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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  • I hear your heart about these fears and can relate to many of them. These are very complex in that the root has entwined itself as if to threaten the good as well.

    I, for one, declare my commitment to be a light, prayer, encourage my brother and sisters, study/meditation of the in scripture, ask questions that raise the heat, be committed to the life of giving Christ glory.

  • Chris Burrell says on

    So very true, and it breaks my heart even the way we in America view the bride of Christ. It’s even interesting to me even in a dying church, gut wrenching prayer time together, can’t be found because nobody wants to come or make the time. Yet death stares us in the face, Lord Jesus teach us to pray and not sleep. The church over seas seems to have a passion for Jesus Christ and the loss even if it means life, and often times it does. It really seems in America we are more caught up with is the Church giving me what I selfishly want. We are not serving, we’re are trying to get. We are not living in community we’re simply trying to get by. Yet Christ has given his bride purpose and yet forsake Him and his plans by keeps our own rituals and rights held higher than Jesus Christ himself. Lord have mercy on your Church in America.

  • I fear we do not understand what Worship is an how to live in it!!!

  • Pastor Josh says on

    Honestly, all these things are the result of a narcissistic religion that we call Christianity but is really not.

    The American church, for the most part, is missing the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.

    All the creative stuff we do in worship, preaching, ministry, and organization is our ignorant attempt at replacing the work of the Holy Spirit.

    When we begin to pay attention to the Holy Spirit and His influence then your list will be solved.

    Sad thing is, we have not a clue what it means to pay attention to the Holy Spirit. IMHO.

  • Dr. Jerry N Watts says on

    I fear that we have lost the concept of corporate prayer
    I fear we are too quickly making the church about ourselves, our families, and our wants, which makes our times of “Corporate Worship” more about “US” than about “Him.”
    I fear we have dismissed the concept of ‘lostness’.
    I fear that we have replaced Christ’s missional intent for the church (I.E. Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, etc) with short term mission trips (which many see as vacation time).

    Thom, God sees my heart…your list plus the few that I have just thought of is saddening and not meant as a word of judgment. My heart hurts for where we seem to be and where we seem to be headed as the church.

    My prayer is that we return to His purpose, practice, and passion for His Bride. Grace to you.

    • Chuck Lawless says on

      My heart hurts, too, Jerry.

    • Tom Harper says on

      Jerry, you’re spot on about corporate prayer. I would move Chuck’s 6th fear to my number 1 fear. We can talk about preaching the gospel and evangelism all day but a church that doesn’t pray corporately is powerless. We need to take seriously what Paul said: My speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. (1 Corinthians 2:4) The one thing worse than being powerless is to be powerless and not know it. In my opinion too many have stopped praying and replaced the supernatural with the natural. Dr, Kie Bowman, pastor of Hyde Park Baptist in Austin, TX published a book earlier this year entitled: Empowered; Why We Need Spirit Filled Churches, which makes the clear Biblical connection with corporate prayer and the empowerment of the Spirit.

  • I was recently accused of preaching the Gospel to much. Even kept count of the number of times in a year. Also told discipleship wasn’t for our church. Pray for us as we try to lead!

  • Thom – I just came back from doing a conference in Zimbabwe with 18-28 year olds. Their passion for the Lord is at a completely different level than what we see in the states. They are sold out for the great commission. Their lives are also very hard. Electricity only in the night time. Job opportunities are minimal. Their government is bankrupt. Economic hardship. Yet a joy in Jesus that is beautiful. And they continue to hope in Him. I heard someone say about China, “The church thrived through communism, but will it survive capitalism?” Well, American Christianity is steeped in capitalism. Can it thrive? How does the church thrive when it is not truly dependent on Jesus?

    • Guy in the Pew says on

      No, the church in America is dying even while building multi-site, multi-venue, high tech facilities and employing all the best marketing techniques. We are absolutely the church that sees itself as rich but in reality is poor and naked.

    • Chuck Lawless says on

      There’s no question that believers around the world are often more fully committed and more willing to sacrifice than American believers are.

    • I was at the Southern Baptist Convention several years ago, and I was riding the shuttle back to the hotel one afternoon, I sat next to a gentleman from Africa. I don’t remember what country he was from, but he was very friendly, and he told me about some of the wonderful things that were happening there. God was moving mightily among the churches, even though they didn’t have one-tenth of the resources that we enjoy in America. I told him I was worried that American churches are getting too dependent on technology. He agreed, and he said, “None of those things matter. It’s the power of the Gospel!”

      I worry that American churches have more confidence in modern technology than they do in the power of the Gospel.

  • Dave Strittmatter says on

    Your 10 fears aren’t without solid footing. I fear that the making of disciples is a lost art. “And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians” Acts 11:26. And in America can those who are called Christians also be called disciples?

  • Chris Messerer says on

    Great insights!

  • Mark Budka says on

    I agree. I wish that the church would do the work here with the Great Commission at home in the USA and get some fruit of personal sharing and discipleship making before they go on their holy vacations. The world doesn’t need are methods and systems. Gospel has always grown with one person sharing with their friends and family. Until pastors and teachers can show the people around them the Jesus’ method of show them doing good news relationship, watch them doing it, and then send them out on the town to do what they have seen and heard. Pastors we need to do what Jesus’ lived and teach the people around us to do the same. It’s not a big movement. It’s a small movement with many pieces.

  • I fear we have all gone to Laodicea.

  • Guy in the Pew says on

    I fear we don’t preach the Gospel enough. I moved to a new city and started visiting churches several months ago. I still have yet to hear a pastor intentionally and articulately present the gospel. The majority don’t even mention the death and resurrection of Jesus and even hardly mention the name of Jesus at all.

    • Iam planting a church and the enemy is doing all he can to keep the truth from being taught. The cross needs to be in the middle of the church and get back to fasting and prayer. We have got to develop a culture of discipleship and evangelism in our churches. There has been a lack of discipleship and church discipline,which leads to what we have today. We are seeing the church of laodicea today, the lord is not happy with thsi. He will allow persecution to get the church on her knees and repent and turn from her wicked ways. ( 2nd Chronicles 7:14. Dr. Bernard Hakes Jr.

    • Chuck Lawless says on

      It’s indeed sad that the church so often fails to proclaim the gospel clearly, and then we fail to live out that gospel through evangelism and discipleship. Still, though, God loves His church.

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