Christianity 201

June 13, 2011

Eight Mistakes the American Church Made

The full title of the sermon that J. Lee Grady preached in Nigeria was “Eight Mistakes the American Church Made That I Hope You Don’t Repeat.”  This appeared in the May 2002 issue of Charisma; I tried to find it online, but couldn’t, so the typos are all mine!

  1. We made unbelief a doctrine.  While Christians in China, Latin America and Africa were casting out devils and healing the sick, we were teaching seminary students that the Holy Spirit doesn’t do miracles anymore.  That’s really bad theology.
  2. We tolerated division.  Who needs the devil when Christians are perfectly okay with hating one another in the name of denominational loyalty?  Why should the world listen to us teach about “family values” when the family of God is so fractured?
  3. We cultivated a religious spirit.  We taught converts that Christianity is about daily Bible reading, church attendance and avoiding cigarettes and beer. Genuine faith became drudgery. Christians trapped in dry legalism lost their joy because they though intimacy with God could be achieved by their performance.
  4. We encouraged ‘superstars.’  We elevated ministers to celebrity status and some of them actually believed they deserved the titles, the pedestals, the grand entrances and the first-class seats next to Jesus’ throne.  They stopped modeling servanthood, and has a result the church forgot that Jesus washed feet and rode on a donkey.
  5. We equated money with success.  We taught that biblical prosperity could be obtained by inserting our tithes into a heavenly slot machine.  Lotto fever spread throughout the church, and we found a way to legitimize greed and materialism when we should have been using our wealth to feed the poor, adopt orphans and fund missionary ventures.
  6. We wouldn’t release women in ministry. We let gender prejudice have more control in the church than the Holy Spirit.  He’s ready to send an army of dedicated women to the front lines of spiritual battle — but He’s waiting for us to bury our stinking male pride.
  7. We stayed in the pews and became irrelevant.  We insisted on letting a group of older white men in dark suits represent our faith in the marketplace, and we freaked out when somebody tried to use rap, punk or metal music to reach the younger generations.  Instead of engaging the culture we hid from it.
  8. We taught people to be escapists.  Jesus told us to occupy the planet until He returns. But most of us were reading rapture novels when we should have been praying for our brothers and sisters who were on the verge of martyrdom. They were willing to suffer and die for the cause.  Why can’t we have that kind of faith?



  1. Really enjoyed this. Good read and great observations.

    Comment by -dp- — June 13, 2011 @ 5:36 pm | Reply

  2. Really liked 3 ….not sure I agree with you on #6, but I’m sure it is true in some contexts.

    Comment by Josh Newsom — June 14, 2011 @ 4:18 pm | Reply

  3. Good thoughts here, especially #3 and #7. I’m not convinced on #6 – I know the mission field would suffer if women were not in ministry there, but I still don’t feel comfortable where women use the pulpit or lead the service. I could wish the Scriptures were a little more explicit – one way or the other – on that subject.

    I tend to think that the biggest mistake the Church has made in recent years is in thinking they need to provide *entertainment* in order to reach the unsaved. No, that doesn’t mean I think we should all be in our “Sunday best” with sombre “holy” faces etc but the very strong emphasis should always be on the Gospel. Sadly – especially in the area of youth ministry, where the emphasis is on having fun with no, or very little, spiritual content – this seems to be lacking.

    Comment by meetingintheclouds — June 15, 2011 @ 4:03 pm | Reply

  4. It’s interesting that there’s been two comments about #6… We’ve just been through much debate about that here in our local church. I grew up in a church where women didn’t take any leadership roles at all, beyond teaching the little kids in Sunday School, and singing a solo. And they were FORBIDDEN from introducing the solo verbally.

    But I’ve done a lot of thinking about this, and I think so much of that thought hinged on a couple of scripture verses that did, in fact, have some particular context; and also the preferences of church leaders in the contemporary context of the first half of the 20th century.

    Here’s something I posted on this recently:

    Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — June 15, 2011 @ 5:08 pm | Reply

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