Ten Fears for the American Church

By Chuck Lawless

I spend a lot of time on the mission field working with missionaries. I LOVE the local church wherever it is, but I fear more for the American church every time I go overseas. Here are some of my fears:

  1. I fear we go through the motions without really experiencing God’s presence. Seldom have I experienced in America what I’ve seen in some places around the world.
  2. I fear we get way too hung up on things that don’t matter nearly as much as we think. That’s the way I feel about things like service times, worship styles, and building colors.
  3. I fear we think too lightly about persecution. We think we’re being persecuted when we can’t erect the church sign we want, but believers around the world are facing much more than that.
  4. I fear we think we’re the most important church people in the world. No question that the American church is influential, but most of the world has never heard of most of us – including those among us who are the best known.
  5. I fear we think too little about Bible study and scripture memorization. I wonder how our ministries would change if the only Bible we had was what we’ve already stored in our head and heart. Some believers live under that restriction.
  6. I fear we have little idea what power there is in prayer. Our “prayer meetings” hardly compare to some of the long, gut-wrenching, heart-rending prayer times I’ve spent with missionaries and nationals.
  7. I fear we tolerate sin far too much. I’ve been with international believers who go too far the other way into legalism, but at least they’re talking about holiness.
  8. I fear we’re not providing enough practical training for young ministers and missionaries.  We send them out with our blessing, but not with our practical and personal DNA in their blood.
  9. I fear we sometimes get in the way of missionaries on our short-term trips. That happens when we plan trips without even briefly engaging those who live on the ground and who best understand local needs and culture.
  10. I fear we don’t pray enough for missionaries. In fact, I’m sure about this one. I know we don’t pray enough for them.

Just my thoughts today. If you agree with any of these, pick one and work on it. Strengthen the American church by beginning with your congregation.

Posted on September 18, 2019

Dr. Chuck Lawless is a leading expert in spiritual consultation, discipleship and mentoring. As a former pastor, he understands the challenges ministry presents and works with Church Answers to provide advice and counsel for church leaders.
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  • It’s so important that we need to take a strong position in this blessed country. Unless we get stronger the church will not be known.

  • I believe the biggest fear is the IRS. Before President LBJ. Politicians could not get elected without the support of the church and their members. Now the church sits on the sidelines for free they will lose their tax exemption non profit status.

  • Harold Hambley says on

    I would pick #7. We don’t practice church discipline. God does not tolerate sin in the camp but we do.

  • Thanks Chuck. This month I have seen “successful” pastors leave the church in one tragic way or another and I to fear for the church in America today. Renouncing their faith, moral failure, suicide, or just leaving for the corporate world; really great pastors who were here one day and gone the next. You watch it happen to them and then fear creeps in like he’s coming for you. I have to constantly remind myself that the emotion of fear is reserved solely for a right posture before God. Maybe one of our fears is a lack of fear before God.

  • I fear my grandchildren will never know the real, personal,and tangible power of God that was once so evident in the church because it has all but disappeared.
    Where are the voices crying in the wilderness?

  • Dontrootmeout says on

    This is one of a slew of articles that came across my FB feed from my own pastor. The first one was soon after he and “the leadership” (who he did not name) unilaterally decided to remove the pews from our small historic chapel in an effort to fit maybe 50 more people. We were only meeting for approval of the monies for the new chairs – not to discuss pew removal at all. During the emergency meeting the pastor declared that God told him that this was the right decision. (I was saddened that this was clearly not the message I was receiving in my prayers). After the meeting, he instructed those of us there that we were not to speak of this again; that if we did, we would be rooted out – and that this statement was absolutely “biblical.” The article was written by a company that installs chairs and builds new churches. It was entitled something like, “Why your parishioners resist church growth.” The article seemed to directly aim at those opposed to the pew removal and cited things like age and comfort. To be clear, I encourage our church to use our vast resources in acreage and building square footage to expand and grow, not disembowel the chapel in place.

    • Christopher says on

      So, in other words, the chapel is your idol and any kind of huge building project is fine as long as they don’t remodel your sacred chapel. And people wonder why the church is dying in this country.

      BTW, why would you approve money to buy chairs unless the plan was to replace the pews?

      • Dontrootmeout says on

        Bless your heart, Christopher.

      • Christopher says on

        You know who couldn’t care less about those pews? All the lost people around you suffering without Jesus. This is what Keith Green called being “asleep in the light.” Wake up! Jesus didn’t die and rise from the grave to save your pews.

