Life in America is vastly different than almost anywhere else. Consumer expectations and the pursuit of cultural popularity are the driving force behind much of our society. There is a level of customer service that any business must maintain to remain relevant in the American marketplace. Unfortunately, this relevance has now extended itself into the Christian experience. Americans don’t just expect culture to cater to and convenience them. They now expect the Church and their faith to do the same.
Hoping to candidly address the most obvious problems in the present consumer-driven church model, The American Gospel: A Letter to a Post-Christian Church gives insight into the ways the American Church has gone astray and how it can regain influence in a rapidly changing culture. Since its inception, America has been guided by the Christian voice and the inspiration of pious believers. The decline of American Christianity is not the fault of secular culture. It is the responsibility of a relevant, comfortable, progressive church model that began in the twentieth century and now dominates American Christianity. It is clearly failing to bring the individual and cultural change that authentic faith in Jesus Christ demands.
There is hope. Not all have been swayed by competitive consumerism and its curse of relevance. By returning to orthodox Christian beliefs, demanding real conversion, and reigniting the flames of passionate faith, the American Church can still come back to its Christian roots and restore what influence it has lost.
Britton McNeil –
Read This book. Very insightful and relevant book. Anyone who calls themselves a Christian these days should read it.
Rose Spiller –
Josh Lafferty is a voice we need to hear right now! As the author of a book about the complete Biblical Gospel message, and a writer and teacher of Bible Studies for over 20 years, I am passionate about making sure ONLY solid, Biblical Truth is presented, and not someone’s opinion. Josh Lafferty delivers on both counts!! The American Gospel contains chapter after chapter of what God expects Jesus’ Bride, the church, to be; and backs everything up with Scripture. As a result, he makes an air-tight and compelling case at how complacent many American evangelical churches, and many Christians, have become.
As Mr. Lafferty points out, the decline of many American churches has nothing to do with the number of people filling seats on a Sunday morning. In fact, many churches with a packed house on any given Sunday, are the exact ones who on the spiritual decline and the ones that contain deepest rot within! As the author says, “As much as we want to believe that some other factors are at work, the Church is not being destroyed by those in secular culture. It is being totally undermined by those who claim affiliation. If the powers of sin and darkness have no hold on the risen Christ, the same is true for His Church. Therefore, it is the Church’s actions alone that are responsible. We should not look elsewhere.” It is not the wolves who look like wolves that have deteriorated our churches; it is the wolves who are disguised as sheep!
Thank you for this much needed book! I love it, and plan to ask Josh Lafferty for permission to reference it in one of my upcoming books!
Laurie Elliott –
A Lengthy Rant on the American Church. This is a difficult book to write a review for. I’m giving it 4 stars because it is well written, thought-out, and organized. It accomplished the stated goal of the book. And, his observations of the American church are things that I observed and stated myself. I’m giving it only 4 stars because it is heavy on the rant and light on the solution. The author even admits this in the last chapter. I certainly understand the importance of pointing out the shortcomings of the church, but as a church leader, I already know most of this. I’m looking for practical advice on how to take such a church and guide it to where it needs to go. If you’re looking at the modern church movement through rose-colored glasses then I would recommend reading this book.
Laura Davis –
When I first started reading The American Gospel by Josh Lafferty, I fully expected he was going to talk about the current state of decay in the Evangelical church. He did that and a bit more.
Right off the top, the author makes it clear, the American church as a whole (not just Evangelicals) has invited secular society through its doors. Instead of telling them about Jesus, they have bent over backwards to adapt to the world, embracing the morals of secular society while throwing away what they don’t like in the Bible, resulting in what he calls “Cultural Christianity.” Cultural Christianity has been going on for years. It allows people to claim they are Christian and believe in God and yet live as if He doesn’t exist. I can remember back in the ’60s, my Grade 3 teacher making everyone stand up and say they were Christians without bothering to define what the word “Christian” meant. Cultural Christianity has been going on for a very long time.
