Tough Words For the Church

"Why Isn't the American Church Growing?" (by Kevin Turner, January) is one of the most powerful articles I have ever read. As a pastor, I struggle with the problems I see in the church as it is portrayed on Christian television. People in my church notice our congregation's needs and problems and wonder what is wrong with our church. The only answer is prayer and fasting.
Tim Hall
Harlan, Kentucky

A hearty amen to the article "Why Isn't the American Church Growing?" All pastors in the United States should unite on our knees in fervent prayer and ask, "Where is the God of Elijah?" Let us pray fervently as that great Old Testament prophet did.
Jonathan Stroebel
Fruitland, Idaho

I want to give my hearty yes to your article titled "Why Isn't the American Church Growing?" Natalia Schedrivaya from Russia, who was featured in the article, said it correctly: "Materialism is the No. 1 enemy of Russian churches in the big cities, just as it is in the United States."

The Pharisees in Jesus' day considered their wealth a sign of God's approval. Are we Christians in the United States Pharisees too?
Rick Combs
Vinita, Oklahoma

I am excited to see through your magazine how close the coming of Jesus is. The church isn't really centered on Jesus anymore but on what makes us feel good. If our nation doesn't repent from sin, especially the church, then God will have to judge America as He did Israel.
Rev. Raymond Mestas
Durango, Colorado

The recent article about the state of the American church burdened my heart. I pastor a small congregation, and I moved my family into the basement of our church and left a full-time job to try to revive a dying congregation. We are struggling to overcome the very things mentioned in your article. I pray revival comes to this church and to our country.
Rev. Steven Jordan
Lagrange, Kentucky

Thanks for the excellent article on church growth in America. I'm glad someone had the backbone to tell the truth about many (not all) preachers in our great nation. In America we have left God out of many church services. The more material things we get, the more we forget how to fast, pray and weep at the altar!
Rev. Charles Smith
Agape Worship Center
Kosciusko, Mississippi

It's obvious from your story that prosperity teaching is out of control. The foreign ministers you quoted identify materialism and consumer-oriented faith, among other things, as problems that are stagnating church growth in America. For prosperity teachers, the prosperity message is the goose that lays the golden egg. They'll never let it go.
Barry L. Sheeder
Johnstown, Pennsylvania

Kevin Turner's message is long overdue. I've always been disturbed by all the prosperity teaching because it ignores crucial issues. The American church has long been trying to preserve its life instead of losing it for the sake of the gospel. We've got to have a move of God. I applaud you for printing the truth, no matter how much it hurts!
Christina Patterson
Pensacola, Florida

Do the Math!

Writer Justin Long listed 10 countries with great revivals ("The World's 10 Spiritual Hot Spots," January). Is it possible to trust his figures? He wrote that charismatics number nearly 4 million in Russia. At the most, I think you could say that there may be 1 million evangelicals altogether.

What about Nepal? Charisma writes: "Today the number has risen to almost 1 million." Two years ago, one of the main church leaders from Nepal visited Sweden and said there might be 400,000 Christians in Nepal. Do you really believe that there are 600,000 more after only two years? What sources do you have?
Wilgot Fritzon, director
Light for the Peoples
Stockholm, Sweden

Editor's note: We asked author Justin Long to reply from his office in Malaysia. Here is his response:

Russia is, according to the latest 2005 statistics, a country with roughly 84 million professing Christians. Of these, we estimate that evangelicals number about 660,000. Charismatics can be divided into three different groups: traditional charismatics (1 million); neocharismatics, or "new" charismatics (2.1 million); and renewalists (3.2 million).

The latter two strains can be found in every branch of Christianity and include many Orthodox and Roman Catholic believers who have been reborn and experienced the charismatic renewal but have remained in their traditional church structures for various reasons. So you can see why charismatics would number higher than evangelicals or even Protestants.

