The context in which the New Testament was written approximately 2,000 years ago contrasts sharply with the context in which believers in America live today—at least for the present moment. In New Testament times, believers lived under the pressure of suffering and persecution. Christians in America today do not.
As a result of such difficult life circumstances, Paul in his epistles to the believers at that time encouraged them not to place much hope in this life. Instead he taught them to “set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, and not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:1-2).
But for the time being today in America, we do not face such suffering on account of our faith. Because of that, we do not “set our hope on the grace to be brought to us when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming” (1 Peter 1:13). Rather we look to God to better our lot right here and right now in the wonderful land of the American Dream. This is an inescapable tendency for human beings—to adapt to the circumstances in which they live.
Thus the churches in America have inevitably sought to minister to the “felt needs” of the people such as they are. They have sought to teach believers how to overcome life’s earthly challenges and to lead successful and fulfilled lives on earth. The focus will primarily be on success and the abundant life in the here and now—now that our salvation by grace through faith is a completely settled issue.
After all, we are called to attract and feed the Lord’s lambs. And to do that in America it is thought that we must have comfortable facilities—which will incur expenses including salaries and many bills to pay. And so it’s a fact of life that we must have effective marketing to attract the sheep to come to fill our pews and offering baskets. And we will want to draw as many people as possible—all of course for the Great Commission and the glory of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (After all, are we not called to disciple all nations?)
Such is the model of the Church in America which is emulated around the world. But the strategy of mass marketing our message to maximize attendance in our buildings is not found in Scripture. It will not last as we head into the last days when everyone will hate the followers of Jesus Christ. How well does the institutional Church prepare us to be hated by the world?
Luke 21:17 Everyone will hate you because of me.
John 15:18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.
John 15:19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.
Far more often we are taught to be successful in the world—of course so we can be more effective witnesses of Jesus Christ to the world. (Yes, but is that really our sole motivation?)
We are not ready for the thief in the night
Here in Texas where the Second Amendment is alive and well we are armed to the teeth, and prepared to defend ourselves from bad people. But are we ready for the thief in the night who is at our door?
“You will be hated by all nations…many will turn away from the faith”
Preparing us for the last days, Jesus said:
Matthew 24:9 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Is the Church in America preparing us for this?
The answer is clearly no. The market-driven strategy and resulting message which is often used today to draw visitors to church has created a generation of spoiled Christians who think they are entitled to a version of the American Dream—tweaked just a bit of course to fit certain Bible verses mostly from the Old Testament written primarily about and for Israel. Jesus Himself said that many of us New Testament Christians will turn away from the faith when the bubble bursts—when we are handed over to be persecuted and all nations hate us because of Jesus Christ. We are not being prepared to stand firm to the end in the face of such suffering in order to be saved.
Luke 18:8 when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
“Bigger is better, and biggest is best” (for the glory of God of course)
The current underlying assumption above on which the Church in America is built will not survive the last days. We must return to the Scriptures in order to be prepared to endure what will take place before the great and terrible Day of the Lord.
1 Peter 1:13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.
Colossians 3:1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, and not on earthly things.
Message to the Church outside of America:
We urge you not to follow the model of the Church in America. The biggest, the richest, and the most outwardly impressive in the world are not necessarily of God.