The modern Christian church landscape is highly diverse, with different denominations and theological perspectives. As society evolves, churches sometimes also adapt to cultural changes. While there is some value in engaging with contemporary issues, many churches have compromised (and even outright abandoned) the eternal values put forth by God in Scripture by changing their attitudes towards social justice and inclusivity issues. I will explore nine warning signs that may indicate a Christian church is embracing a more progressive stance or promoting a “woke” ideology.
Obvious Warning Signs
What are blatant, egregious warnings that a religious institution is “woke,” liberal, or progressive? Immediate red flags are rainbow flags, Black Lives Matter signs, or materials that promote Critical Race Theory (CRT). You should run from these places! But some other clues and indicators may not be so obvious:
Redefinition of Traditional Biblical Doctrines
A sneaky warning sign of a progressive or woke church is the reinterpretation or redefinition of traditional Christian doctrines to fit a more liberal worldview. This can manifest in various ways, such as embracing alternative interpretations of biblical texts on controversial topics like sexuality, marriage, and gender roles. Liberal churches may downplay or reject certain biblical teachings that conflict with their progressive values, leading to an erosion of orthodox Christian beliefs.
Emphasis on Social Justice
One of the prominent signs of a “woke” and liberal Christian church is a strong emphasis on social justice issues. While social justice aligns with biblical principles of compassion and love for others (Proverbs 19:17, James 2:14-17, Isaiah 1:17, and Matthew 25:35-40), an overemphasis on certain social justice causes may overshadow other aspects of Christian teaching. Look out for churches that consistently focus on issues such as racial equality, gender identity, or climate change without giving even more attention to personal salvation, spiritual growth in the Holy Spirit, and the study of Scripture.
Inclusive Stance on Moral Issues
A “woke” and liberal Christian church often adopts a more inclusive stance on moral issues that differ from traditional Christian teachings. This can involve accepting and affirming lifestyles and practices traditionally considered sinful or contrary to Scriptural teachings. While being gracious and kind to all individuals is important, it is crucial to discern whether a church is compromising biblical truth for the sake of social acceptance.
First off, I’m not here to say that Conservatism is automatically all perfect, holy, and sound, and Liberalism is all bad. Christians should not let politics color their theological beliefs. Instead, God’s unchanging, authoritative Word needs to dictate what we believe and practice, and political ideologies aren’t always going to line up precisely with Christianity. In fact, it will often disagree!
That being said, a strong promotion of liberal or progressive political ideologies can indicate a “woke” and liberal-leaning church. This alignment may be evident in sermons that regularly promote left-leaning policies or in the church’s involvement in social and political activism that aligns primarily with a liberal agenda. A balanced church should encourage critical thinking – and, more importantly, biblical thinking – and provide a platform for dialogue on diverse political perspectives.
Singling Out One or More Races as More Evil Than Others
If a church’s teachings promote the idea that one race is more evil than others or that many or most of society’s ills are the result of one race’s actions, then it is not only racist and wrong but also unbiblical. One such belief system is called Critical Race Theory (CRT). CRT is an academic framework examining systemic racism, in particular, whites/Caucasians, in the erroneous belief of “White Privilege.”
Biblical, orthodox Christians see CRT as anti-Christian due to concerns about group identity overshadowing individual worth, downplaying individual sin and responsibility, rejecting colorblindness, and potential conflicts with a biblical worldview. The Bible is clear that every single human is fallen and sinful and in need of God’s forgiveness in Christ (Romans 3:23), so singling out one racial group is blatantly wrong.
Worship and Sermons Focus on Personal Experience
A “woke” and liberal church may place a greater emphasis on personal experience in worship, often prioritizing emotions and feelings over biblical truth. Services may center on creating an atmosphere of emotional engagement, with little focus on scriptural teaching and theological depth. And in doing so, they often preach a “me-centered” philosophy as opposed to a “god-centered” one. While an emotional connection to God is essential, it should be complemented by a solid foundation in biblical truth and the study of Scripture.
Lack of Focus on Individual Salvation Through Jesus Christ
Lastly, a potential warning sign of a “woke” and progressive assembly is a diminished emphasis on individual salvation and personal transformation through faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Instead of biblically recognizing that mankind is sinful and we need the forgiveness that Jesus provides through His death on the cross and His resurrection, a progressive church will downplay this and, in fact, may claim that other religions or other belief systems are just as valid to embrace and even follow. Many progressives will think there are many ways to God or heaven, while this clearly goes against the authoritative words of Jesus: “I am the way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father, except by Me.” – John 14:6
Such churches may emphasize societal transformation and activism to the detriment of the essential message of salvation and the need for a personal relationship with Christ. While social transformation is a secondary part of the Christian mission, it should not overshadow the significance of the work and Person of Jesus Christ, spreading the Gospel, and making disciples.
Their Talk is All About Love, But No Mention of Sin or Hell
Liberal churches preaching messages that talk about loving others, but ignoring sin and hell, is a huge warning sign. Yes, the biblical message encompasses God’s love but also addresses sin, repentance, and the need for salvation. A balanced theology embraces both God’s love, mercy, and grace and His holiness, perfection, and righteous judgment. Without the “bad news” that humans are sinful and are headed to hell as a default, there can be no “good news” of Jesus Christ and the free gift of eternal life that he alone can provide.
Identifying warning signs of a “woke” and progressive Christian church can help individuals discern a particular congregation’s theological and ideological direction. It is important to note that not all churches labeled as such are uniformly characterized by all these indicators equally, as each congregation has its unique nuances and perspectives. The intention here is to encourage believers to carefully evaluate the teachings and practices of their church against the filter of biblical truth and seek an accurate and balanced understanding of God’s Word while engaging with contemporary issues in a thoughtful and compassionate manner.