What Went Wrong with the Church in America?
So many people come into houses of God all over this country with an attitude, with arrogance and pride; they talk about their power, position, and tenure in the church as a badge of honor. They know all of the church laws and rules but don’t know any scriptures. And what is most embarrassing is that they have never led anybody to the Lord. They are embarrassed to lift up their hands and shout, “Thank you Jesus! You’ve been good.” They can’t even humble themselves and get on their knees because they worry about who’s looking at them. Where is salvation by grace and freedom in Jesus? The church in America—like the church in Constantine’s day—has simply become a reflection of the society in which it exists.
In America, while there was certainly intended to be a separation of church and state, initially the founding fathers were not trying to protect the state from the church, they were trying to protect the church from the state. After all, the church had been good to America, as it helped to frame and codify laws and principles of subjugation.
There have been crossroads in the American Christian church and at every crossroad is an ideological challenge. We have gone through the slave church of the 1600s, which was a totally controlled church. We went through Reconstruction after the Civil War, which was a very hostile period because of Jim Crow laws. We went through the Pentecostal movement, which was designed to unite the races but once again further divided the races. We went through the post-World War II church and began a quest for the secular. One of the reasons that certain denominations and certain institutions of higher learning were built was to stay competitive in the secular markets for leadership. During this time, doctoral degrees and graduate degrees were required in secular fields, and the church wanted to compete with secular fields so they began to require that the clergy have Master of Divinity degrees and this promoted the rise of the professional clergy class. Unfortunately, what was taught in the seminaries was not how to reflect the Kingdom of God, but how to reflect the state in which you serve.
America has gone through the segregated church and the classist church and now we’re dealing with the motivational church, the so-called integrated church with motivational speakers. Michael Emerson of Rice University is one of the main researchers on multi-culturalism in America and in the church. His research has found that eight percent of all churches and two to three percent of mainline churches in America are considered integrated. The integrated church is a myth – there is no integration. What Dr. Martin Luther King said in the 1960s still holds true today: the 11:00 o’clock worship hour is the most segregated hour in America. The only reason we work together is because the state says we have to. The only reason we eat together is because the state says we have to, but when people are left to their own choices for worship, they don’t want to be around Kingdom people — they want to be around their kind of people. Why? Because we rally around sociological issues — carnal issues, not spiritual issues. When you are spiritual you’re supposed to be closer to me, as a Christian, than to natural brothers and sisters. You see, the bond of the spirit is supposed to be closer than the bond of the flesh, but people feel safer in their cultural environments. The creation of doors to the church has effectively shut out the will and power of the Kingdom of God, as well as the mind of Christ our King.