Lately I have been studying the history of church theology, practices and how these have intertwined over time to bring us to where we currently are in America. How did we get here? Where did our ideas about God, faith and church come from? Are they all from scripture or have we added some things to scripture that really come from our 21st century American worldview? As I’ve traced the history of many of our practices much of what I find surprises me. Over the next few months, I’d like to share some of the interesting roots to practices, theology or even attitudes prevalent in the Christian church in America.
So let’s start with the individualization of the church that is painfully obvious to anyone whose ever served overseas as a missionary. One of the most common laments I’ve heard from those who have experienced the church overseas is that when they come back to America they miss the community atmosphere of the church they came to know while overseas. Now some of this can be put on our extremely individualistic culture here in America, but how did it infiltrate the church?
Historically, the Frontier-Revivalist movement which took place in America in the 19th century had a huge impact on our national understanding of the Christian faith. Much of what our society knows about Christianity today can be traced back to this movement. Ideas such as making a personal decision for Jesus, contemporary worship and “free will” were made popular during this time. The ultimate goal this movement was to get people to accept Jesus into their heart and choose salvation. The church and the kingdom of God were truths that we kind of left in the dust.
Fast forward 150 years and we see Christians who don’t go to worship, a consumer approach to church and quite frankly a lack of skills needed to get along with each other sometimes in the church.
God is calling us back into a relationship with one another that is marked by His love for us. When we are baptized, Christ calls us into a relationship with God but also a relationship with the rest of our brothers and sisters in Him. Being a part of the church is not optional. In the church is where God is made manifest through our love for one another. We receive God’s grace, love one another in community and make disciples of those who don’t yet know Him.