Friday, October 21, 2016

We Had An Election And The Church Did Not Show Up

I have noted with some interest during our recent election cycle that the Christian Church (at least in the United States) has effectively disappeared.

All of the issues that in the past have motivated the Church to play a role - typically moral issues - have not been discussed almost at all in this current incarnation.  It is almost as if (in the most abhorrent phrase I can think of in the English language) "the science is settled" and everything has moved on.

Think about it - the Church (at least from what I can see) has simply become another interest group to lure into one's orbit.  Churches have become places to stage things, votes to be courted - not (minimally) the conscience of society, calling it to a higher and better life.

Segue to a second conversation this past Sunday between two friends about their congregations (both the same mainline denomination).  The first, a parishioner, asks the second, who is a pastor, where he has landed.

"Oh a church down on X street.  Small church, really struggling.  How is  your church doing?"

(First):  "Oh, fine.  We just called a fourth pastor."

(Second):  "What is the membership there?"

(First):  "Well, for years they held at 650, but we seem to be losing people now."

(Second):  "Can they afford four pastors?"

(First):  [Shrugs]

Which, when added in with the first comment, starts to make sense - after all, in an era of declining membership (and most of the mainline denominations are declining), why waste time and energy and money appealing to shrinking power base?  From the world's point of view, makes perfect sense.

It seems that the more and more the Church has come to reflect the society around it rather than calling others to a higher standard, the less and less effective that it has been at making an impact.  I would suspect that in any churches, stripping away the differences in songs, you could find yourself just as likely to be immersed in a self-help seminar or motivational meeting with virtually no difference.  And if people can have that - and feel good about themselves to boot - why would they even bother with church?  (The subject on a whole separate posting on what the Church teaches, I suspect).

Short of an revival (an actual revival, not the silliness I hear spoken of so often with no basis in fact) I fear the Church (at least in the US) will continue to dwindle in effectiveness and impact.  Perhaps that is okay for political life, but inexcusable for the spiritual.

8 comments:

Rev. Paul said...

Modern churches in America are shrinking in size & impact precisely because they have the appearance of Godliness, while denying the power thereof. Too many have given only mental assent to the power of salvation, while denying anything of a personal relationship with our Father God. Trust me, this is a topic for a whole series of sermons.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Amen Reverend, Amen. I would add (if a layman can add anything) I find a shocking lack of emphasis on personal and corporate holiness as well. Too many look and act precisely like the world.

Although I also have to admit I think I am finding a form of freedom in this. The reality is (and I think events are showing this to be true) that there is simply no more call not to live out our beliefs fully. Truly, the world is going act the way they want to, no matter how we try to appease them. One wonders what the impact of a truly repentant and holy and righteous people living out their calling and not paying heed to the calls to conform or threats to comply would look like.

LindaG said...

And they don't call a spade a spade any more, for fear of upsetting someone somewhere.
Though I think perhaps that is what you stated in more specific terms.
Be safe and God bless.

Stephen said...

Perhaps, although a harsh person might say that for Protestant churches at least, this is a barren harvest of their own sowing. I've spoken with God-knows-how-many evangelicals who are so reflexively hostile to the idea of works as a factor in salvation that they take a kind of bizarre pride in doing nothing more for their faith than prayer and reading the bible. In a world where talk is the cheapest thing there is, it's not to be wondered at that the church is often treated as having nothing of value to offer. Facta non verba.

Act II said...

Considering the most important command the resurrected Lord gave us, the Great Commission, was the very "work" TB is bemoaning the church refuses to engage in: bringing the unsaved to the church, as opposed to transforming the church into what the unsaved look like. It's hypocritical at best to refuse to enter the political arena, at least at a rudimentary level. No, government is NOT ever going to be the solution - only Christ is. But the more unfriendly the environment we live in, the more difficult our job becomes.

TB, may I include quotations from this essay in one of my own this week? You've hit some key points with precision here.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Linda, I am not a particularly good apologist nor a preacher; it occurs to me however, that we abandoning our calling to 1) Love one another; 2) Be Holy (as God is holy); and 3) take the Gospel into the world (The Great Commission). There seems to have been a large abandonment to social accommodation, being "hip", and self actualization (and yes, I am as guilty as anyone else).

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

I cannot speak fully for all Protestants Stephen, only for myself and my own understanding. That said, the understanding of Protestants (Luther and I believe Calvin, anyway) is that works are the evidence of salvation (a command we must obey), not a factor in creating our salvation. That said, many Protestants do in fact do little more than you say - or, will happily volunteer their time and effort for non-Christian charities and not for Christian ones.

Although honestly I wonder about that as well. Example: The city in which I am located is doing a "Love Where You Live" project involving multiple churches across denominations doing service projects throughout the city. The one that my particular small group is involved in is the spreading of mulch over trees in a public park. I honestly question how this directly ties to either the Great Commission or just Christian witness in general. Yes, I think we should do more works but yes, we should be more clever (and perhaps straightforward) about them.

Thank you so much for stopping by!

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

So as always, of course I always appreciate you asking, and of course you can use whatever quotes you would like to. I am sure they will be far more adeptly used in yours than in mine.

I have to be honest that this has been rolling around in my head all weekend. Today I went to Early Communion with the youngest, Bean Dhonn. The pastor asked the question at the beginning about what religion was the largest and fastest growing. His answer: Christianity, by almost 2-1 with the fastest growth occurring in Asia and Africa - not, he noted, that you would know that from the US, where the fastest growing religion is Islam. That comment just sat right there for the evening. Which begs the question: why out there, and not here?