As for Nepal, I have longtime friends who have worked with house churches in Nepal and have trained many of the leaders there. A massive outpouring of God's Spirit has been evident there, and I do not think our estimate of 917,000 Christians is any exaggeration. They can be found in 58 specific denominations, but many of them are hidden believers (about 300,000). About 400,000 is right for the number of more public evangelicals in the country, however.
Justin Long, co-editor
World Christian Encyclopedia
Chesapeake, Virginia

What's Cooking?

I commend J. Lee Grady's courage in writing "Poison in the Pot" (First Word, January). We desperately do "need the Holy Spirit to visit us and purify what is on our stove." Whatever happened to the early Pentecostals' desire to have the "full gospel" and nothing else?
Elisabeth Dyvig
Albert Lea, Minnesota

If there are televangelists who resort to sickening pleas for money, and if we believe that greed is a toxic substance in the church, then why don't we "spill the beans" about them? Could it be that we can't name names because we want their advertising dollars?
Jacqueline Hasselbusch
Tucson, Arizona

Thank you for this article. My daughter attends a large ministry but she has become disenchanted with it. She's looking for a ministry with a greater "servant's" heart. She's beginning to feel that her leadership is more concerned with serving themselves than the lost.
Kenneth Smith
Bryan, Texas

Thank you for your First Word columns. It is refreshing to read something that cuts to the heart of the need of the church. It seems like we have so few voices like this around.
Rev. John Rhodes
Fenton, Missouri

I liked Lee Grady's recent column. The problem I have with Charisma is that it promotes, through its advertising, some of the same stuff that Grady says is poisoning the church. There are ads showing preachers strutting their stuff and looking as if they are telling off the whole world.

Charisma obliges them because of the money. Admit it.
Rev. Dr. John K. Ritter
Amherst, New Hampshire

The Truth About Christmas?

Recently, a member of my Bible study read from your article about the meaning behind Christmas symbols ("Reclaiming the Beauty of Christmas" by Peter Bertolero, December). We were surprised by some of the statements in the article, including the one that said Roman Catholics living in England were forbidden for a time to be Catholics. A short fact-check of English history would prove this point false.
Bob McNab
Salinas, California

Editor's note: We checked our facts. Catholics were indeed persecuted by Protestants in England during the reigns of Queen Elizabeth I, King James I and others. Some Catholics were martyred during these periods of history.

Thank you for your article about reclaiming Christmas symbols. I have friends who are against celebrating Christmas for the reasons your writer outlined. I too had heard of all the pagan beginnings of Christmas, but I also believe God is in the business of redeeming culture.
Martha Hollowell
Richmond, Virginia

The Dental Debate

Thank you for Dr. Don Colbert's column "Metal in Your Mouth" (January). I was poisoned from silver amalgam fillings in 2001. My dentist drilled out a silver filling that contained almost 50 percent mercury, and when I breathed the vapor it went into my nervous system. The detoxification can take years, so it is very important to find a biological dentist, as Colbert recommended.
Marie Flowers
Vinton, Virginia

As a practicing dentist with 24 years' experience, I was disappointed to read Dr. Colbert's response to the question about dental amalgam. All the legitimate scientific studies, including the study in The New England Journal of Medicine published in 2003, show there is not significant toxicity from the mercury in dental amalgam. To consult a biological dentist, as he suggests, opens you up to dental quackery.
Alex Smith, D.M.D.
Klamath, Oregon

The American Dental Association fully supports the use of dental amalgam fillings, as does the Academy of General Dentistry. There has been much credible research that indicates they are a safe, long-lasting and economical means of restoring many cavities. Most medical doctors know very little about the practice of dentistry. The article could have been more balanced had Dr. Colbert also consulted the ADA.
Douglas E. Hunter, D.D.S.
Nashville, Tennessee

Correction: The photograph identified as "Nepal" on pages 24-25 of our January issue should read "Tibet." It is of Potala Palace, the historical residence of Dalai Lamas and center of Tibetan Buddhism, in Lhasa, Tibet.

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