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15 Reasons People Are Disillusioned with the American Evangelical Church

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The Vinedresser often prunes the vine so that the dead branches are cleared to make way for fresh, new growth. I believe that may be happening within the American Evangelical Church. I’m not a prophet, so time will tell, but I do believe that the events of 2020 and 2021 (so far) have thrown back the curtains and shined the light on some of our greatest weaknesses.

People are leaving in unprecedented numbers, both church-goers and pastors, and it’s more than just fear of contracting a virus. There are numerous reasons why people have become disillusioned with the American Evangelical church. Out of my own heart and with my ear to the ground, I’ve listed out at least fifteen reasons why.

15 Reasons People Are Disillusioned With the American Evangelical Church

1. We’ve Rejected Science Unnecessarily

(Discoveries about origins, evolution, environmental issues, etc.) We are needlessly afraid of what scientists discover that might threaten our status quo.

2. We’ve Been Superstitious

We’ve been enamored with anything suspected of being “dark” to the point of seeing tons of things as demonic in a superstitious way.

3. We’ve Embraced Christian Nationalism

We’ve believed that the survival of “our” faith and culture is dependent on the election of a strongman as our protector. The American Evangelical church has married to patriotism and faith in an idolatrous fashion.

4. We’ve Idolized the Bible on the Pedestal of Literalism

Our understanding of the Bible’s authority leaves no room for the human element of scripture’s origins. We’ve told people it’s a house of cards — doubt one part and it all falls apart.

5. We’ve Re-created Secular Celebrity Culture Inside the Church

We make Sundays and whole movements personality-centric and all about how we’re cool and awesome.

6. We’ve Often Mimicked Corporate Culture Inside the Church

We define “success” by numerical output and effective leadership as persuasiveness and salesmanship.

7. We’ve Devalued Women and Defended Patriarchy

We’ve decided that leadership responsibilities are reserved for men only regardless of how competent women might be for the task.

8. We’ve Ignored Systemic Poverty

We’re so addicted to individual freedom that we often turn a blind eye to the suffering and those without healthcare or financial security and have written it off as a lack of personal responsibility.

9. We’ve Ignored Systemic Racism

we’re so fragile and sensitive to any insinuation that we are privileged because of whiteness that we turn a deaf ear to those suffering under unjust and inequitable systems.

10. We’ve made secondary issues primary

doctrinal matters that are outside the scope of the major creeds, we’ve made non-negotiable tests of orthodoxy.

11. We’ve Been Inconsistent in our “Pro-life” Message

We’re pro-birth and anti-abortion, but also okay with the death penalty. We ignore gun violence, and don’t seem to care about the economic conditions of those who often seek abortive measures.

12. We’ve Embraced Conspiracy Theories

a thousand little lies about some supposed satanic agenda behind everything we don’t understand.

13. We’ve Allowed Spiritual and Sexual Abuse to Often Go Unaccounted For

We have handled abuse issues “in house” as “sin problems” rather than calling the police first and believing and supporting victims first.

14. We’ve Singled Out Certain People Groups

For example, LGBTQ+ people, undocumented immigrants, and others have sometimes been singled out for exclusion, judgment, and rejection instead of welcoming and including everyone who wants to follow Jesus.

15. We’ve Become Self-Appointed Judges, to the Neglect of Love

The American Evangelical church sees itself as having the moral high ground and using it as a gavel to sentence those we perceive as morally inferior.

It’s been a year of pain for the American Evangelical church. We need a reformation. Not so much of doctrine but of emphasis, and the emphasis needs to be placed squarely on our calling to love God and all people.

Yes, we need solutions. I want to talk more about the solutions than the problems, but the American Evangelical church is in such denial that it’s hard to get there. If you’ve been disillusioned by these things, I hear you. I understand. I get it. But I still follow Jesus because I believe he was raised from the dead and enthroned as King of an entirely other-worldly heavenly kingdom where love really does reign. His Way is worthy of following.

 

This article about the American Evangelical church originally appeared here, and is used by permission.

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Brandon Cox is Lead Pastor of Grace Hills Church, a new church plant in northwest Arkansas. He also serves as Editor and Community Facilitator for Pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastor's Toolbox and was formerly a Pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. In his spare time, he offers consultation to church leaders about communication, branding, and social media. He and his wife, Angie, live with their two awesome kids in Bentonville, Arkansas.