What Is Happening to America’s Mainstream Churches?

God’s church is more than a historic building, a talented choir, or a beautiful graveyard. It is even more than fading memories of more spiritual times long past as we live on into a time when God’s Word is increasingly surrendered to appease a world that often despises the traditional faith of Jesus Christ.

Often forgotten is the reason for the existence of the Judeo-Christian church. The church exists as Christ’s body on earth. Each member becomes a part of that body capable, through his or her unique spiritual gifts and abilities, of advancing the cause of Jesus Christ and becoming a part of the Great Commission. The church exists to preserve and defend God’s Scriptures, not change them. Although the Bible is the handbook or constitution of the Christian faith, God included no provisions for its amendment by future generations to suit changing ethical and moral fashions.[1] The Bible’s words are our “heritage forever” (Psalm 119:54). As John Wesley noted, “In all cases, the Church is to be judged by Scripture, not the Scripture by the Church.”

A Rock for the Ages: What the Church Is Supposed to Be

The church exists to instruct each generation in God’s will as preserved in Scripture so that each generation may learn how to receive and be saved by the grace of Jesus Christ. The church exists to school its congregation in the Scriptures that members may avoid false teaching, walk in a manner pleasing to God, and become mature functioning disciples of Jesus Christ equipped to shine His light effectively into the world. It exists to evangelize and spread the Good News of Christ’s gift of salvation to mankind. It exists to form a community of the faithful that can love, nourish, encourage, and protect one another through the vicissitudes of life. The church is a place of grace, but also of truth and accountability.

If a church functions as Jesus intended, it will grow just as a living body grows, being ever more capable of spreading Christ’s light and truth into the world. If a church abandons Scripture or seeks to alter it to please an increasingly secular world, it will slowly shrink, wither, and die as we see happening in more and more mainstream progressive churches (Psalm 119:118). A congregation longs to look into the eyes of its minister and see resolute faith without doubt, equivocation, quibbling, or compromise. The faithful long for ministers who genuinely believe in the God of the Scriptures, and who will encourage and teach them how to live by God’s Word rather than how to thwart or circumvent it.

The Serpent in God’s Garden

Any discussion of the conflagration currently raging in the Christian church over issues such as the primacy of Scripture, the sovereignty of God, abortion, and sexual sin, must begin with the liberal pulpit. Many of the liberal ministers, at the heart of the progressive effort to compromise or abandon the authority of God’s Word, favor radical agendas rooted in socialism (if not Marxism) such as social justice, collective salvation, or liberation theology. These ideologies have little to do with individual salvation as taught in the New Testament. These radical departures from true Christianity are often painted with a veneer of Christian-sounding phrases to make them palatable to congregations that would not knowingly accept them had they been better schooled in the actual contents of the Bible. Liberal clergy and theologians speak often of love, but clearly do not understand that Christian love looks forward to eternity rather than the desires and preferences of a secular world. Did not the Apostle Paul state, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed” (Galatians 1:8). Paul felt that if he sought to “please men” over God he “would not be a bondservant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10; See also, Acts 5:29).

Many of these liberal ministers have not conscientiously taught the Bible in their congregations for decades. Often these ministers received theological degrees from liberal, progressive seminaries where liberal books of opinion and sociology were elevated over the Bible—and false teaching elevated over God and Jesus Christ. Thus, they walk out of seminary ready to substitute social ideologies for the traditional Christianity of Scripture. Other ministers, who spent most of their careers as faithful “Texas Rangers” of the faith, crossed over in their “gray hairs”[2] to ride with the progressive wild bunch—doing their part to set the Christian prairie afire with heresy late in life.  

It is not easy to be a faithful minister. One must deal with heartbreaking situations that result from the normal cycles of life, but also equally heartbreaking calamities that are often the consequence of sin or abandoning God’s instruction for life within His will. It is sometimes difficult to remain the good shepherd (John 10:7-14) in the face of human suffering and the pressure that can be brought to bear by parents, wealthy donors, and board members. Yet, a minister is expected to adhere to the Word of God in meeting life’s challenges. It takes courage of both conviction and body to remain a faithful minister (Joshua 23:6-8). This is not the faithless courage that defies God to please a secular culture giddy with progressive false teaching. It is the holy courage to defend God and His Word before a hostile world.

