I recently saw a post on Facebook, asking why the modern American church seldom sees miracles. It's an interesting question, and I suspect asking ten people will bring ten different answers. But I want to add my voice to the "chorus," because I think the chorus is mostly wrong. I think scripture and history are pretty clear about this matter.
The book of Acts is a good place to begin.
Soon after Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the followers of Jesus, we saw something striking. When Peter and John were headed to the Temple to pray, they encountered a lame man asking for money. With a word, they healed him, in the name of Jesus. As a result, some 5,000 men came to believe.
The leaders hauled Peter and John before them - took them to court - and demanded an explanation. Peter, "filled with the Holy Spirit," gave a moving defense of their actions (Acts 4:8f). After hearing Peter, the authorities noted that these guys were poorly educated country folks who should not have been able to make such a defense. They also noted, however, that they had been with Jesus (v. 12).
Much of American Christianity is dry, sterile and self-centered because we have redefined "Christianity" to eliminate risk, making it easy but also self-centered and sterile. A perfect fit for our times, but not what God had in mind. Little evidence that we "have been with Jesus."
There is much research showing that the people around us are asking questions. Important questions. Conversations are happening about the purpose and the end of life. But the church is not included. In fact, most folks say a church is the last place they would go for answers.
Something is badly wrong.
Here's my answer to the original question:
In John 20, the risen Jesus appeared to his followers and said two things that are pertinent to our lives today: "As the Father sent me, I am sending you," and "Receive the Holy Spirit." Then he instructed them to wait in Jerusalem for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, when, he said, they would receive power to be his witnesses (Acts 1:8).
Jesus lived a supernatural life and instituted a supernatural faith. Miracles were a part of who he was. There was not a day when he was "just doin' what comes naturally."
We are sent to the world by Jesus. Scripture is clear that we are sent by Jesus to continue what he began.
We are empowered. It is also clear that Jesus acted by the power of the Holy Spirit, and gives that same Spirit to his followers, to do the same work.
But living by the Spirit and obeying God's voice is risky. And people with shallow, self-centered faith avoid risk.
So, we have multiple churches in nearly any town, few of them preaching a gospel of power, a gospel of challenge to follow Jesus, "taking up the cross" and living out God's purpose for us in our lives.
We have churches full of empty words, churches that consider themselves successful if their members are "nice," upright, middle-class Americans, who don't drink, smoke, or cuss. At least, not too much. In public.
When smooth-talking teachers came to Corinth, Paul wrote to the church there, "The kingdom of God does not consist in (mere) words, but in power" (I Cor. 4:20).
We have churches full of words. But there are few who are faithful to the biblical mandate. We have few churches who make a difference in their communities, who exist for others, and not themselves. Few who have credibility to those around them.
Dry. Self-centered. Insipid. Without credibility in the world. Without a reason to exist.