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Are We The Apostate Church?
The Bible, in several places, speaks of men who will penetrate, and eventually in many cases, permeate the Church. In some cases it affects a wide area of Christendom (multiple Church congregations), and in some cases it may be more localized. Christ's letters to the Churches in Revelation specifically mention two Churches through the ages where this occurs: The Church at Sardis, and the Laodicean Church. While many (and I'm one) subscribe to the belief each of these letters to specific churches in Asia also reference time periods down through history, or "Church Ages", Laodicea being the final church, likely the church on earth at the Rapture.
If this is the case, doesn't that put us directly in the Laodicean Age? I think it does. Now, this does not mean that every congregation of every denomination is apostate, but it does speak, I think, to churches in our time in general. What do I mean by that?
In the 20th Century, the Church has, on many fronts, surrendered to the Spirit Of The Age (see Ephesians 2:2). It was a gradual surrender, but on many fronts the Church has become ineffective, especially here in the United States.
When Alexis De Tocqueville visited the United States in the 19th Century to discover what made this country so special, one of the things he observed and realized was the effect of religion on the morality found in most areas of the burgeoning Republic. He also realized that if we lost that moral compass, we would begin to decline. We have done exactly that.
"How?", you ask. It began in the early twentieth century when factions led by men like John Dewey believed that the "State" - the government - should be in charge of education and worked to wrestle control from the Church, the local community, and finally the states, and set up public schools administered by the federal government. Over the remainder of the 20th Century, this is exactly what happened. Before 1900, most primary education was local in nature, primarily administered by the family or the local body of believers. Government run institutions were the exception rather than the rule. Then the 16th Amendment, and taxation slowly began to bleed resources from individuals and businesses, and in 1979, President Jimmy Carter (a Baptist!) signed into law the Department of Education Organization Act, which established the federal Department of Education. In the intervening years, the DoEd has assumed control of almost all educational policies and curriculum in the United States. Now public schools are the rule, and private schools of any type are the exception, and tuition must be paid out of individuals pockets, even though the government collects taxes to finance public education. Some areas are attempting to at least take those confiscated funds and let the parents decide, through vouchers or similar devices, which school they fund - but as we all know, anything that goes through the government's hands has strings attached.
But, that's just one area. In 1954, Senator Lyndon Johnson introduced an amendment to the Tax Code that prohibited non-profit organizations (and he was specifically targeting Churches, some of whom had opposed his election) from endorsing or opposing political candidates. Some thought this was a good idea, and while how and when Churches should be involved in the political may be debated, this amendment was the opening shot that eventually caused the Church to back away from anything political in nature. In other words, the one institution with scriptural instructions to be "salt and light" in a sinful world gave up a big piece of that mandate.
The next piece was the elimination of any religions influence in the public arena. This actually goes all the way back to 1890 when the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled in favor of Catholics who objected to the use of Protestant Bibles in public schools. Beginning in 1955, many areas attempted to proscribe a standard "school prayer", but in 1962, primarily through the efforts of atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair, the government banned all prayer from the public schools. While there was lots of noise and outcry, the Church buckled and the atheists won. Once that was accomplished, that prohibition was much easier to incorporate into other areas. When was the last time you saw a prayer before a sports event?
So, in the space of 100 years, the Church conceded education and political influence to the State, which then all but forbade Bible reading, and public prayer to anyone but those inside the Church. Why are we surprised, then, that we face so many evils, perversions, and outright hatred of all things Godly in our society. We can blame many for all this deterioration and collapse, but the fault lies directly at the doorstep of the Church.
Now as one whose first trips as an infant outside my home were to Church, from a family that went (and, by the way, still does go) to Church every time the doors are open, this is no small statement. Indeed, it is also the Church that presents the Gospel to the world - still. But, when it comes to affecting the world around us - being the "salt and light" we were commanded to be - we have increasingly abandoned that mission, and the entire World suffers. Our nation is in constant crisis because of that abandonment, and I see no letting up. In fact, I have witnessed more and more Churches focusing more on the inside of the Church rather than where Jesus focused - those on the outside who most need the Gospel.
If you disagree with this, think about the last time your Church discussed the increasingly troubling political issues facing our nation. Where do your children attend school - a public institution, or a Christian-based educational school? Who decides your children's curriculum - the State or the Church - or the families of the children attending the school? Do you sit down and dissect your child's curriculum and make sure they understand the difference between what's being portrayed as fact, and the actual facts? Does your Church ever present possible legislative agendas to your elected representatives to reverse the years of bad legislation? As a matter of fact, do you feel your Church members don't really want to "rock the boat" when it comes to addressing societal problems? I know I do! If I were being honest, I'm part of the problem. All my activities in these areas are done in venues other than my local Church for exactly that reason! I hate that secular organizations would rather discuss these issues than the very institution commanded to do so!
Don't get me wrong, the Church has a valid primary mission in reaching the lost, and teaching Biblical truths, and many are doing a great job - but we are fighting a losing battle if we don't export those truths to the world around us. In fact, I've witnessed Churches in "competition" with each other to the point where most Churches are only concerned with ministries they themselves sponsor. All the societal changes in the last 100 years I specified at the beginning of this chapter have occurred because, while the Church objected at the initial introduction of each of these issues, we gave up the fight. Why is it Satan always plays the long game, and we simply want to be left alone? Imagine a Jesus-like figure coming in and disrupting today's religions institutions like He did when He was here 2000 years ago. We might find ourselves exercising Biblical instructions for those who would cause trouble in the Church, and remove fellowship from such a person! It's bad enough to think of what would happen if such a controversial figure were to walk into one of our present-day services. Remember, it was the religious institution of the day that crucified Christ - and they used their 'friends' in the Roman government to perform the actual crucifixion!
What I'm saying here is that, while the Church has many times done a great job distributing the Scripture, establishing new Churches, conducting worshipful services, preaching the Gospel, and shepherding the flock, the world around us is crumbling because we abandoned those things the government told us to shut up about, and concentrated on the inside rather than affecting the outside.
It has been so long since the Church was involved in these areas that I'm not sure how we would begin to re-engage in those areas of salt and light.
We are, at a minimum, the birth of the Apostate Church; and at worse, we are the Apostate Church!
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