Pastors' Forum


The Condition of the Church

What do you perceive the condition of the Church in America to be? Where is the Church (overall) doing well, and where do significant improvements need to be made? What are you endeavoring to do through your own life and ministry to bring improvement?


Pastor Kevin Berry – Lansing, MI

When looking at the Church in America it’s important to remember that the Church is the people… we are the Church. When I was in my early teens, I remember walking through our new church with my mentor, Pastor Dave Williams. I told him, “Wow… our church is really beautiful.” He looked at me and said, “Kev, the Church is not a building, but the people, and yes we do have a beautiful Church.” So if you want to know how the Church is doing, then I would ask you: how are you doing? How are the Christians you know doing? What impact are you having on the world around you?

R.T. Kendall spoke at a ministers’ meeting I was at not too long ago, and he said that the average pastor in America prays four minutes a day. If that is accurate, then it is a sad statement to the condition of the Church in America. How can we be the powerful Church that changes culture around us, that carries God’s presence with us everywhere we go, the Church that gives people around us a taste of the Kingdom that is within their grasp, when our spiritual leaders only pray four minutes a day? While it’s true that the health of a church is determined by its sending capacity—not its seating capacity—the health of a church is also seen by its prayer meetings.

I’ve heard it said that the more you look like the world, the less impact you will have on it. I think the Church in America overall looks average, is powerless, spends its time trying to fit into culture when it should be focused on changing culture. I think it’s time to draw a line in the sand. It’s time for the Church in America to choose this day whom they will serve. It’s time to go big or go home. It’s time to get out of the middle, to treat average like the toxic condition it really is.

The good news is that the Church is the hope of the world. And there is a remnant, a group of believers across America, who are stepping up to the plate for such a time as this. They realize time is short and at any moment time will be up. There will be no more time to pray and intercede; there will be no more time to tell people about the Kingdom, to proclaim who God is. They are eagerly praying; they are part of an end-times prayer revival. They are filled with the Holy Spirit and are making the most of every opportunity.

I’m trying to do my part to encourage the body of Christ to deepen their walk with God. I’ve found that growth has much to do with the right environment. If I can get people into the secret place, if I can encourage them to have regular encounters with God, to hear His voice—they will flourish there! They will walk away and never be the same! They will be a force to be reckoned with. They will be the unstoppable Church we are called to be.

Pastor Stan Saunders – Chillicothe, MO

I believe “Consumer Christianity” is the most apt description of the church today in the USA. Being a consumer Christian is an oxymoron. Jesus said, “If anyone desires to be my disciple, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

I believe the church as a whole is more inviting to those who are far away from God. However, we seem to be producing self-centered, self-focused Christians. Many Christians don’t really qualify as genuine Christ followers. Genuine Christ following begins with denial of self.

I am focusing much more of our preaching and small groups on the Gospels. We are challenging people constantly to deny self and to follow Jesus genuinely.

Pastor Jim Graff – Victoria, TX

I think the church in America is positioned well for the future. If you study the demographics of our country, bible teaching churches are continuing to grow significantly in most of our counties. Catholicism has held steady while liberal churches have continued in decline. The people choosing to attend no church at all, has increased significantly though, too.

Our time is a time when churches offering real biblical help and hope are received well by people. Secular humanism has left people broken and with an empty heart. Great worship services on the weekend fill the empty space with God’s love and mercy and truth. They bring substantive answers that convince people God has real solutions.

That is only the beginning however. Next we have to help people embrace the habits of discipleship that are totally new to them. But if we work hard at creating great weekend services, and at creating systems that motivate people to experience the benefits of discipleship, there is a waiting group of people in most counties that churches can connect meaningfully with and prosper.

Pastor Bernie Samples – Barstow, CA

Wow! What a question!!! “What do you perceive the condition of the Church in America to be?” I think this is like the three blind men feeling different parts of the elephant and trying to describe what they feel. And also it depends on how old you are, what your spiritual and ministry background is and what generation you are.

Having grown up in the 1950-60s in a non-Christian home, getting born again in January 1980 and beginning to preach in 1981, my personal observation is most of the sinners and non-church people I knew back then lived much better moral lives than many “Christian” church people and “preachers” do today. I hear many church people use words in their everyday conversation that were considered cuss words a generation ago. So I see that the church has lost its influence to a great degree because of trying to live like the unsaved people all around them.