With each generation, the church has tried to adapt to the world by making itself more appealing to the world. That was their second mistake. Their first mistake was believing the church was intended for the lost to visit every Sunday to hear about Jesus. It wasn’t. The church is for believers only. Those who have repented and are living their lives for the glory of God. By trying to adapt to please the world, the church has forgotten its primary mission – to make disciples that go into the world to spread the good news about Jesus. Oh, but we send out missionaries to do that! You are missing the point. Everyone is supposed to be doing that! The relevant and progressive church movements are the best examples of churches who no longer have Christ as their foundation. For instance, many mega-churches have high, consumer-driven production values that focus on entertaining. Some seeker-driven churches will have one song, maybe a skit and a short sermon (not too long because you don’t want to bore people) all for the purpose of “saving” the lost. Most churches have fancy lighting, comfortable theatre-style seating and cafes in the foyer. They have long stopped using choirs and hymnals in favour of “worship” bands, who perform while the congregation watches and doesn’t get involved. They say Jesus is there. They get everyone riled up for that one hour, and then everyone leaves to go home and live their lives as if nothing happened. While many Evangelical and mainstream churches today would say their foundation is built on Jesus, the author makes it abundantly clear, many are standing on shaky ground and need to repent!
In part one, the author shows the reader how the church has failed and why most churches today no longer keep Jesus as the head of the church. The second part shows what we need to make Jesus the head of the church once again. Unfortunately, in his excitement to inform readers about how dire the situation in the church is, the author tended to ramble and repeat himself frequently. This made me, on more than one occasion, skip chapters as I felt reading about the same thing again a bit tedious.
Nevertheless, this book is one every American (and Canadian) pastor should read. If your focus is on getting unsaved people through the doors instead of making disciples of believers, your church is part of the problem. As the author says, “The Whore of Babylon isn’t just the Catholic Church, it is the whole church.”
This is a must-read for everyone who claims Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. It may change your life!
Shawn L. –
Enlightening and well-written. As someone who is interested in studying religions, I think this book is the perfect mix of theological theory and philosophy. I could have read this all in one sitting — it was that good! I think everyone should read this book, whether you’re a religious scholar or just someone interested in the interplay between secular culture and a culture led by pious believers.
D. Chatley –
Wake up call. What a powerful call to churches to get back to the New Testament church pattern. I applaud the author for his courageous voice in tackling a tough but needed topic. I found this book to be thorough, fair, and loving. He presents his wake up call to churches on American in a manner that is Bible-based but not argumentative or judgmental. I found myself shaking my head in agreement through the whole book. I personally think all church leaders should read this book no matter where they think they fall on fulcrum from existing as entertainment to glorifying our Savior. I would even go so far as to say all Christians should read this book to better understand what’s at stake and to consider whether their church has the right biblical purpose. I am prayerfully considering teaching on this topic at a conference this fall as it is a message that needs to be heard.
Some of my favorite quotes:
The call is to equip not entertain
Discipleship occurs in the church; evangelism happens in the marketplace
If Jesus is not who we have truly gathered for, then our gathering is a vain celebration of man’s desires
Debra Webster –
An Important Book For Today’s Church-Read It. Though this reviewer does not agree with every point, this book is a 5 star because the Church needs to read it and take it to heart. We need a reformation in the Church and the nation. The American Gospel strips away the subterfuge of our other gods that keep us from repentance and the reformation we so much need.
A big problem in the Church is cultural Christianity. “Cultural Christianity allows people to claim the belief in God and yet live as if He doesn’t exist.” A cultural Christian does not embrace life change but they often will embrace Church programs.
Another problem is the relevant and progressive movements within the Church. “The progressive Church asserts that truth, especially that of the narrow gate and narrow road required by orthodox Christianity, is in fact relative. There is nothing more useless or uncertain than a Church with no foundation. However, it is the hallmark of both the relevant and progressive Church movements.” No foundation means that what we build will fall when the wind and waves beat upon it.
Many mega Churches practice Comfortable Christianity so we can draw people. But to what gospel do we draw them? There is no gospel of comfort or relevancy in scripture, but rather a gospel that tells us to take up or cross daily and die. This means for people living in America need to die to the god’s of comfort and man-centeredness. Comfort is one the major strongholds in the American Church.
