A Vicious Circle in the American Church

August 29, 2013
By Rodney Kirkpatrick

 

Let me preface this article with some personal background regarding my ties to the Church in the United States. I became a Christian in America in 1981. I have worked in Christian ministry, including founding/pastoring a church and extensive missions travels, in the USA from 1994 to 2007. The vast majority of my extended family currently attends Church in the USA. My family has a history of service and participation in the Church in America that dates back for generations.

It is also safe to say that our role in serving the Church has evolved over the years we have lived full time on the mission field. We do work primarily with many parts of the Church in Africa, but every time we have returned from Africa to give an account to our supporters in the USA, the burden to help the Church there has increased. Our “reporting” has come to often include our opinion and perspective on the spiritual state of the various Churches and ministries that we visit. Though we don’t currently live in the USA, we care deeply for this part of the Body of Christ and consistently pray that God’s purpose for this section of the Church is fulfilled.

A Vision

During our recent trip to the USA, I saw a picture that I believe highlights some of the concerns we are presently facing in the Church in America. The image was a circle made of two adjoining arrows, with the first made up of “difficult circumstances” and the second made of “selfishness.”

Understanding Circumstances

As I prayed about the first arrow, difficult circumstances, it was clear that to interpret this vision accurately, there needed to be some understanding on the different reasons Christians can experience challenges. On the one hand God can allow and/or orchestrate difficulty with the primary purpose of improving His people’s character or witness (see James 1, Hebrews 12, or 2 Cor 1). However, some adversity is brought on as a direct result of the sinful choices we make. Galatians 6:7-8 NASB says,

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. [8] For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

When we depart from the Holy Spirit’s leadership and begin to follow the “flesh,” it is certain that unnecessary difficulty will result. It is the latter scenario that I believe accurately describes what is going on in much of the Church in the USA.

More specifically, I believe that part of the difficulty the Lord has brought to the Church is in the form of financial distress. God has seen to it that many Christians in America have less money than they have had in the past because financial prosperity has too often been used to create and protect comfort in the flesh. While the Lord is not opposed to natural blessings for His people, the primary reasons the Lord gives financial wealth to His people are for them to be a blessing to others and to expand His Kingdom on the earth. Today we are reaping consequences for abandoning the Holy Spirit led generosity fundamental to our calling.

Responding to Difficulty

The second arrow, which finished the circle, represents the response of the Church to the judgment God of previously discussed. Rather than turning to the Lord and acknowledging our departure, Christians in America have stubbornly chosen not to repent. Instead, we have invented new ways to become even more self centered with the smaller financial resources that are present. This response brings us full circle back to the place of God’s judgment for the misuse of financial resources. James 3:16 NASB says,

For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.

“Selfish ambition” is at the heart of a vicious circle that is paralyzing part of the financial resources that God wants to distribute to the world through the Church in America. It will continue to repeat and even intensify without a change that results from repentance.

Prayer for Repentance

I want to encourage the many who will read this article that aren’t part of the Church in the USA to remember that we are One Body regardless of our geographic location! PLEASE pray for the following to become convictions in the heart of the Church in the USA:

1) Acknowledgment of any selfishness in financial decision making as sin, preparing for sacrificial giving and generosity to return as standards for God’s people in America.

2) Get back to a place of Faith in the area of financial decision making. God will ask His people to support things financially because He says to do it, not because it seems possible or safe from a natural standpoint.