Hard Cases Make Bad Theology

In the practice of law there is a phrase that states, “hard cases often result in bad law.” For a minister, hard fact situations may tempt him over time to drift from Scripture into an easier course more acceptable to our modern secular world. Sometimes a spiritual journey that starts out as a godly gospel-centered ministerial career grounded in Scripture ends up simply as a job that one is afraid to lose. This is the reason that James stated, “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment” (James 3:1). It is however clear that Jesus did not intend to free His followers from their quest to follow God’s moral and ethical commandments (Matthew 5:17-19; Luke 16:17). He did, however, provide a path to salvation when sincere followers stumbled, as everyone does, in that quest to live a life pleasing to God.

Naked Before the Enemy

The Judeo-Christian church has many enemies but over time its most devastating adversaries have often been its own progressively liberal seminaries and ministers who have conducted a campaign of compromise, retreat, and surrender with respect to God’s moral and ethical values for over a century. This long retreat, culminating in countless surrenders, always seems to favor the world’s humanistic, progressive, ever-growing, secular mandates. Just as an army lays down its weapons upon surrender, this long retreat and many surrenders has left many congregations stripped of their theological roots and naked before the enemies of traditional, orthodox Christianity.

As a result, the scriptural ignorance on the part of many Christians in the pews and public is palpable. Lost is the knowledge of God’s true nature, the appropriate role of clergy, and what the Old and New Testaments really say about the only path to heaven, sexual sin (including homosexuality), abortion, and other major life issues. These fields of end-time scriptural ignorance have been carefully cultivated to be harvested by the very false teachers who have failed to prepare their flocks for the assaults upon orthodox Christianity for which the liberal pulpit is in large part responsible. We see a time described by the prophet Jeremiah when, quoting God, he stated, “The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule by their own power; and My people love to have it so” (Jeremiah 5:31).

False Teaching and Arming Oneself Against It

How does one identify false teaching? False teaching is generally present when the advice, theology, or policies advocated by false shepherds add to, subtract from, or contradict God’s Word as revealed in the Bible. For this reason, there are few responsibilities more important than reading both the Old and New Testaments for oneself to discern what they really do say.[3] To do otherwise is to remain easy prey for false teaching both in our popular culture and the liberal pulpit. There are now many modern English translations of the Bible which make both reading and understanding Scripture interesting and enjoyable. One purpose of The Beginning of Wisdom is to show the ongoing applicability of the Bible to virtually every aspect of life.

A Reimagined God—A Reimagined Christianity?

At this juncture, we might consider what the religion looks like into which the manipulations of the prideful prelates of the progressive church have attempted to lead us. This religion is not the Judeo-Christian faith that has been preached and practiced for over two thousand years. This new religion’s god is a feeble god, whose knowledge has been outstripped by progressive pseudo-science, who makes mistakes, changes his mind, and needs to be constantly tutored by an all-knowing liberal clergy. Concepts of absolute truth no longer exist, and the goalposts for living life within God’s will are moved at the whim of the clergy. It is a religion where unity is prized above all else. Upon the alter of this unity we are asked to sacrifice many things including obedience to God, the primacy of Scripture, and the concept of absolute truth embodied in Jesus Christ and His teachings. Unity is of paramount importance because the churches that have abandoned the Bible’s authority or seek to rewrite it and fashion a new god of their own imagination are often rapidly shrinking in size.

Complex machinations, pride, and disingenuous theology have brought North American mainstream churches to the precipice upon which they find themselves today. The desire of a large percentage of church members to live out their lives in the orthodox Judeo-Christian faith of their ancestors has been ignored in favor of a willful minority that seeks to overturn God’s clear mandate both for salvation and life within His will.

While a dialogue to clarify where parties stood might have been helpful earlier in the evolution of the current crisis, at this point the traditional church no longer needs a dialogue with liberal clergy. It needs those clergy members to repent, renounce the false god of progressive liberal theology, and return to the God whose will is made manifest in both the Old and New Testaments. The biographies of John Huss (Jan Hus) and Martin Luther attest the fact that when the truth of Scripture is at stake there can be no compromise. The issues tearing apart churches throughout Christendom are not difficult to understand theological points. They are in fact often the point-blank, plain language moral commandments of God. Neither a new progressive religion nor a new Bible are needed. We have the religion of Jesus Christ and the Scriptures upon which Western civilization has been built.

What Is to Be Done?  Joshua’s Advice: “Serve the Lord.”

Churches must have the courage to consider whether they wish to retain ministers who advocate false teaching and who put loyalty to liberal denominational hierarchy over loyalty to God. They must consider whether they wish to be churches pleasing to man or pleasing to God. This may involve rejecting ministers offered to them by their denomination or ministers trained in seminaries that have become bastions of Bible-denigrating, progressive indoctrination. The first criteria for a minister should be whether he or she accepts the inerrant truth of Scripture (Old and New Testaments) and preaches without apology the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our modern world is full of dying churches that wish to enter heaven by the wide and broad gate rather than the narrow gate prescribed by Jesus Christ (Matthew 7:13-14).