Josh Lafferty says again and again in various words, the point of this life in Christ is to love the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind. After this we love our neighbor or win souls and disciple. Much of the church has forgotten to keep the main thing the main thing. We have substituted man-centered activity for knowing Christ intimately. The Bride seeks intimacy with her lover. Seeking must be paramount believers lives, yet is missing in many churches. “A bride does not love her husband and others…Her affections are not divided. Thus, the primary call of the Church is to properly love the Christ and only then will she fulfill the Great Commission and suitably love the creation. When the order is incorrect, humanism is always the result.”
We don’t need a gospel relevant to the culture or one that progresses. The faith does not progress according to Josh Lafferty, it only returns. “It returns to foundational truths,” The foundation of the Apostles and Prophets of the first century. “We don’t find new loves, we fight to keep our first love.” And again, “We were meant to be ever captivated by the person of Jesus Christ and committed to His cross even unto death.”
God has called us to covenant, and He set the terms. “If we are the Bride of Christ, we’ve made a vow to Him and His cross. Its standards are already set.” Church growth “begins with the message of the cross and culminates in the Bride’s perfection.“
American secular culture cannot reconcile the New Testament Christ with the Old Testament Yahweh, so the American Church constructed a new god, a progressive or relevant god. “This god so loves His creation that it would not in anyway require something of that creation.” Not obedience, or true devotion as in the whole heart of the “believer”, or sacrifice, suffering or cross carrying.
The author speaks of the rich young ruler willing to pay the cost of fellowship, but balked at paying the cost of worship. “The man’s primary problem isn’t His wealth. It is that he possesses other gods and is unwilling to sacrifice them to pay the cost of worshipping the one true God.”
That cost is our cross. Not just carrying it, but being crucified with Christ. Forsaking self-sufficiency and embracing intimate life changing fellowship with our Bridegroom God. Enduring the pain of being stripped of the futility of our own ways so we can embrace Him and let Him transform us. Then we are ready to make disciples. This keeps the gospel Christ centered rather than man-centered.
This is the real gospel. His cross is the marker of His covenant with us. Christ promises intimate fellowship if we take up our cross and follow. If the cross is not a daily walk, we can quickly succumb to deception. “The cross and Calvary is where the follower of Jesus lives.” For reformation of the American Church, she must return here with haste.
The American Church needs something that other nations have, a presence driven model of worship. If devotion to Christ is the number one target of the Church, then His presence will be among us. When we assemble, we should worship Him, not sing three songs that talk about us, then going on to the next thing in the program. “How have we arrived at a corporate worship model that instead devotes itself to the people? Scripture does not teach this.
“The Church’s primary mission is to create burning men and women who are wholly devoted to Jesus Christ. These are those who have given themselves to self-denial and have willingly taken up the cross and followed Christ up the hill. They have walked through the narrow gate and are committed to the narrow road. They’ve allowed Christ to take His rightful place on the throne of their heart…”
This reviewer has attended three mega Churches. In each case, they kept knowing Christ intimately the number one goal of the Christian life. This is not to say they use none of the presentations of the mega Church movement. The problem described here is not exclusive to the mega Churches. The Church in general moves away from whole-hearted devotion to Christ, though many Churches in the mega Church movement have the problems of which the author speaks.
Another thought, this reviewer writes of this same problem but in different terms. That is why I understand The American Gospel is an important book for our times. The hope is that those ensnared will read it and see how far they have drifted from fidelity to Christ alone. So, this book is but one invitation God is giving today, but an important invitation. This is a message God is currently speaking through many voices. The invitation is come and die. That has always been the door into the true gospel along with the intimate covenant for which He paid in His blood. Yes, we can know Him. Knowing Him is the consolation of the dying and only in dying will we see Him and enter intimacy with Him. No wonder the enemy works so hard to stop this. God calls, and the Church can choose Christ again and again and again. For the Bride doing less is unthinkable.
