Continuing with our discussion on the American church, here are some thoughts from Daniel. You can read his original blog post that inspired this series here.
“I am culturally and theologically confused by the American Evangelical Church, specifically as it relates to the mega church scene.
To a foreigner like me, the worship time looks like a concert in what is meant to be a house of the living God. (In the mind of this European TCK, concerts and cathedrals don’t mix.) It seems to be more about attention than worship. In addition, it was far outside of my comfort zone. I worship God silently and stoically. They worship God loudly. I was willing to learn the songs, but in my mind, many of them did not hold much significance to me, and there are so many of them.
To me, the materialism of America is repulsive. To see it within the church is heartbreaking. To see that clothing, books, paraphernalia, CDs, food, and drinks can be sold so readily in some of the mega churches I have been to seems very convenient to be sure, but not unlike the Temple about which Jesus said “My House shall be called a House of prayer for all nations. But you have made it a den of robbers.”
It is difficult for me to see such little ethnic diversity within the church. Granted, America is made up of mostly white Europeans of mixed ethnicities, but the churches I grew up in were almost as ethnically diverse as the United Nations. There is nothing wrong with the monoculture in churches in America, but I miss the diversity of my childhood.
The churches I have attended since I moved to America a few years ago seem like they do not really care about missions very much. It is not in the preaching, and aside from some people going to Central America for a few weeks every summer, there seems to be very little mention of the Great Commission and discipleship, especially in the context of the nations. To a person who spent his childhood as the son of missionaries overseas, this is frustrating.
Sometimes I see people in church worshipping God, and again in the parking lot getting into their Mercedes and BMWs. Seeing wealthy people in church looks like a paradox, and not a nice one. There are so many verses in Scripture that I could use to support this view, but then I remember other passages, like when Jesus said “Judge not, lest you be judged.” and “First tend to the plank in your own eye, so that you may see clearly to tend to the speck in your brother’s eye.” Every man sins, but to judge him is to sin like him.
I am confused about the politics within the church. It seems in many places, to be a Christian is to be a Republican, and I do not understand this. I had thought that America was meant to be a separation between the Church and the State, which is how countries work in Europe. But some Christians are outspoken about agreeing with a certain political party. To a TCK who does not have a definite political identity to begin with, and who can empathize with many aspects of both Democratic and Republican values, it merely serves to make me feel more like a foreigner than I already do.
There is much about the church in America, specifically as it relates to the mega church scene that confuses and frustrates me about the church, and in some significant instances it feels very alien and alienating. I have struggled to find my place within American Christianity. It is a tiring process into which I have poured sweat and tears, and sometimes I feel like giving up and just leaving. And while this may seem drastic, there are some key steps that I have had to go through in order to make this a plausible solution. 1) I have seen God as a Deity who is separate and above the church. While he dearly loves his Church, how they act and what they say about him do not necessarily represent the truth of his character. 2) My reliance for a relationship with God stems from his Word, not the Church. When you rely on a human institution to reach and commune the Divine, you shall be sorely disappointed, for only the Divine can be relied upon to be able to reach and commune with the Divine. 3) I realize that I need community of some sort. This could be people at a church, college group, Bible study, or friends who can encourage you and keep you accountable. But a community of believers is very important for spiritual growth.
I have not left God, and by his grace, I never will. I think about ceasing to attend church almost every Sunday.”