One must also consider very carefully to whom one donates money. Many universities, seminaries, denominations, and churches now espouse agendas in direct opposition to biblical Christianity and traditional American/Western values. We must stop feeding the beast.

There are still many godly ministers who preach a Christ-centered gospel faithful to both the Old and New Testaments. If your church is not preaching God’s Word faithfully and there is little hope of reform, then seek out a church that is still faithful both to Jesus Christ and the Bible. These churches still exist and many of them are growing in the light of God’s blessings. Examples of famous ministers who remain faithful ambassadors from Christ’s church to the world rather than ambassadors from the world to Christ’s church are David Jeremiah, Gary Hamrick, Robert Jeffress, Michael Youssef, Curt Dodd, Charles F. Stanley, and (although now deceased) Billy Graham, D. James Kennedy, Adrian Rogers, and Harold E. Salem. The sermons of these godly ministers are available via streaming, DVDs, or on television. There are no doubt pastors like these laboring faithfully in your community, but it may take a search on your part to discover them.

There are also still well respected, biblically faithful seminaries such as Westminster Theological Seminary, Knox Theological Seminary, and Dallas Theological Seminary. These institutions strive to graduate ministers who will seek to serve God, not rule Him. It is, indeed, still possible to find godly seminaries that have not yet bowed the knee to the false gods of progressive revision and imagination.


Rarely if ever has the world experienced the havoc unleased by the efforts of prideful philosophers, theologians, and clergy, beginning in the late 18th century, to topple the one true God from His throne and undermine the credibility of the Bible. There has always been tyranny, oppression, cruelty, war, and moral depravity in this fallen world, but the magnitude of the suffering and death from these apocalyptic riders exploded beyond the worst nightmares of our forefathers once the floodgates to unbelief were opened by these false teachers. Once the barriers were lowered millions of unbelievers surged onto the flood plains of history without God’s moral compass.

Sin, like water, often seeks the path of least resistance. Just as Edmund Burke feared, once the moral constraints imposed by centuries of religious belief were weakened, the demons of mankind’s darker nature were released once more with the “terrors” of mere law insufficient to contain them.[4] Burke had the wisdom to know “that religion is the basis of civil society, and the source of all good and of all comfort.”[5]

When one considers just the slaughter of untold millions in Russia and China in an effort to make the lie of communism work, the bitter carnage of World War I and World War II, the ongoing slaughter of millions of babies through abortion, the development of planet destroying weapons, religious persecution of both Jews and Christians, rampant drug addiction, systemic corruption at all levels of society, and the explosion of sexual depravity that threatens to destroy the family unit, one must acknowledge that things have not gotten better as promised but consistently worse. This brave new secular world that attempts to live without the God of the Bible has been built from the beginning with bricks of human pride mortared together with opinion and lies.

Jesus noted that Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44) and capable of snatching the Word from those who do not understand it (Matthew 13:19). It is thus apparent as noted by the Apostle Paul that, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). It is clear as Joshua declared that there is a choice before each of us as to which god (gods) we will serve. Joshua boldly proclaimed, “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:14-15).  

In that holy quest we are to take up the whole armor of God which includes truth, righteousness, preparation in the gospel, faith, salvation and “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God,” and stand firm against the evil day with prayer and supplication (Ephesians 6:13-18). Moral relativism has no place in the Christian vocabulary. This is not a call for legalism, but rather a warning against continued spiritual lawlessness.

[1] Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; Joshua 1:7-8; Isaiah 40:8; Proverbs 13:13; 30:5-6; Psalm 119:160; Matthew 5:19; John 10:35; 1 Corinthians 4:6; Galatians 1:8-9; 2 Peter 1:20; Titus 1:9-11; Revelation 22:18-19.

[2] Cardinal Thomas Wolsey (1473-1530): “If I had served God as diligently as I have done the King, He would not have given me over in my gray hairs.”

[3] 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Matthew 4:4; James 1:22; Ephesians 6:17; Romans 15:4; 2 Peter 1:19-21. We often forget that all of Jesus’ biblical quotes came from the Old Testament. Clearly, He would not have approved of those ministers who feel that the Old Testament can safely be ignored since Old Testament, covenants, prophecy, and moral guidelines formed the spiritual foundation of His own ministry.

[4] See, Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, ed. L.G. Mitchell (Oxford University Press, New York, 2009 [1790]), 77-82, 86-87, 90-94, 99-103; Letter to A Member of The National Assembly 1791, 289.

[5] Ibid.,90.