      • Dontrootmeout says on

        Do you think they care about Chinese made cushy chairs? This is NOT about the pews. This is about people like you who jump to labels like Idol or Pharisee and don’t listen to the person right in front of you. As you duly noted, I voted for the money to pay for the pews because the pastor asked us to trust him. My point was that afterwards I get a slew of slanted articles drawing conclusions about MY motives and from some high-horse pulpit explaining MY decision to ME rather than reach out, listen with heart, give us a place in the process. Instead, as I said, we were told never to speak of this again.
        This was the first of several reasons I was going to give of why I believe that pastors need to look at themselves as much as they’re asking their congregation to look inward – but people like you and the so-called leaders of the church who immediately lash out with mean-spirited accusations from behind the anonymity of a keyboard to spew vitriol rather than love make it sadly easy to stop engaging with “Christians.” Good job. And, I mean, it, bless your heart.

      • Christopher says on

        If this is NOT about pews why are you so upset about them? Going off your description it seems plain to me that this was a very contentious issue, which it should not have been, and you were one of the leaders of the opposition. I’m sure that when the pastor said don’t speak of it again it was because he had been dealing with the issue for some time and was tired of all the griping and backbiting. Besides, if it was voted on, why should you keep debating it? I don’t know your pastor, maybe he’s not a good guy, but don’t be the typical, inward focused, territorial church member that resents any pastor who asserts authority.

        Also, it’s very hypocritical to accuse someone of hiding behind their keyboard when you are posting on a blog for the purpose of trashing your pastor.

    • I don’t know what the church’s rationale was for removing the pews, so I’m not going to take sides on that. However, I will say I don’t have much use for pastors whose leadership style is, “This is what God told me to do and how dare you disagree with me!” Such tactics are manipulative and arrogant, and they border on a cult mentality.

      • Christopher says on

        I would like to hear the other side, Maybe it’s like my old church where the pews were battered and splintered. However, I can’t help but be extremely skeptical about anyone who’s upset over pews. No different than someone throwing a fit because the pastor doesn’t want to preach behind a pulpit. What difference does it make in the light of the Gospel? Are pews or a pulpit going to save anybody?

      • The pews are not the issue as far as I’m concerned. My issue is with church leaders who stubbornly force their own agendas and suggest that anyone who disagrees with them doesn’t truly love Jesus. Such tactics are arrogant and manipulative, and you will never convince me that they are the work of the Holy Spirit.

      • Dontrootmeout says on

        Thank you. That was the only point I was trying to make, however, I guess, inartfully.

      • Christopher says on

        In my experience there are many church members who will accuse the pastor of being a dictator and stubbornly forcing an agenda anytime the pastor does something with which they disagree, even when the pastor goes out of his way to explain his decision and bring people on board. These same people will make a huge deal out of things that should be virtually irrelevant, like pews, just to attack the pastor. Like I said, speaking from experience.

      • And some pastors unnecessarily force the issue without giving the opposition fair consideration. They also try to turn simple disagreements into spiritual issues. Just because someone disagrees with the pastor doesn’t mean they love Jesus less than he does.

      • Dontrootmeout says on

        If this is not a microcosm of the dysfunction we are experiencing in the church – American or not- I don’t know what is. I reached out here to share a heartbreak I experienced (and no, I’m not a leader, there was no contention as there was no discussion) hoping for some loving guidance and perspective. Clearly the message is the same, don’t speak of it here, either – you’re just “one of those kinds.” Sigh. Good thing I worship Jesus and not any human, because you’re really mean.

      • Christopher says on

        Opposing the pastor’s authority over a simple disagreement is a spiritual issue.

      • Christopher says on


        Maybe your a great guy, or woman, with a great heart and maybe I’m just projecting from my own experience. I was run out of a church by people who were more interested in preserving the institution than with making disciples. I was even accused of preaching the Bible too much, just like a previous post mentioned. When I tried to fire a corrupt youth pastor I was screamed at, in a deacon meeting, and called a false teacher even though no one ever denied the youth pastor was a liar and was hitting on girls in the youth group. This was the final straw after years of dealing with members and lay leadership, in various churches, who cared nothing about the Great Commission or the Gospel. They viewed the church as their own private club and I was a usurper, or at best a hired hand. That’s why I’m no longer in the ministry, which you probably think is a good thing at the moment.

        Yes, the church is dysfunctional and there is plenty of blame to go around.

      • “Opposing the pastor’s authority over a simple disagreement is a spiritual issue.”

        No, it really isn’t. If a pastor’s “authority” can be threatened by a simple disagreement, then I say his authority is very fragile – or maybe he just has a fragile ego.

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