21st Century Christianity

In 2008 Baker Books published Michael Horton’s, Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church, and although I bought the book a while back, I have just now started to work my way through it. As I did so, I came across an interesting statement which gave me cause to think:


If Christianity is about public truth delivered through an external Word, then ministry and evangelism require educated leaders who can expound and apply that truth for the benefit of those under their care. By contrast, if Christianity is reduced to personal experience, then its leadership will consist of the most successful entrepreneurs and managers of extraordinary staged events. (pp. 51-52)


If one looks at present-day American religion, it is plain to see that Christianity has come to be defined primarily as one’s personal subjective experience. Sadly, the religious leaders that many in America look to for guidance are more “entrepreneurs” than “theologians.” The key to growing a church is no longer the steadfast preaching of God’s Word, the lawful administration of the Sacraments, and loving church discipline, but, instead, the availability of the most entertaining worship (in less than an hour preferably), the best stage props for the sermon (racing cars really get people’s attention), and the organization which provides everyone with a sense of “ownership.”


Don’t get me wrong, we should not strive to make our corporate worship experience tedious and tiresome, but neither should it be a scene out of American Idol or Dancing with the Stars. Worship is not about us, it is about God. Its focus should be on God’s holiness, justice, and transcendence, along with His mercy, grace, and immanence that have been revealed to us through His Gospel. A return to the view of worship expressed in the Westminster Confession of Faith would do much in righting the ship of 21st century Christianity:


The light of nature shows that there is a God, who has lordship and sovereignty over all; is good, and does good unto all; and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture. (Chapter XXI, Paragraph 1)


May we be freed from the pragmatism of the age and seek a return to worship “in spirit and truth.”



  1. Michael Lightfoot said,

    April 1, 2009 at 4:54 PM

    Well put Clifton. I agree wholeheartedly. We have definitely made worship into attempts to please man, forgetting, or at least looking past, the fact that God calls us to worship Him. Who are we to tell Him what pleases Him?

    We’ll see you Easter Sunday, Lord willing. Will there be race cars?

    • cliftonr said,

      April 1, 2009 at 5:09 PM

      Probably not…although the smoke machine may be fixed by then. ;^)

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