Home Outreach Leaders Articles for Outreach & Missions How We Mistake the Kingdom of Church for the Kingdom of God

How We Mistake the Kingdom of Church for the Kingdom of God

Many people would claim that America is a “Christian” nation …

Or at least, it was a Christian nation.

My news feed is kind of a continual flux when it comes to just how Christian our culture is today. If I want, I can find no shortage of doom and gloom, prophets and pundits who are always showing just how bad things are for Christianity in America. On the other side of things, there are a few lone voices who speak up every now and then to say, “Wait! It’s not as bad as it seems.”

This week, I saw another survey from the Barna Group which shows just how “post-Christian” American cities are. My hometown, Kansas City, comes in at number 38, with a total post-Christian population at 33 percent. Albany, NY, is the most post-Christian city, along with most of the Northeast, while Knoxville, Tenn., ranks near the bottom (or top, depending on how you look at it.)

I tend to take these surveys with a grain of salt, but something particularly struck me this time about how we typically measure “Christian-ness.” I started reading their various “metrics” (a term that sounds more at home in a tax accountant’s office) that were used to calculate our cities’ rankings, when something occurred to me.

I don’t know if we have a problem of lack of faith in our culture. But we certainly have a problem when it comes to how we measure faith.

What Is the Measure of Your Faith?

How do we measure a person’s faith? That can be a steep task, not to mention measuring a city’s faith.

Barna listed 15 metrics used to calculate how Christian or not-so-Christian we all are. About two-thirds dealt with orthodox theology and personal practices (like Bible reading and making a commitment to Jesus).

But a full third of the questions were as follows:

Have not donated money to a church in the last year.

Have not attended a church in the last year.

Have not volunteered at a church in the last year.

Have not attended Sunday School in the last year.

Have not participated in religious small group in the last year.

“Hmmm …” I thought. That’s interesting that a full third of how we measure our faith has to do with our faithfulness to a particular church. Am I the only one who sees anything funny about that?

Look, I am still a fully committed Christian, and though I am taking a sabbatical from church while my son is an infant, I plan to join a new church in the next year. But surveys like this are illustrative of how churches trick us into confusing God’s kingdom with the church’s kingdom. There are churches everywhere that would have us believe that their agenda, their kingdom, their priorities are synonymous with God’s kingdom, agenda and priorities, and often that is just not the case.