had already weathered well. 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.
But I discerned 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 were shocked to hear my warnings of the leaven of the Western church. Like many others they assumed that when it came to Christianity the American church had all the answers. I warned them of the money, materialism and so-called expertise that some would bring. I told them that looking to America for answers would be the biggest mistake they could make. Not only was the western church not a part of the solution but a major source of the problem. I told them not to look elsewhere but recognize what God had already done in their midst - that was answer enough.
The myth of America’s spiritual competence and expertise in all matters related to the church is a widely held delusion. Today, Christians around the world are trying to copy the American example of Christianity and the American church is only too willing to accommodate them by exporting all of their worthless fads, useless hype and powerless forms of godliness. They export the same manmade nonsense that failed here but are under the delusion that they will somehow work overseas. What hypocrisy! What short-sightedness. What arrogance!
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.