Author: Josh Lafferty
Genre: Spiritual Growth
Perhaps what many of us call church is more American than it is Christian.
Life in America is vastly different than almost anywhere else. Consumer expectations and the pursuit of cultural popularity are the driving force behind much of our society. There is a level of customer service that any business must maintain to remain relevant in the American marketplace. Unfortunately, this relevance has now extended itself into the Christian experience. Americans don’t just expect culture to cater to and convenience them. They now expect the Church and their faith to do the same.
Hoping to candidly address the most obvious problems in the present consumer-driven church model, The American Gospel: A Letter to a Post-Christian Church gives insight into the ways the American Church has gone astray and how it can regain influence in a rapidly changing culture. Since its inception, America has been guided by the Christian voice and the inspiration of pious believers. The decline of American Christianity is not the fault of secular culture. It is the responsibility of a relevant, comfortable, progressive church model that began in the twentieth century and now dominates American Christianity. It is clearly failing to bring the individual and cultural change that authentic faith in Jesus Christ demands.
There is hope. Not all have been swayed by competitive consumerism and its curse of relevance. By returning to orthodox Christian beliefs, demanding real conversion, and reigniting the flames of passionate faith, the American Church can still come back to its Christian roots and restore what influence it has lost.
Reviewer: Laura J. Davis
When I first started reading The American Gospel by Josh Lafferty, I fully expected he was going to talk about the current state of decay in the Evangelical church. He did that and a bit more.
Right off the top, the author makes it clear, the American church as a whole (not just Evangelicals) has invited secular society through its doors. Instead of telling them about Jesus, they have bent over backwards to adapt to the world, embracing the morals of secular society while throwing away what they don't like in the Bible, resulting in what he calls "Cultural Christianity." Cultural Christianity has been going on for years. It allows people to claim they are Christian and believe in God and yet live as if He doesn't exist. I can remember back in the '60s, my Grade 3 teacher making everyone stand up and say they were Christians without bothering to define what the word "Christian" meant. Cultural Christianity has been going on for a very long time.
With each generation, the church has tried to adapt to the world by making itself more appealing to the world. That was their second mistake. Their first mistake was believing the church was intended for the lost to visit every Sunday to hear about Jesus. It wasn't. The church is for believers only. Those who have repented and are living their lives for the glory of God. By trying to adapt to please the world, the church has forgotten its primary mission - to make disciples that go into the world to spread the good news about Jesus. Oh, but we send out missionaries to do that! You are missing the point. Everyone is supposed to be doing that! The relevant and progressive church movements are the best examples of churches who no longer have Christ as their foundation. For instance, many mega-churches have high, consumer-driven production values that focus on entertaining. Some seeker-driven churches will have one song, maybe a skit and a short sermon (not too long because you don't want to bore people) all for the purpose of "saving" the lost. Most churches have fancy lighting, comfortable theatre-style seating and cafes in the foyer. They have long stopped using choirs and hymnals in favour of "worship" bands, who perform while the congregation watches and doesn't get involved. They say Jesus is there. They get everyone riled up for that one hour, and then everyone leaves to go home and live their lives as if nothing happened. While many Evangelical and mainstream churches today would say their foundation is built on Jesus, the author makes it abundantly clear, many are standing on shaky ground and need to repent!
In part one, the author shows the reader how the church has failed and why most churches today no longer keep Jesus as the head of the church. The second part shows what we need to make Jesus the head of the church once again. Unfortunately, in his excitement to inform readers about how dire the situation in the church is, the author tended to ramble and repeat himself frequently. This made me, on more than one occasion, skip chapters as I felt reading about the same thing again a bit tedious.
Nevertheless, this book is one every American (and Canadian) pastor should read. If your focus is on getting unsaved people through the doors instead of making disciples of believers, your church is part of the problem. As the author says, "The Whore of Babylon isn't just the Catholic Church, it is the whole church."
This is a must-read for everyone who claims Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. It may change your life!
Reviewer: Debra Webster
Though this reviewer does not agree with every point, this book is five stars because the Church needs to read it and take it to heart. We need a reformation in the Church and the nation. The American Gospel strips away the subterfuge of our other gods that keep us from repentance and the reformation we need so much.
A big problem in the Church is cultural Christianity. "Cultural Christianity allows people to claim the belief in God and yet live as if He doesn't exist." A cultural Christian does not embrace life change, but they often will embrace Church programs.
Another problem is the relevant and progressive movements within the Church. "The progressive Church asserts that truth, especially that of the narrow gate and narrow road required by orthodox Christianity, is, in fact, relative. There is nothing more useless or uncertain than a Church with no foundation. However, it is the hallmark of both the relevant and progressive Church movements." No foundation means that what we build will fall when the wind and waves beat upon it.
