Blind Spots For The American Church?

 

Several years ago a close Christian counselor friend of mine named Kenny suggested I read a book called Emotionally Healthy Spirituality . I did, and it had a huge impact on my life and ministry. Since then I’ve had a couple conversations with the author Peter Scazzero who I believe is absolutely brilliant.

I just happened to be skimming Leadership Journal  last night when I noticed an interview they  just published with him. I found this particular question and answer very interesting. I would love to get your perspective on it. Here’s the question and Peter’s response:

What are some blind spots for the American church when it comes to transformation?

Every culture in history has blind spots, and the 21st Century North American church is no exception. We have huge blind spots. That’s why church history is so important. That’s why being part of the global church is important. It provides perspective.

I’ve had the opportunity to be part of the global church just by being in Queens. We are exposed to so many different cultures and races from around the world, it becomes easier to see the blind spots each has on the topics related to transformation.

One huge challenge for Americans is the same thing a lot of people move here for—the American dream. That desire for success, comfort, money—these are tremendous pulls. Many of our brothers and sisters in sub-Saharan Africa aren’t struggling with these temptations quite as much. They don’t have second homes. They’re not climbing the corporate ladder.

Pastors fall into a version of the American Dream all the time. I call it the idolatry of numbers. It’s this idea that your success is based on how large your church is. And it’s very subtle. Someone in your city starts a church and it explodes to 2,000 people in less than a year. And maybe God asked them to do that. But I do know you can’t build a church in two years. It takes years to build a church. It takes years for transformation. Jesus and the 12 showed us that.

I’m 25 years in, and I don’t know any transformation that’s not slow. I believe in the power of God falling on a person, absolutely. But there is the slow, painful work of discipleship. God changes me very slowly, but he changes me. And he changes our people. We grow community slowly. It’s a slow process. It’s not American. It’s not quick. This isn’t any three steps to a transformed life.

Thoughts?

24 Responses to “Blind Spots For The American Church?”

  1. I totally agree about Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. I think some of our blind spots in the American church are more than blind spots, but actually idols–like consumerism, comfort, celebrity, the need to be “right,” and so on.

  2. christopher says:

    I’m 25 years in, and I don’t know any transformation that’s not slow, this hits me (hurt)

    if you build a house, it takes two weeks, but you ignored your wife when she was talking, stole some wood from someone, hired workers but didnt pay them, ask for forgiveness

    if you build a house, it takes two weeks, your not married, you work night and day, when its finished you give it to a needy widow, you earned some treasures in heaven

    if you build a house, it takes two years, you work 8 hours a day, you borrow money to pay for the lumber, you hire workers, you pay the ones building the house minimum wage as set by law, you hire someone to see what the workers are doing, you pay this person double the minimum wage, who is this person?

    from scripture, what counts is faith expressing itself in love

  3. christopher says:

    a bribe blinds a person

    scripture

  4. christopher says:

    someone put the seed in the ground, someone put water using a jar, but it is He that makes it grow

  5. Brenda says:

    I grew up in a church culture where change was supposed to be instantaneous. Therefore, I’ve always had great guilt when I struggle with the same thing again and again. I’m learning that it does take time, but those are the changes that last, the victories that are the sweetest.

  6. Mike in Milwaukee says:

    I am so happy to hear you are looking at these issues Pete. Very, very important stuff. It is, actually, the stuff that churches that are great within the Kingdom are built on.

    I am just coming to realize a blind spot of my own — one that may also be fairly common within the church — that growth looks like busyness.

    For years I’ve assumed that growth was measured by whether I was succeeding or failing at my growth routine, i.e. doing my personal Bible-study, prayer, fasting, journaling, etc.

    Recently, I was challenged to rethink this paradigm as follows. My growth is measured by only one metric: am I increasingly Christ-like?

    Am I more like Christ in how I treat my wife and family?

    Am I more like Christ in my dealings with those above and below me within the organization?

    Am I more like Christ when no one is around?

    This view of my growth renders me utterly without excuse when it comes to my failures and lands me over and over at the foot of the cross.

  7. Hilary says:

    Blind spots in the American church when it comes to transformation? I think the biggest blind spot is the implication that “transformation”, beyond salvation and water baptism, isn’t a requirement. Growth is optional. Let’s just get ‘em to confess and be baptized, and whatever happens after that is between them and God… that’s kind of the attitude I see around me, anyway.

    I think the biggest catalyst for transformation is pain, like Peter shared, that causes one to work to the root of the problem out of desperation. The thing we need most for transformation is life utterly connected to and dependent on Jesus. Most people will not reach that point of utter dependency without pain pushing them there. It’s a great miracle, really, that God yet again wins every time the world, the evil one, other people or our own sin causes us pain.

    And this is in part why we don’t see so much transformation in the American church. We haven’t, as a whole, reached desperation. We still think we can get by on our own…

  8. I like what he said about the idolotry of numbers. I have to be careful about that in my line of work also, in counting the number of orphans we assist. Numbers should be monitored but probably not celebrated. Whether God leads 30 to get baptized, 2,000 to walk through the door of a church or brings aid to 500 more orphans… the numbers are God’s business. Maybe we should just focus on doing what we do to our best ability and in honor and glory to God without acting like the numbers make us special when they are big or failures when they are small.

  9. Marni Arnold says:

    Pete, this is right on! Our culture is hyped up on microwaveable, fast food, “I want it now” mentality…and by adopting this mentality as a Christian…as a church…we lose out on something truly important.: growth in Christ. This is dangerous, because as you know…as His disciples…we are called to grow. We are called to transform by the renewing of our minds. This takes time…because we often times have a lot of “unprogramming” to go through.

    Thanks for these words, Pete! As always, I deeply value your insights. I am just so sorry I have been gone for so long from engaging in community and reading blogs. It’s time to stop the insanity on my end! Hope you and your family are doing great!

  10. jason says:

    Too focused on drawing people in, instead of sending people out, which in turn would draw people in.

    for His Glory!

    Less focusing on a particular church organization(or personality) and more focus on Gods Kingdom. Thats thinking big.

    What i desire most of all is that we as Christians would not even be having to think about these kind of conversations(after all we have a God givin instruction manual, the very breath of God), and focus on edifying and suporting each other through our common strugles as followers of Christ and to be bold to give God Glory daily. (thats a Church)

    Pray

  11. A lot of pastors fall into this because all the mega churches-of which there has been so many that have risen in the last decade-are all over the news. It’s easy to say, “Hey, if God can bless that church in that way, surely he wants it for mine. Why wouldn’t he?”

  12. Kevin Ashwe says:

    While its ok to desire all we want from God,lets watch when covertiousness steps it

  13. Sam says:

    It is a process of walking right foot, left foot, right foot and left foot fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.

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