Updated: Nov 18
The church has had a significant impact in the United States of America since our country’s inception. Unfortunately, that impact (or influence) has been waning rapidly. Yet the Spirit-filled, biblically-grounded church should always have a huge impact on any country, and its individual communities. The salt and light aspects of the church, described in Matthew 5:13-16, instruct the church to push back on the sinful darkness and moral decay of any society.
With that in mind, to remove the church from society means that all hell will break loose both literally and figuratively. Darkness, decay, and depravity will abound without the righteous voice and influence of Christ’s church. The world needs the church, whether it realizes it or not.
The "church" is the people of God. They have been called out of darkness and into His marvelous light. The church is seen in local assemblies that regularly gather to worship the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the head of the church, and He has purchased the church with His blood. The church is made up of Christian believers who have admitted that they’re sinners and confessed that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ. The church consists of people (sinners), who have received Jesus’ substitutionary atonement which graciously propitiated the wrath of God. Because of Christ’s resurrection from the dead, believers who make up the church are the present possessors of eternal life, and are heaven-bound. They are the church.
Consider with me the church’s impact according to the community; the church’s impact marginalized; the church’s impact according to the New Testament; and the church’s impact on me personally.
First, consider the church’s impact according to the community.
If we were to ask random members of a community to explain the church’s impact on their community, I suggest that many of them would respond by first describing the social impact of the church.
Many of them would probably say that the church’s impact on a community is realized through the provision of a wholesome environment for children’s activities. Easter egg hunts, Vacation Bible School, fall festivals, and much more provide a safe and fun social outlet for children in the community.
College-age individuals find the church to be a great place to meet a spouse. (My wife and I met in church).
Others point out that within a local church, you can usually find people at a similar life stage and therefore draw motivation and instruction about how to navigate life’s situations. Churches often facilitate social groups, fellowship clubs, and people to grow old with.
When asking random people about the church’s impact on the community, most of them will describe the church’s social impact, but perhaps others will describe the church’s stand on moral issues. (Maybe with disdain)
They might say, “well, the church is against adultery, and for marital fidelity.”
“The church is against drunkenness, and for sobriety.”
“The church is against homosexuality, and for biblically-defined heterosexual intimacy.”
“The church is against abortion, and for adoption.”
“The church is against vulgarity, and for sanctity in communication.”
“The church is against pornography and for purity.”
Those who would explain the church’s impact from a moral standpoint, would also very likely point out the sad stories of hypocrisy and moral failure which unfortunately abound.
Some members of the community would explain that the church’s impact is social; others would say it’s moral; while others yet might suggest that the church’s impact is spiritual.
However, when the spiritual impact of a church is mentioned, it is often described in vague and nebulous terms. They might say that the church is a place of “hope” or “faith” without explaining the object of the hope or faith.
As they describe the spiritual impact of a church, people might say it is a place where you can “find yourself and connect with God” without saying who God is. People describing the spiritual impact of a church are often hazy or unclear so that they can maintain denominational neutrality in the midst of our pluralistic and tolerant religious culture.
I am suggesting that if we ask random people in the community about the church’s impact, they will answer in ways that would not represent the church’s desired impact on that community.
If that is true, then the church is failing to impact the community in the ways that God instructs.
There was little to no ambiguity about what the first-century church stood for, as seen in the Book of Acts. Yet, significant confusion exists about the desired impact of the 21st-century church on their communities.
Second, let’s consider how the church’s impact has been marginalized.
No doubt the church had a much more significant impact on the direction of the United States of America 60 or 70 years ago than it does today.
Who or what has marginalized the church? Who is the culprit?
It is no secret that the world, the flesh, and the devil are the enemies of Christ and His church. No doubt the world is happy about the marginalization of the church, but the world is not the culprit. Certainly the devil is thrilled about the marginalization of the church, but the devil is not the culprit.
I suggest that our flesh is the reason that the church has been marginalized, specifically in the USA. Many American Christians are failing to “put off” the “old man” and “put on” the new (Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:8-10), and as a result, the church at large has become flesh-centered and marginalized in their communities.
Many pastors today are intimidated to speak out about the issues of our day. Their flesh promotes their timidity. Instead of giving God’s answers to the wickedness of our day, many pastors fear the woke mob, and therefore preach messages that are more palatable for the hearer.
Instead of preaching Spirit-filled, Bible-heavy messages that “cry aloud, (and) spare not” against the sin of our day, they preach messages rooted in neutrality so as not to offend the big-givers.
Instead of lifting up their voice like a trumpet, and showing the people their transgression, they say a lot, without saying anything at all.
This type of flesh-centered pastor is included in the description of “the last days” in 2 Timothy 3 & 4. The instruction is given to preach “sound doctrine,” but the time comes when many pastors willingly scratch the “itching ears” of a fleshly church and preach fables, thus marginalizing the church’s message and impact.
Not only are fleshly pastors the culprit, but so are many professing Christians. Instead of prioritizing the assembling of their local church family, many professing Christians will skip church and sleep in. Their justification is their intense work schedule from the previous week. They say, “I work hard, so I deserve a day to sleep in.” Other flesh-centered Christians fail to gather with their local churches because of sports. Their favorite football team is playing, or their kids have soccer or baseball games to participate in. They treat the gathering of the church as insignificant or peripheral. In their mind, these other things are more important.
