Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Adventures in Missing the Point?

Lifeway has just released the results of a survey in which they chronicle "the Top 10 Issues facing the church today". (HT to iMonk at BHT.)

All I can say is, Oh. My. Gosh. No wonder we're in so much trouble.

I was going to do a long, multi-part rant on this, but it's not really worth that amount of effort. I'll just throw a few observations concerning the issues raised, and the methodology of their "solutions".

10. ABORTION
9. HOMOSEXUALITY
7. MARRIAGE

Abortion is still legal and common. Acceptance of homosexuality is on the rise. Marriages are falling apart. Keen observations. But the fact of the matter is that these are just the symptoms - the roots (self-fulfillment as the reason for existence, loss of any sense of human dignity and value as an image of God, and the blunt fact that humans are born sinful anyways) go deep, and I think it's too late to expect society to greatly change its mind about these matters apart from a massive revival and reformation. Our best hope to change the culture is to be changed ourselves. Hence to the next issues...

8. RELEVANCE
6. APATHY
5. DOCTRINE/WORLDVIEW
4. EVANGELISM

One reason there's so much confusion on these issues is there is so little clarity even in our own circles about these things. (broadbrush)We either tend to play fast-and-loose with doctrinal content and emphasize cultural "relevance", or we're doctrinal maximalists who couldn't sing any tune less than 100 years old. Evangelism campaigns and techniques have been multiplied almost ad infinitum in America - and church attendance overall is still flat or declining. Preaching runs the gamut from theological lectures that would put seminarians to sleep, or moral/self-improvment exhortations that would fit right in on Oprah or Dr. Phil.(/broadbrush) I would suggest that what is needed is clear Gospel preaching. What is more relevant than Christ's life, death, and resurrection? What message possibly has the power to awaken the apathetic, if not the Gospel? What doctrines are more important than the teaching of who Christ is, what He did (and is doing), and how we are related to Him and our brethren? And if we have all that, how can we not tell the world?

3. LEADERSHIP
2. DISCIPLESHIP
1. PRAYER

Coming full circle, the root problems of our age (aggrandizement of self) show up here. Showing leadership is not easy if your flock can just vote with their feet (or vote you out of a job). Discipleship requires submission to the Body. Prayer requires submission to God (and sorry, I don't think Prayer of Jabez exemplifies that. "Expand my boundaries" doesn't quite match up to "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done...") Leadership, discipleship, and prayer require biblical patterns and models - leaders as servants rather than CEOs, discipleship as mutual confession and accountability, prayer as reverent and corporate.

There are some good things to be said for the points they raise. But the "solutions" that follow each point just illustrate *why* they have become problems in the first place. More heaping helpings of books, testimonies, gadgets, canned programs, ad infinitum ad nauseam. If we could spend, write, or manage our way out of these messes, we would have done so already. We Americans are great at such things. So what is needed now? I'm not 100% sure anymore - but I doubt that "more of the same" is going to cut it.

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