“Where is the Church (overall) doing well, and where do significant improvements need to be made?” I think technology-wise and through social media, a lot more people are seeing and hearing aspects of the gospel than ever before. Some great Christian Leaders are doing excellent on the national level in speaking up for the cause of Christ and putting Biblical Values above Political Correctness! I believe the best thing ministries can do to get back on track is quit trying to live and act like sinners to attract sinners. The world is in such a mess and distressed that we need to role model Biblical morals and living. They need to see there is a different and better way to live to get a better outcome in their lives.

In my life and ministry, we try to keep up with technology, we have modern songs in our worship as well as older ones put to a more up-to-date beat. A good percentage of our leadership is 20s to 40s. We have a multicultural congregation. We do our best to influence people biblically rather than politically. Everything we do, we try to see through the lens of, “what does this do to draw people to Jesus? How is it helping them to grow and become a better disciple?”

I personally believe the best days of the church are about to happen!!! And we purpose to be in on it.

Pastor Andy White – Chandler, AZ

Because the church does not belong to us, I feel it is wise to stick with the printed instructions: go therefore and make disciples. Discipleship cannot take place in a large group setting. It is a one-on-one or a one-on-two activity of pouring into the faithful servant able to teach others also.

I disciple those who have proven themselves faithful in the small things, who are willing to have a consecrated walk with God, and who are willing to teach someone else what I teach them.  Our church is now 20 years old and this is the only thing I want to be doing for the remainder of my time in ministry.

Pastor Aaron Fillmore – Ada, OK

I would say that the Church in America is poised to make an impact; we are positioned with gifted leaders, tools and resources to advance the Kingdom of God in a way that has yet to be seen. We have more platforms and mediums for sending the message of the Gospel to every nation than ever before. We have a lot of people much smarter than myself coming up with ways to leverage social media and technology as tools for evangelism or getting people connected or getting aid or relief to those in need. It is fascinating how quickly we can get people, resources or supplies to an area affected by a natural disaster. It is astonishing how we can spread the word about needs so quickly and generate a way to meet that need within hours or even minutes. I am excited to see what the future holds as the church continues to embrace technology as a tool for Gospel advancement.

I refuse to believe that the Church is in a state of disrepair or hopelessness—the very gates of hell cannot prevail against the Church; however, I also believe that like Peter says, judgment will begin in the House of God. A sifting in the Church is a necessary and beautiful thing—the Bride of Christ being prepared for a glorious reunion with the Bridegroom. Jesus will return for His bride—singular. Not his Assemblies of God bride, not His First Baptist or Pentecostal bride, but His one pure, spotless, blameless, unblemished, washed in the Word bride, radiating in His glory. This is the bride Christ will return for—not a corrupt, tainted, filthy, guilty ‘bridezilla.’ John Piper said “the Bridegroom left on a journey just before the wedding, and the Bride cannot act as if things are normal. If she loves him, she will ache for his return.” The question is, do we ache for His return or do we simply want to be relieved of suffering or our discomfort. Where is our longing? Where is the yearning in our souls? Why are we satisfied with so much less than the Bridegroom Himself?

With all the technology, all the knowledge, all the resources at our fingertips, it is easy to believe we have it all ‘figured out’ and we don’t even try to ‘pencil-in’ the Holy Spirit to our services. Sure, you might say, but ‘we want to give God our best.’ Well, Jesus left us His best when He gave us the Holy Spirit. That is why He said, ‘It is better that I leave, if I don’t, the Counselor won’t come.’ So why do we try to ‘box out’ the Holy Spirit or even box Him in? He simply won’t fit in with our plans. He might do something that would scare a visitor off. He might make us feel convicted of our sin. We are more concerned with what a visitor might think about one of our services than we are about what the Holy Spirit thinks or what Jesus might think. I love what Francis Chan says about the power of the Holy Spirit in his book, Forgotten God, “The world is not moved by love or actions that are of human creation. And the church is not empowered to live differently from any other gathering of people without the Holy Spirit. But when believers live in the power of the Spirit, the evidence in their lives is supernatural. The church cannot help but be different, and the world cannot help but notice.” I am relieved that our services do not depend on how good the worship band can play or how great the sermon was—and we should certainly steward well abilities and gifts God has given us. Our services should rely on the Holy Spirit and the power of God, like Paul talks about. That doesn’t mean if someone isn’t prophesying or being healed of cancer that the Holy Spirit didn’t ‘move.’ It is easy to forget that the greatest miracle of all is the regeneration of a soul—seeing someone who was once dead be brought to life in Christ. It is remarkable!