If it is not sleep or sports, capitalism has become a convenient justification as to why Christians have marginalized the church’s gathering and pushed the priority of assembling to the background of their lives. They cannot gather with their church family because after all, they have to work on Sunday.
Whether it’s CEOs or compliant Christian employees, the American workforce has decided that Sunday presents another opportunity to make money. Not that long ago, most retailers in America were closed on Sundays. Yet today, many American corporations structure their shift requirements with no regard for the Christian’s priority to gather with their church family, and unfortunately, many Christians comply for the sake of their job and paycheck. It is very noble sounding to say, “I have to skip church in order to provide for my family,” but it is extremely misguided and ultimately detrimental to one’s family and the local community.
We are seeing the detrimental nature of this unfold right before our eyes as families crumble, and the church’s impact on a community is marginalized. No wonder young people are leaving the church at such a high rate. In part, it is because they did not see their parents prioritize the assembling of the church so why should they?
Christians should gather with their local church every time the church assembles, not because they have to, but because they get to. Christ is worthy of worship and our church family is worthy of our attention.
Our country was better off when businesses were closed on Sundays. Our communities were stronger when Christians gathered with their local church families and prioritized worshiping Jesus and strengthening other believers. All the money in the world is not worth the degradation and godlessness we are seeing across our country.
The world hasn’t muted the church, and neither has the devil. The fleshly church has marginalized itself. Timid pastors, sleepy Christians, entertainment-driven Christians, misguided, and money-focused Christians are the culprits for the marginalization of the church’s impact on communities throughout the USA.
Third, what should the church’s impact be according to the New Testament?
The Book of Acts showcases the first-century church as biblical, confrontational, purposeful, and worshipful. It is in these ways that those believers impacted their community. “These that have turned the world upside down” for the cause of Christ made a huge impact in their time and are still influencing others to this day (Acts 17:6).
Their preaching was biblical. In the church’s first sermon recorded in the Book of Acts, Peter preaches on the day of Pentecost and quotes from Joel 2, and Psalm 16. His preaching was biblical and relevant. Instead of preaching feel-good sermons that are designed to be pep talks and motivational speeches, the church’s impact on the community must begin with Spirit-filled, Bible-based preaching.
Not only that, but their impact was confrontational. The Book of Acts lists one account after another of the first-century church being confrontationally bold, evangelistic, fearless, and ultimately persecuted for their faith. Lifestyle evangelism has its place but not to the exclusion of confrontational evangelism. We should live in such a way that others see Christ in us, but our life’s example should not be the sum total of our evangelistic efforts. The church should be bold and lovingly confrontational in its evangelism because heaven and hell hang in the balance. We should be confronting people about their soul’s eternal destination, just as the church did in the first century.
Also, the first-century church’s impact was purposeful. They were not confrontational for confrontation’s sake. Their specific purpose was to preach the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. They wanted to make known the good news of Christ’s substitutionary atonement. They wanted sinners to know that God’s wrath has been appeased through Christ. They were actively involved in the ministry of reconciliation. They were purposeful in preaching the gospel.
Additionally, the church was worshipful. In Acts 2:47 the church is recorded as “praising God.” In Acts 3 a lame man is miraculously healed, and he is, “walking and leaping and praising God.” This man was worshiping God!
When the church prioritizes its assembling, it prioritizes a time set aside to worship the Lord.
When surveying a community about the church’s impact, the hope is that the community would say, “That church has impacted us biblically, confrontationally, purposefully, and worshipfully,” not just socially, morally, and spiritually, in an ambiguous way.
The church’s impact on a community, when done right, could be summed up in one word, “Jesus.” The church stands in Christ’s stead, to preach Christ’s message to lost and dying communities of people.
Fourth, allow me to share a few aspects of the church’s impact on me personally.
Growing up in the inner city of North Minneapolis, I benefited greatly from a small church family that had a Bible-based desire to impact their community for Christ.
They sent a bus into my ghetto neighborhood to bring me to church. They invested in me: someone who could do nothing for them in return.
They gave me a place to belong: the family of God. They shaped my worldview into a Christ-centered worldview. They taught me a purpose for my life. That purpose was Christ and magnifying His glory. Because of their love for Christ, they offered me love, even when I felt unlovable.
That church gave me a reason to get up in the morning. Through the Bible-based preaching and Spirit-filled worship services, they put a song in my heart. They taught me how to raise my children, “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,” when I was still a child. They taught me how to love and appreciate my wife, even before I was married. They taught me to love her “as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it.”
Their impact on me was not ambiguous or nebulous. It was not ill-defined, but it was biblically defined. It was biblical, confrontational, purposeful, and worshipful.
The church today has the potential to powerfully impact their communities, and even the world, one soul at a time, through the ministry of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5)
When we regularly gather with our church families to worship the Lord, we are showing the community around us that God is our priority, and that He is worthy of our worship. When we regularly gather with our church family, we are showing other Christians that the “one-anothers” described in Scripture are important to us.
May none of us be guilty of the self-induced marginalization of the church’s impact on our communities. But, may all of us be magnifying Christ as we faithfully prioritize co-laboring with our church families, to impact our communities the way God intended, for His honor and glory.
The above article was written by James C. Johnson and he is the Pastor of NorthStone Baptist Church in Pensacola. To offer him your feedback, comment below or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Pastor James C. Johnson on WKRG, CBS channel 5, with Chad Petri