Culture chases Ouija boards and Zen and New Moon ceremonies and Wicca and New Ageism and crystals and good vibes and horoscopes and countless occult practices in an attempt to see supernatural power... And yet, if Holy Spirit moves in a mighty way that may be uncommon in our place of worship, it almost seems like some churches feel they need to apologize for it.
Church sure has come under fire lately, hasn’t it? With many controversies surrounding churches regarding sexual immorality, misuse of funds, abuse, or other, we’ve not always done ourselves a favor in staying out of the limelight of criticism either. That is understandable from a secular perspective. Of course, the world would come after the church when challenges come. We say we are living a life set apart from the world, holy before the Lord, surrendered to service to Him. Our lives should look different, and when they don’t, that becomes news, particularly for a culture that often disagrees with the teachings of Christ. However, it almost seems that many Christians feel more comfortable attacking the local church in vocal criticism than they do addressing the war on the family, identity, perversion, and evil. To that end, I was reticent to write an article on signs your church is controlled by culture. And yet…. here we are.
Perhaps the most pressing motivation for the article is my deep love for the church – the collective Body of Christ – and an equally deep love for the people of God in the local church. Church is where I found the Lord, where many in my family likewise found Him. Church is where I found hope, friends, accountability, and mentorship. It has been the very place where I found my calling, heard most clearly from the Lord, and have been challenged to live a life fully surrendered to Jesus. As the daughter of two deceased parents, my spiritual family has also most fully and assuredly been my family in so many ways.
But there’s no denying the church has its fair share of problems – not the least of which is an attempt by culture to control the church and an unwillingness by the church to stand against this push. So, how do you know if your church is being controlled by culture?
Here are a few signs:
1. Fear of Man
A fear of man keeps leadership far more concerned with what others think than what God thinks. Fear of man causes church leadership to give pause when making decisions for fear that others may be offended or angry. The need to “just be liked” can outweigh the courage to pursue God. A fear of man can cause leadership to question instruction by the Lord. Did I really hear from God? What will they think? Will others be angry? While a healthy concern for the reaction of congregants on an issue is wise, and many churches have a board of directors to assist with accountability and oversight, a fear of man drives church leaders to be motivated by worldly validation instead of a heavenly mandate.
2. Lack of Reverence for the Lord
I love fun game nights and marriage workshops that integrate laughter, skits, and comedy. The joy of the Lord is our strength, and laughter is surely good. I love the creativity God has given to many in the body. We should smile and laugh in church. Christians should be joy-filled rather than sour-faced negative Nancys. We have much to rejoice in. However, my concern is when there is a flippancy about our worship service. Just another Sunday. Just another program. Just another Wednesday night Bible study. No, it’s never “just another.” When we enter the house of God, there is a reverence that should be present – a sensitivity to the Word, a surrender to the Holy Spirit, a holy fear of His majesty. Chatting while the pastor delivers the Word has become far too common. Many churchgoers feel far more comfortable standing in line at their church’s coffee shop as service is beginning rather than rushing into service before the first note is played – in reverence and expectation of what the Lord may do.
3. Ambiguity on Real Issues
There are real issues facing the modern-day church and the world. Perversion is more rampant than ever before. There is an identity crisis, war on the family, and confusion. In lieu of rising up and taking our rightful place as leaders, many churches sadly skirt the issues of the day, avoiding any real discussion on their websites, social media, or from the pulpit about controversial topics. Churches may list their statement of beliefs, but they often don’t take the next step of addressing homosexuality, abortion, transgenderism, or other cultural issues affecting the day. Further, many avoid (seemingly) more complicated spiritual issues, such as deliverance, spiritual gifts, and women pastors, among others. These are all topics of which congregants (or potential ones) should have an idea where the church stands, but often do not get addressed in any public way, often due to cultural pressure and the fear of push-back.
4. Apologizing for the Supernatural
Our God is a mountain-moving God. His ways are far above ours, his thoughts higher. We do not and could not understand the mysteries of the Kingdom. While we must all discern for ourselves where to worship and what church denomination or teaching falls closest to what we believe the Word instructs, there must be room for the supernatural power of God to fill the place, even if that isn’t common in our church or denomination. God is in the healing, restoring, anointing, delivering, and transforming of business. If someone in your church is filled with a gift of the Spirit, e.g. tongues, prophesy, or interpretation, or perhaps becomes slain in the Spirit (overcome with God’s presence), or weeps loudly in worship as the Spirit leads, don’t apologize. Culture chases Ouija boards and Zen and New Moon ceremonies and Wicca and New Ageism and crystals and good vibes and horoscopes and countless occult practices in an attempt to see supernatural power. And the church rarely even speaks out about this witchcraft. And yet, if Holy Spirit moves in a mighty way that may be uncommon in our place of worship, it almost seems like some churches feel they need to apologize for it. “I know you must think this is weird. I’m sorry if you are new. I don’t want to get weird or anything.” No. Why can’t people see the awe-inspiring hand of God supernaturally deliver a demoniac? Why can’t we see people healed of cancer? Why must we submit to culture because they seem to be the loudest?
5. Failure to Follow the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit leads and guides. Event plans and orders of service are fine. God is a God of order, and I respect having a plan. (I’m type A, after all!) However, somewhere along the way, churches have forgotten to follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit. There’s no margin for a true move of God. We give four minutes for an altar call at the end of a service, and if God doesn’t move, we proceed with the benediction. Where is the submission to the Spirit that may sometimes require a pastor to scrap his notes and surrender to the guidance from the Spirit? Is there a full surrender within your church to the guidance of the Holy Spirit? A willingness to rearrange an order of service or abandon it altogether when prompted? Or has culture created a demand that requires your church to strictly adhere to the schedule, not exceed the 45-minute time slot, and not deviate from this month’s scheduled preaching series?
6. Concerned with Programs over People
I currently run a parachurch ministry, The Life of a Single Mom, that has worked with almost 2,000 churches and growing. To be clear, I am all for programs. I believe that creating environments, Bible studies, and support groups that minister to the hearts of hurting people is a win. However, facilitating dozens of programs isn’t the goal. Churches aren’t supposed to be social gatherings that fit in with the world – looking more like coffee shops, restaurants, or country clubs. Evangelizing the Gospel to reach the lost and bringing hope to a hopeless world is the goal. Service to others with a towel and a water basin is the goal. Are the programs your church has implemented just another attempt to placate culture? To seem relevant? Cool? Or is your church concerned with the life change of Holy Spirit-filled believers who are well and adequately equipped to take territory for the Kingdom?
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Booky Buggy
Jennifer Maggio is a mom to three, wife to Jeff, and founder of the national nonprofit, The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. She is author to four books, including The Church and the Single Mom. She was named one of the Top 10 Most Influential People in America by Dr. John Maxwell in 2017 and 2015 and has appeared in hundreds of media venues, including The New York Times, Family Talk Radio with Dr. James Dobson, Joni and Friends, and many others.