There is certainly no formula to what our services should ‘look like’ on the outside, but I believe that there certainly is on the inside of our hearts—a yielding, submission and a longing for God to be glorified in whatever manner He sees fit. I do my best to say conscious of the fact that I cannot do anything apart from the Holy Spirit’s power operating in my life. I’m not anywhere close to perfect, but He is, and Jesus said He will guide me in all truth—why would I not want to live like that? Lord, help us to lay hold of the reality of the Holy Spirit in our lives!

Pastor Mike Campbell – Algood, TN

I am inclined to believe that our churches are the most welcoming, inviting, and forgiving. We are excelling at this with the advent of the Seeker movement that caused all of us to realize that having a “whosoever” church is important to church growth. However, I also believe that spiritually, the church as a whole, here in the US is lethargic and spiritually drifting. We are living to some degree, Mark 4:18-19, where our blessings may be causing us to be less passionate about the harvest. We live in a day where it appears that the things of the Spirit are less important and put on a back shelf. It is not as popular to have moves of the Spirit in our services since we don’t want to offend people, and in reality, we as Pastors, realize we cannot control the Holy Spirit. We have seen our country moving toward sin and not righteousness. This is all happening on our watch. This leads me to believe that we may need to awaken from our slumber and be about the Father’s business. Where are the watchmen on the wall and who’s sounding the alarm?

This year I am calling me and my church to prayer and to be aware that we cannot afford to drift spiritually. We need to be passionate about seeking God’s face rather than His hand. “If anyone desires to come after me,” is the battle cry along with making the choice that Mary made when she sat at the feet of Jesus. Mary chose to be refreshed by Him rather than choosing Martha’s way of being busy serving without being in His presence. I am making it my job to teach about things of the Spirit, decency, and order so that people are not afraid to respond to the Spirit nor will it be offensive. The issue of being busy is what the church does well, but without spending time with Him, we have nothing to offer. So again, I am encouraging people to be alone with Jesus, grow their devotion time and prayer life. I am also making available daily scriptures of encouragement that will come by email and eventually by a church app. The goal will be consecration and dedication to God. One thing is for sure, when you have been with Him you will have His heart so you can do His will and people will know it.

Pastor Doug Foutty – Parkersburg, WV

I’m not sure if we are talking about the Body of Christ as the church or the local church serving the local people. My experience over the last 30 years has shown me that something very special happened in the church in the 1980’s and maybe a little bit into the 1990’s. I haven’t seen any corporate excitement like that in many years. That may be the fault of us pastors. I hope not. The praise and worship music seems more emotional and less spiritual. Some of it must be being written by people who haven’t quite figured out how to worship the Lord.

I know that the Apostle Paul had an entourage at times that had ministers and laity in the group, and he mentions in Philippians Chapter 2 that he has no one besides Timothy that isn’t seeking his own interests. He says that they aren’t seeking God’s interest. In today’s church, people don’t seem as engaged without a Bible in their hands. They mostly have electronic devices. The temptation to check social media during church creeps in. In the 1980’s, we were confessing the word of God all day. We were challenging those who were framing their world with the wrong words. We were listening to teaching tapes on non-church days. It was a special time. People’s minds were truly renewed to the word of God and that brought holiness back into our lives. I don’t see a lot of that in the body of Christ these days. We are endeavoring to jump-start this in our local congregation. We have seen it work.

Part 2 of the question concerns what the church is doing well. The flip side of the social media coin is at work here. A lot of people are sharing prayer requests that go far and wide in this world. A multitude of people are getting involved with some of these needs, and we are hearing the testimonies. People are posting scripture. This sometimes is the only scripture that certain folks see all week. We are seeing children excited for the Lord. I see people encouraging others to be praying for the upcoming election in our country. This is a good thing.