Robert F. Tierno –
Thought Provoking Letter to American Christians of All Faiths. As a Roman Catholic I did not agree with all of the author’s views. I do agree wholeheartedly that Christianity in America appears to have been commercialized looking for people who want to be made to feel good. Certainly, technology plays a role, however, there’s nothing like taking the time to pray, attend Mass, and participate in the celebration of Christ’s life and death. Congratulations on an important work.
Jacob Hobbs –
An Intriguing Perspective! This may be a controversial read to some, but I found it engaging! This is essentially a call-to-arms to bring back religion as it’s been twisted by the Americanized churches that tend to lean more towards man and less towards God. A wonderfully articulate book!
Patricia in Harmony –
A book all Christians should read. Recommend this book for all Christians. Josh did a great job expressing his feelings about today’s American Church backing up his writings with scripture.
Very Insightful. I work at a megachurch in Scottsdale AZ and I can relate to a lot of what this book is saying. I grew up in a small town in Minnesota and my Dad was a local pastor. I have seen the church compromise a lot of itself just to fit in. The problem is that if you take God out of the law there is no law. I think this book hit the nail on the head and really has something to say about the demise of the Christian church in the USA. Every pastor, every Christian should read this book.
A nugget of wisdom. A wonderfully crafted book, very informative and a daily inspirational pick me up.
Gail Stephenson –
Wonderful!!!!!!!!! Josh Lafferty is an anointed and amazing preacher, writer, musician, and friend! Buy the book and expect God to speak through it!
The American Gospel is an honest, yet passionate, take on the modern church. It’s a great read that brings a light a view that most aren’t bold enough uncover. Josh did an excellent job bringing forth this view with love and passion! You won’t be disappointed in this book!
Shelby Emmert –
Christians are facing a world of many changes that combat faith and beliefs. Josh has boldly written the truths we need to stand on, in love. As we face persecution and challenges, as promised, pouring into our faith is important. This book is something I am very excited about. His mind and heart are pure, full of love with a foundation of God’s truths that he continually pursues with everything he has. Take time and invest in this book, you will not regret it. Thank you, Josh, for your boldness and obedience.
Trés Ward –
If you are tired of doing church as usual, then this is the book for you. Much like the prophets of old who spoke God’s words to a religious crowd that desperately should have listened, Josh Lafferty is speaking as a prophet to the modern American church. He exposes the carefully concealed weaknesses of religious institution and reveals, as it were, that “the emperor has no clothes.“
Josh writes passionately and purposefully in a way that readers of all kinds will understand. His overview of the many issues plaguing today’s church culture will leave you with a desire to dig deeper and take action. I found myself both nodding my head with agreement and shaking my head with shame￼. At first, I wished that others would also read this book and take its words to heart, only to realize that it was for that very reason that I needed to be reading it for myself.￼
This is for every pastor and ministry leader who is discontent with what the American church has become. Josh urges us to break away from “The American Gospel” and return to the orthodox Christian teachings of the New Testament writers as well as many of the patterns and practices of the New Testament church.￼ If you need the motivation to recalibrate your life and ministry, then this is the book for you.
A Good Introduction from a Pentecostal Perspective. Lafferty writes on a subject that is not foreign to the evangelical realm in America: he does, however, provide a refreshing perspective as a Pentecostal minister. This book does not have “all the answers”, nor was it written to do so. Rather, it serves as a solid conversation starter for the various observations Lafferty provides. The book is worth the read, even if it isn’t as exhaustive as many of its counterparts.
Jonah Hart –
Awesome. A great book that not only shines a light on what the relevant church movement has done, but shows us the way back to the new testament church we read about in the Bible!
Wendi Grant –
Timely and Passionate. This book by Lafferty is one that I will read multiple times through life and ministry. Getting a glimpse into a great mind like his is an absolute pleasure.
A must-read for Christians in today’s world.
GREAT, moving read! This is a great read, but even more than that it’s a moving read! The content and truths Josh has written provoke change and a longing to get back to what God has called us to do. Highly recommended from me!