Many mega Churches practice Comfortable Christianity so we can draw people. But to what gospel do we draw them? There is no gospel of comfort or relevancy in scripture, but rather a gospel that tells us to take up our cross daily and die. This means people living in America need to die to the gods of comfort and man-centeredness. Comfort is one of the major strongholds in the American Church.
Josh Lafferty says, again and again, in various words, that the point of this life in Christ is to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind. After this, we love our neighbor or win souls and disciples. Much of the Church has forgotten to keep the main thing the main thing. We have substituted man-centered activity for knowing Christ intimately. The Bride seeks intimacy with her lover. Seeking must be paramount in believer's lives, yet is missing in many churches. "A bride does not love her husband and others…Her affections are not divided. Thus, the primary call of the Church is to properly love the Christ and only then will she fulfill the Great Commission and suitably love the creation. When the order is incorrect, humanism is always the result."
We don't need a gospel relevant to the culture or one that progresses. The faith does not progress according to Josh Lafferty, it only returns. "It returns to foundational truths," The foundation of the Apostles and Prophets of the first century. "We don't find new loves. We fight to keep our first love." And again, "We were meant to be ever captivated by the person of Jesus Christ and committed to His cross even unto death."
God has called us to a covenant, and He set the terms. "If we are the Bride of Christ, we've made a vow to Him and His cross. Its standards are already set." Church growth "begins with the message of the cross and culminates in the Bride's perfection."
American secular culture cannot reconcile the New Testament Christ with the Old Testament Yahweh, so the American Church constructed a new god, a progressive or relevant god. "This god so loves His creation that it would not in any way require something of that creation." Not obedience, or true devotion as in the whole heart of the "believer," or sacrifice, suffering, or cross-carrying.
The author speaks of the rich young ruler willing to pay the cost of fellowship but balked at paying the cost of worship. "The man's primary problem isn't His wealth. It is that he possesses other gods and is unwilling to sacrifice them to pay the cost of worshipping the one true God."
That cost is our cross. Not just carrying it, but being crucified with Christ. Forsaking self-sufficiency and embracing intimate life-changing fellowship with our Bridegroom God and enduring the pain of being stripped of the futility of our ways so we can embrace Him and let Him transform us. Then we are ready to make disciples. This keeps the gospel Christ-centered rather than man-centered.
This is the real gospel. His cross is the marker of His covenant with us. Christ promises intimate fellowship if we take up our cross and follow. If the cross is not a daily walk, we can quickly succumb to deception. "The cross and Calvary is where the follower of Jesus lives." For the reformation of the American Church, she must return here with haste.
The American Church needs something that other nations have, a presence driven model of worship. If devotion to Christ is the number one target of the Church, then His presence will be among us. When we assemble, we should worship Him, not sing three songs that talk about us, then going on to the next thing in the program. "How have we arrived at a corporate worship model that instead devotes itself to the people?" Scripture does not teach this.
"The Church's primary mission is to create burning men and women who are wholly devoted to Jesus Christ. These are those who have given themselves to self-denial and have willingly taken up the cross and followed Christ up the hill. They have walked through the narrow gate and are committed to the narrow road. They've allowed Christ to take His rightful place on the throne of their heart…"
This reviewer has attended three mega Churches. In each case, they kept knowing Christ intimately the number one goal of the Christian life. This is not to say they use none of the presentations of the megachurch movement. The problem described here is not exclusive to the mega Churches. The Church, in general, moves away from wholehearted devotion to Christ, though many Churches in the mega Church movement have the problems of which the author speaks.
Another thought, this reviewer writes of this same problem but in different terms. That is why I understand The American Gospel is an important book for our times. The hope is that those ensnared will read it and see how far they have drifted from fidelity to Christ alone. So, this book is but one invitation God is giving today, but an important invitation. This is a message God is currently speaking through many voices. The invitation is to come and die. That has always been the door into the true gospel, along with the intimate covenant for which He paid in His blood. Yes, we can know Him. Knowing Him is the consolation of the dying, and only in dying will we see Him and enter into intimacy with Him. No wonder the enemy works so hard to stop this. God calls, and the Church can choose Christ again and again and again, for the Bride doing less is unthinkable.
This book was provided courtesy of the author, through Interviews & Reviews.
Reviewer: Joan Dowell
This book is a passionate warning to the church. Although I didn’t agree with all of the views that the author holds, I can agree that the church is in crisis.
This book calls all of those who call themselves Christian to take a stand for truth. I highly recommend this book to all who sit in the pews on Sunday morning. It will convince you to search your own life and see where you are falling short with the issues that the church is facing today.
This book was provided courtesy of the author, through Interviews & Reviews.
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