The second part of that question asks about where improvements need to be made. Don’t be afraid to go back to the older anointed praise and worship songs. Don’t be afraid to teach on the same subject for many weeks until the people understand and start putting the revelation into practice. Encourage church members to have accountability with someone concerning what they know to do and sometimes need motivation to do it. Present the ministry of helps as precious and valuable because it is. Invite people to do what God is asking them to do.

The last question asks what am I endeavoring to do to bring improvement. I’m trying to lead by example. I’m trying to stay with a section of scripture and rip it into shreds and cross reference it and find out just what God wanted me to learn when he sent me to it. Then, when I have proved it in my life, I can teach it to others. I am desiring earnestly the best gifts of the spirit as the Bible tells us to do. I am remaining teachable because I have not arrived. I need to learn each and every day. I try to protect the anointing. It is there to minister to others. I try to micromanage my love walk.

Don’t give up on the modern church. Don’t think that you don’t have areas that need improvement. Don’t allow the devil to talk you out of your victory in Jesus. Don’t ever stop sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. Wherever you are in the world, God has you there to make a difference for Him.

Rev. Guinn Shingleton – Oviedo, FL

My perception is that the American church is beginning to once again tend toward soul-winning and a hunger for God and His Word.

As a product of the “Jesus People” movement of the late 1960s into the 1970s, I can sense a fresh stirring in the Body of Christ to get back to the basics:

  • Make a friend
  • Make a convert
  • Make a disciple
  • Make a soul-winner

And then the cycle continues.

Just as the church was not perfect in that era, neither is it perfect now. There is still error in doctrine that draws aside many believers. Yet, there is a hunger for truth and a mature core of believers, as well as five-fold ministers, who are able to keep the “gospel ship” steering a straight course through troubled times.

Where Can Improvements be Made?

From reading various articles about the church in America, it seems it has largely become “me-centric,” that is, “how can I personally benefit from attending church and adhering to God’s Word?” In an era where finger-pointing has become the norm, many try pointing to the church as the problem rather than the solution. When these two issues combine, we have a generation of “me first” Christians blaming the church for their disinterest rather than their own spiritual laziness. In this age of fad diets, there are products that advertise “All of the benefits with only half the calories.” It seems many believers desire all of the benefits of the church with only half the commitment to it. As in other generations past, a small, dedicated nucleus in any given church is doing the majority of the work of the church. They do it because they believe that helping to change lives is important.

I’ll give you an example. In October 1971 my wife and I attended a Sunday evening service largely due to frequent invitations by the on-fire youth group of that church. Our oldest son was only two months old at the time, so we concocted a plan:  We’d sit on the back row and when he started crying we could slip out and go home. This would mean that we had fulfilled our promise to attend a service and the youth would quit bugging us.

As we entered the back of the church and headed toward the back row, we were greeted by a sweet lady who identified herself as a nursery worker and asked if she could take our baby while we were in the service. Even though we protested, she kindly insisted that after raising six children of her own she was well able to attend to our son. To make a long story short, my wife and I heard the message which convicted our heart and we gave our lives to Jesus that night.

My point is this:  For the church to thrive in this evil age, we need more and more believers who are dedicated to laying down their personal desires and ambitions in order to radically change someone else’s life.

Jesus said it this way:

Matthew 6:33 AMP
“But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides.”

We can have the satisfaction of changing lives through helping others and then watching Jesus care for our needs.

“What are you endeavoring to do through your own life and ministry to bring improvement?”

In the past year, our ministry has gone through transition. After more than two decades as a senior pastor we were led to turn our church over to another couple whom God selected. We now serve in the ministry of helps in a wonderful church in another state. We were recently visiting the church we formerly pastored, and the current pastor asked us to share for a few minutes. As we approached the platform I was unsure as to what I was going to say, then the Holy Spirit dropped this into my heart:  “We are pleased to tell you that we are still in full-time ministry. Even though we are not behind the pulpit we are faithfully serving in (and I named the areas where we volunteer).”

I feel that our calling is now to help our pastor to fulfill his vision by setting an example of serving others. There is a great treasure in the church called “mature saints” who have a wealth of knowledge and experience that can help the church strengthen and grow.