May 26, 2020

(Originally written 9-7-2013)

A number of years ago I was listening to someone talk about a mission trip to a third world country. One of the reasons for the trip was “to teach” the people they would come in contact with. Of course, it was not said in an arrogant way, but having previously been to a third world country, I took it in a way only some will understand. Anyone that has been to a poverty stricken part of the world will tell you that you learn way more than you could ever hope to teach. We are commanded to go tell others about Christ, and we must continue to do so, but we have to be aware of the dangers that come with learning about Christ from Americans. In my opinion, one of the absolute worst things that can happen to new believers is for them to look to “American Christianity” as a guide. I say this for a few reasons.

First, doing so can result in rituals instead of a relationship. As Lecrae says in his song “Send Me”, “America ain’t christian they just practicing a ritual.” The majority of us fit God into our schedule instead of making Him the center of our lives. We give Him an hour or two on Sundays and if He is lucky He gets another hour Wednesday night. The most consistent time families pray together is probably before we eat dinner. Do we even have conversations about faith or read the Bible as families? A line from one of my songs without music, a more manly way of saying poems, says “You’re pushed to the back and only brought to the front when I’m caught in a bind or there is something I want.” We’re quick to pick up the Bible or hit our knees in prayer if an illness affects a family member or there is a job we really want, but even then we do so acting like we deserve something in return. The American Christian is willing to be friends with benefits, but we aren’t all that interested in a committed relationship with Christ.

The second reason I believe it is dangerous for foreigners to look to “American Christianity” as a guide is the substance they are likely to get a hold of. We Americans enjoy a good prosperity sermon. We love to hear how the Lord promises us this and that. We enjoy a good pep talk telling us that our blessings are just around the corner. Why do I say we enjoy it? I say we enjoy it because pastors like Joel Osteen have huge followings; Christianity has become big business here in the States. The health and wealth doctrine is not Biblical, but obviously we don’t know our Bibles enough to understand that. You can also punch holes in these false teachings using a little common sense. This fall a show about millionaire pastors called “Pastors of LA” debuts on Oxygen. The promotions for this show should make us sick to our stomachs. As I was working on this blog there was a measles outbreak at one of Kenneth Copeland’s churches in North Texas. Copeland is a health and wealth pastor. It’s ironic that this would happen at a church where medicine is viewed as doubt. It’s amazing how quick their views changed when they felt their finances could be in danger. Often times when this sort of stuff comes up you’ll hear someone say something like “Christians are the only ones to tear down their own.” A wolf in sheep’s clothing is not a sheep. It’s past time we address this issue. Not only do we owe it to those who are being lead astray in our own country, but we owe it to those in other countries who are looking to us for guidance. Fortunately, there is a generation of young pastors in our country who are challenging us to sacrifice our comforts instead of indulge in them.

The last reason I think looking to “American Christianity” is dangerous is because I believe our focus is off. If they look to us, then they are likely to think they need a big elegant building with all of the latest technology. If they look to us, then they will probably promote their individual church more than they promote Jesus. If they look to us, then their idea of serving will be limited to teaching a Sunday School class or helping with the youth. If they look to us, then they will compete against churches in their community who have the same beliefs instead of serving alongside them. If they look to us, their focus probably won’t be where it should be, on Christ. 

The idea of “blessed to be born in America” has been on my mind for some time now. Yes, there are great things about being born in America, but often times those great things are taken for granted. We are blessed with great health care, but we don't take care of ourselves. We are blessed with food, but we often waste it. We are blessed with clean water, but we would rather drink something else. We are blessed to be able to worship together freely, but we often find something to complain about. I think those born in Kenya are blessed to have been born there as well. They aren’t focused on material things like we are. They don’t live in the constant rush that we have come to accept. They are willing to walk miles to worship with fellow believers. They are joyful.

When sharing Christ in poverty stricken regions, and all regions for that matter, we must make sure they don’t look to our country’s first world faith as a guide. Our first world faith is ruining our country. There is no reason to have it bring down other countries too. We must overcome first world faith!

They took our parking spot. #FirstWorldFaith Those visitors are in our seats. #FirstWorldFaith It’s too cold in here. #FirstWorldFaith Why don’t they have the air lower? #FirstWorldFaith Why is the music so loud?#FirstWorldFaith I haven’t liked the song selection lately. #FirstWorldFaith He needs to finish up. We’re five minutes over and the game is about to start. #FirstWorldFaith Those pews are so uncomfortable. #FirstWorldFaith Lord, I’ve been tithing for years. I’d like a new truck. #FirstWorldFaith I’ll raise my hand about a prayer request, but I won’t actually go to the altar and pray about it. #FirstWorldFaith I wanna be friends with benefits, but I’m not interested in a committed relationship with the Lord. #FirstWorldFaith Sunday is the most important day of the week. #FirstWorldFaith